Baby Sleep Training and the Older Sibling
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Original posts by at the Advice Smackdown on AlphaMom
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5 May 2014: Baby Sleep Training & the Older Sibling
I know you’ve answered a billion questions about sleep here, but I’m hoping you can make it a billion and one. I just don’t know what to do here….
My daughter is 21 months old and has never been a good sleeper. She used to cry inconsolably every night as an infant and since then bedtime has been a struggle for us. When she was about 6 months old we started a bedtime routine and we used the progressive waiting method from Ferber to get her to fall asleep on her own. For over a year she would cry herself to sleep every night—never more than a couple of minutes, but still. Every. Stinking. Night. Only in the past month or so has she started to sometimes lie down in her bed and go to sleep quietly like a reasonable human being. She still wakes up at least once or twice a week and cries for a while before falling asleep again. If she doesn’t get enough sleep at night, she is a whiny, tantrum-y mess all day. Needless to say, sleep is a very precious and delicate thing in our house.
Anyway, all this background info sets up my question: How do I sleep train my 6 month old son?
His room is right next to his sister’s and we have hardwood floors so the sound carries very well. Ever since he was born, I’ve been so afraid of him waking up my daughter that I jump up immediately at every little snort or snuffle he makes. And I do whatever it takes to get him to go back to sleep quickly and quietly (this mostly consists of rocking and/or nursing). It’s worked well; my daughter is very rarely woken by him in the night. But that has basically taught him nothing as far as self-soothing goes and he still, at almost 7 months, wakes up multiple times during the night, and nurses virtually time.
I usually put him to bed between 6:30pm and 7:00pm and he’ll wake at about 10:30, 1:00, 4:00, 5:30 and 6:30. It’s ridiculous that I’ve let it get to this point; I know he’s completely capable of sleeping through the night, but in reality, he’s never slept more than about 4 hours straight in his whole life. I’m exhausted and I need it to end, but I’m not sure how to go about it.
I got out our copy of “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” (which I got on your recommendation, for my daughter, over a year ago) and have halfheartedly tried to start training him. But it seems when I let him cry, it wakes up my daughter and the situation quickly spirals out of control—my daughter’s cries keep the baby awake, the baby’s cries keep my daughter awake, my husband get frustrated because he has to wake up and help calm the kids (usually night wakings are my realm since he works outside the home and I don’t). It seems like no one in the whole house gets any sleep, so I wind up nursing/rocking the baby to get some peace and sleep for everyone.
You had to have dealt with this kind of thing when you had Ezra and Ike, right? Please tell me you (or your fabulous readers!) have some tips on helping an older sibling sleep through the baby’s sleep training.
Thanks in Advance!
So. Very. Tired.
I just had to email you again to thank you and your readers so much for the fantastic advice you gave about sleep training my baby without disturbing my almost 2 year old daughter. I am happy to report that we used several pieces of advice from both you and your commenters and now everyone in my family is getting much more sleep and we are all happier for it.
First I want to say that I feel my husband got a bad rap from my first email. The fact that I have been taking care of night wakings on my own is not a result of him checking out of his parenting duties or claiming that he deserves more sleep than I do. It was a decision that we made together based on our family’s particular situation (I don’t really need to get into the details here, but trust me; it’s what works best for our family). But you were right that he needed to be more on board and involved with the sleep training. So the first thing we did was sit down together to make a plan that we both could get behind.
My husband took a day off work and spent a long weekend with my daughter at his parents’ house (3 hours away). This gave me three nights to focus on sleep training the baby without worrying about waking anyone else. They were three somewhat rough nights, but we definitely made progress. By the time my husband and daughter got back I had totally eliminated the baby’s first waking at 10:30!
Having them gone also gave me time to get some Flor tiles (I’d never heard of those before but they are super cute! I’m really glad you suggested them!) and to make some easy noise canceling panels that I found on Pinterest to hang on the walls. Both seemed to really help dampen the noise in both rooms. Why isn’t this something I had thought of before? Anyway.
We got my daughter a stuffed animal that plays music when you squeeze it and we talked to her about how she should squeeze it when the baby cried. The first week or so she did wake up a few times when the baby cried, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My husband was in charge of going in to comfort her and he would tell her that it was ok that the baby was crying and remind her to turn on her stuffed animal. After only a few nights we started to hear the music playing in her room without her crying. Now it’s rare that she wakes up at all.
One other thing we did on the suggestion of your commenters was to put a fan in the hallway near the kids’ rooms. The white noise helped to drown out the baby’s crying for my daughter, but it also helped me. It made it much harder for me to hear the baby’s little snorts and whimpers so I wasn’t jumping up at every little noise he made, which allowed him to work on settling himself down more and allowed me to sleep a bit more. I could still hear his actual cries, so I was still able to do the whole Ferber back patting, progressive waiting thing, but I was able to sleep through the other little noises he made throughout the night (he’s a surprisingly loud sleeper!).
I still get up once a night (around 4:00) to nurse the baby but that’s it and I’m totally ok with it (we’ll probably phase that out in the next couple of months). Most nights that’s the only time he wakes up (or at least it’s the only time I hear him) and my daughter is back to sleeping through the night most nights too. And that means that my husband and I are sleeping much more as well. One night last week, I slept for 8 hours in a row! I can’t remember the last time that happened.
So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for the wonderful advice! Between this and the 2-3-4 nap schedule magic I learned from you a while back, I owe all my sleep to you. I am forever in your debt. 🙂
Not Tired Anymore
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