Sleep Training In Action: How I weaned my 3-month-old off the dummy

Apr 9, 2018 | popular, Sleep Tips, Sleep training

I’m a sleep coach – does that mean my kids always sleep perfectly? Absolutely not! My daughter Kezia was born in December and she’s now almost 4 months old. And we’ve been having a few sleep troubles of our own. 

As a newborn, Kezia had problems with an upset stomach, some reflux and colic. Having a pacifier really helped her to settle better and to sleep well. However, this sleep association started to get a little more unhelpful as she neared the age of 3-4 months. She started waking up more frequently in the night, and she wasn’t able to connect her sleep cycles during the day like she had been previously doing, because she kept losing the dummy.

no pacifier, no sleep?

My sleep training plan

I decided that we were going to wean Kezia off the dummy. Even as a sleep coach, this seemed like a huge step. Probably made worse by my own slight sleep deprivation. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to it.

My plan was to put her down in bed awake, without the dummy, do our usual night routine, and to then leave the room. I was feeling a little bit nervous, because I didn’t know how she would respond. She had never done this before, and I thought to myself: “Am I overwhelming her?”

I set myself a crying cap of 5 minutes. That means I wasn’t going to let her cry alone for more than 5 minutes before going back in to reassure her, and help her fall asleep. I don’t have a huge cry tolerance, and I don’t think babies should be left alone to cry for very long at this age.

We tried it out and on the first day, she struggled a little, but didn’t really cry that much. Within two minutes she had fallen fast asleep without her dummy for the first time. I was amazed!

The results

She still woke up after 45 minutes – you can’t expect change to happen that fast – but  we’ve been working on it ever since. Within 2 weeks we saw significant changes. She started to fall asleep much easier by herself. Sometimes she wouldn’t even cry or grumble, she just fell right asleep. She’s also started to connect her sleep cycles during the day. Now, she often does a 2-2.5 hour nap at lunch time, her morning nap has consolidated, and her night sleep is on it’s way.

Her nights aren’t perfect yet, but I’m ok with that, because I know that very soon that’s also going to consolidate. How do I know that? As a sleep coach I’m aware of the typical cycle of sleep training. First, naps start to consolidate, and night sleep might even get a bit more unsettled, and then the night sleep also takes shape. So, I’m looking forward to the day I get to sleep 5-6 hours straight.

Sleep training can sometimes feel like such a big thing in our mind. But sometimes, it’s actually easy. I’ve seen this so many times with clients.

I remember my first ever client. Her 14-month old son was waking up every 2 hours in the night, so she was totally sleep deprived. This had been going on for months, but she was still dubious about changing things. We made sure his day routine was right, optimised his nutrition and sleep environment, and the sleep associations. He cried only 4-5 minutes and then started sleeping through the night from day two! It was amazing!

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