Warning! This post is excruciatingly long!
Read only if you’re truly interested in sleep training.
Due to the constant questions I receive regarding how we got Jackson, Tyler and Chase to sleep through the night, I thought it might be best to simply blog about it and then direct people here (if they don’t see it themselves).
I think our success can be summed up in one word: consistency. Let me start at the beginning though….
Early on Nick and I made a couple of costly mistakes: we didn’t know enough of the sleep cues to recognize when the boys were tired before it was too late, and we thought that the later they stayed up at night the better they would sleep. During the day they would cat nap (20-30 minutes) here and there and then at night we would force them to stay awake until close to 10:30 at night (their last feeding). By 3 months old they were becoming quite cranky and we couldn’t figure out why. Shortly before they turned 4 months I checked out the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth and discovered our problem. Our children were overtired!
Now because we have triplets we had to modify some things we read… for example, it’s hard to let a child truly “cry it out” when they share a room with two other babies! Sure the boys are used to the noises they all make, but more than 5 minutes of crying will generally wake the other two.
We began our sleep training journey by making two changes right away. First, we put Jackson, Tyler and Chase on scheduled daytime naps. Second, we stopped forcing them to stay up so late at night.
Naps: I really think naptime has been our biggest key to sleeping through the night. When they have a good napping day they typically have a great sleeping night and when they have a horrible napping day their nighttime sleep is not so great. After reading HSHHC I based our napping schedule on a couple of things: time they wake in the morning (7:30am) and their sleep signs. Nick and I noticed very quickly the boys fell naturally into the scheduled naps. On a typical day the boys get up and dressed for the day at 7:30am. The first nap then naturally falls into place around 9am. This nap usually only lasts about 45 minutes. Then between 12:30 and 1pm they go down for the afternoon nap. This nap usually lasts between 2 and a half and 3 hours. These first two naps are taken in a pack n play in the dining room, although I just today started transitioning them to their cribs for these naps. The third nap happens sometime in the early evening and is only about 20 minutes in length and is taken wherever they happen to be playing (activity mat, bouncy chair, swing, etc).
The first couple of days were rough, but Nick and I were consistent and it paid off. We always start nap time with a few minutes of cuddling, rocking and sometimes singing then they were put down for the nap. If they cried when we put them down we would let them cry for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes they were still crying we would pick them up, soothe them for a couple of minutes and then put them back down. If they cried again we let them go 10 minutes, followed by brief soothing and then back down. If they cried again we let them go 15 minutes. You get the idea. I will tell you though, I don’t think we ever got to the 15 minute mark and it was rare that we went all the way to 10. Sometimes those 5 minutes felt like an eternity, so Nick and I had to actually watch the clock to be sure we hadn’t rushed to them after only 2 minutes.
Bed Time: I already touched on the big bed time mistake we made (keeping them up late at night), so I won’t go into that again. However, I will share with you the minor changes we made to get to where we are today. The first night of our change we dressed the boys in their PJs at 7:30, fed them and then let them play and cuddle with us until 9pm. By 9 they were ready to go to sleep, so we’d put them in their cribs. We did the same routine for 4 days and then on day 5 we bumped bed time to 8:45. Four days after that it was bumped to 8:30 and so on. HSHHC recommends always allowing 4 days for a change to settle in before making another change. Because the boys were sleepy and ready for bed and because they were napping better we had minimal crying at night.
During this phase we were dream feeding at both 10:30pm and around 3:45am. For those not familiar, dream feeding involves feeding the baby while he/she is still asleep (or mostly asleep). You keep the room dark or dim, no talking, no diaper change (unless it’s smelly because who wants to sleep in that?) and you only softly pat their backs for a burp. If they burp, great if not just put them back to bed. For that middle of the night feeding the boys were only getting about half of what they normally ate and every week or so we would “test” them to see how much longer they could go (yes, we were setting our alarm for this feeding). One night, shortly after we started sleep training, they went the whole night without waking for a bottle!
Currently we still dream feed them at 10:30 (just before Nick and I go to bed) and it’s working well. In the next week or so we will begin to gradually cut down how much is in that 10:30 bottle and before we know it they won’t need it anymore.
Jackson, Tyler and Chase go to bed every night at about 8pm (sometimes a few minutes sooner and sometimes a few minutes later). They almost always sleep until 7:30am and if they’re not sleeping at 7:30, they’re happily chatting with each other and looking at their mobiles. On the off occasion that they wake up in the middle of the night we try to quietly soothe them back to sleep before they wake their brothers. If it’s between 4am and 6am we’ll give them a couple of ounces of formula and then put them back to bed.
Besides getting a full night of sleep, you know what’s great about this? Nick and I get to spend quality time together again! Yes, because of the early bed time there are nights that Nick doesn’t get to spend much (if any) time with the boys because of a late night at work, but sleep is what’s best for the boys and it would be incredibly selfish of us to keep them up late at night for our own convenience! Not to mention, I now feel like I have a marriage again instead of just some guy who’s here to help.