our sleep training journey

A few months ago I posted a picture on Instagram explaining how well Harper had been sleeping. I received so many enquiries from that photo so thought I would write a detailed post on our sleep training journey thus far and why sleep is so important to me.

While I was pregnant, I read a multitude of books and sleep programs, all with different routines and ideas on how to get your baby sleeping through the night. As a mama-to-be, I was a little overwhelmed with the differing opinions and strict routines that most of the programs encouraged. At this point, I decided to take everything with a grain of salt and pick out bits and pieces from each guide to create my own "sleep training program" to suit my lifestyle.

I knew from the start that I didn't want to utilise the "cry it out" method while my baby was a newborn as it was important to me to establish a strong bond with my baby and build up trust between us in those early days. 

The sleep guides that I used to create my own training program are The Sleep Mama (I have program one and program two), The First Six Weeks by Midwife Cath and Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall. 

Weeks one to six

When we got Harper home from the hospital, I had a bassinet set up in my room for her to sleep in.  We have always used the Oricom BabySense2 breathing sensor pads, along with a mattress protector and a fitted sheet. 

As Harper was born in Summer, for every sleep we dressed her in a singlet onesie with a Love to Dream swaddle bag and used one bamboo muslin wrap which we folded in half and tucked into her bassinet tightly.

For me, those first six weeks were all about feeding, feeding, feeding and establishing a bond with Harper. I didn't follow any routine as Harper wanted to be fed at different times every day and it was also a crazy busy time for me with visitors dropping in every day, Christmas and New Years and my husband being home from work. I responded to Harper's needs and just fed her whenever she wanted to be fed, and let her sleep in between. 

In saying this, there were a few things I did to encourage Harper to sleep longer periods at night, and also to have solid naps during the day, even when we had visitors coming over and a noisy household. Many of these tips I picked up from The Sleep Mama program, which I found amazing in helping me create a safe place for Harper to sleep and helping me teach her to transition through sleep cycles. I think it is also worth picking up a copy of The First Six Weeks by Midwife Cath, which is not just about sleep, but also about feeding, play time and developing a bond with your baby. 

A few products I loved during those first six weeks include our electric rocker (which I would put Harper in every night to help her sleep during the witching hours while we cooked/ate dinner) and our Redsbaby Jive pram which comes with a large, comfortable bassinet. As our bedroom is on the second floor of our home, we would put Harper in the pram to sleep for her day time naps so we could watch over her while we were downstairs. If you live in a two story house, I would highly recommend you purchase a pram with a bassinet so your newborn can sleep comfortably in your sight during the day. 

We were lucky that Harper slept well from the beginning and in those first few weeks, I sometimes had to wake her up every three to four hours to feed her. I always let Harper fall asleep while I was breastfeeding her, and I then transferred her to the bassinet.

During the day we let Harper use a dummy for her naps but never gave it to her at night. 

By week three, Harper started sleeping at least one four to six hour stretch every night and would go back down for another two or three hours after this. I would start my day around 530am every morning and would often get out of the house first thing in the morning to grab a coffee! I also tried to have a nap during the day while Harper was sleeping so I would have more energy at night when Harper needed me. 

Weeks six to twelve

I only did a few things differently during weeks six to twelve. 

To start with, I established a bedtime routine which included a book, late bath and her last feed at 10pm every night. 

I also looked more closely at how much time Harper was spending awake during the day (to ensure she wasn't sleeping too much and also wasn't getting overtired). If you purchase the Sleep Mama program and Save Our Sleep book, they both have some information on awake periods and ideas on how to stretch these periods out. I fed Harper on demand and put her down to nap whenever she was tired.

Harper still slept in her bassinet and had the same sleep environment set up as per recommendations from the Sleep Mama program. 

By week seven, Harper started sleeping six to seven hours at night. I would feed her around 5am and then put her down to sleep another one to two hours before starting the day. 

Weeks twelve onwards

At around three-four months, Harper decided she didn't want to sleep during the day unless she was in my arms. After a week or so of Harper catnapping and me struggling to get anything done, I decided it was time to establish a routine and start teaching Harper to self-settle. 

We made some major changes which included:
  • teaching Harper to self-settle (using a gentle shh-pat approach)
  • removing the dummy from nap time
  • never feeding Harper to sleep
  • moving Harper to her cot for all sleeps
  • establishing a routine where Harper slept at set times each day (note sleep, rather than nap - I will explain more below)
  • moving Harper's bedtime routine much earlier, so she went down for the night between 7pm and 8pm
  • introducing a dream feed at 10pm
  • using a sleeping bag instead of a swaddle bag
When Harper was fourteen weeks old, the bassinet she slept in at night was recalled. I was left with the option of purchasing a new bassinet, or moving Harper to her cot to sleep. I was not at all ready to move her out of our bedroom but for practical reasons decided we would give it a go for one or two nights and then look for a new bassinet over the weekend. It turned out that Harper slept much better in her cot and given she had just started rolling, she really loved the extra space. 

We set up Harper's nursery so it was a very similar sleeping environment as her bassinet. We continued using the same tips to help Harper transition through sleep cycles - as mentioned earlier we picked up these tips from The Sleep Mama program and they have been a constant which we have used from the beginning to help Harper sleep.  

After moving Harper to her nursery, I thought it would be the right time to stop feeding her to sleep and start teaching her to put herself to sleep and self-settle. The process was SO much easier than expected, which I put down to developing healthy sleeping habits from the get-go. I taught Harper to self-settle using the method in the Save Our Sleep book.

The biggest game changer for us has been following a routine! In the beginning, I always thought my lifestyle was too busy for a routine and I never wanted to have to say no to friends or family so my baby could nap. However since having Harper, my mindset has completely changed and I just want what is best for my little girl. I know it is so important for her to sleep well, not just at night, but also during the day. And following a routine has allowed Harper to sleep SO much better than ever before. 

In saying this, I will still go out during Harper's nap times if I have to. I just make sure she has a safe and comfortable place to sleep (her pram or a travel cot) and I make sure that I am only out of the house for one of her sleep times, so if she doesn't get the best sleep, she can make up for it later. What I mean by this is that if I know I will be out at dinner time, then I will stay home for Harper's day time naps so if she doesn't sleep properly in her pram then at least she has had a good sleep during the day and vice versa. I have also learnt how to say no and not cram as many things into my day as I used to, which has really helped with my own stress levels. 

Now, at almost seven months old, Harper has two, two-hour day time sleeps, one catnap and then goes to sleep for the night around 8pm to 7am (with no feeds). Having some time to myself to relax with a bath, get housework done or catch up on the latest trash TV is amazing. But what is even better is knowing that Harper is sleeping perfectly so her little brain can develop to its full potential! It's so exciting when Harper wakes up after every sleep and I can devote every single minute of awake time to being present with her fully which is just the best feeling. 

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I know how important sleep is as a mama, it is honestly life changing and can alter every aspect of your life. It can be so hard to develop a routine and teach your baby to self settle, but I promise you it is WORTH IT! You are worth it! 


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