Ahhhh, sleep. It's like a magical rare unicorn once you become a parent. It was by far the thing I was most nervous about before Hadley was born because I don't function well without my solid eight-ish hours a night. But it is funny how your body really does adjust to the lack of sleep. Especially those first few months. You're maybe getting like a couple hours a night, but you still manage to (kind of) participate in life. However, I didn't want to walk around like a zombie forever, so sleep training our baby was pretty important to me. I read all the books and tried all the tricks and while I'm definitely not an expert and we still have some kinks to work out (there's always some sort of phase happening...), I'm willing to share what has worked and what hasn't for us.
CURRENT SLEEP HABITS
Right now - at almost seven months old - Hadley sleeps from 7pm until 6 or 7am, with a sometimes night time feeding around 4am. It's probably 50/50 whether she wakes up or not. As for during the day time, she takes three naps. The times of those naps all depend on what time she woke up that morning, but things typically go like this: the first around 8 or 9am, the second around 11 or 12pm, and the third (and most important one of the day right now) at 3:30-4pm. We follow bed time and nap time routines, but I put her down wide awake and she puts herself to sleep.
Sleep sacks, pacifiers, noise machines - we use it all. Whatever it takes, right? We love our white noise machine and I actually miss it now that she is sleeping in her own room and want to get one for ours. She loves these pacifiers. We only let her have them when she's in bed and so I think it helps her associate them with it being sleep time.
Once we had to drop the swaddle when she started rolling, we tried to just go cold turkey and put her in nothing, but that was a disaster. So the search began for the perfect sleeping blanket. We tried quite a few, but our favorite are the Halo sleep sacks. Actually, my MOST favorite for the swaddle transition was the Merlins Magic Sleepsuit because magic it is. That thing is how Hadley learned to put herself to sleep. I mean it's is like sleeping in a giant cloud blanket, so comfy. Unfortunately, she's like the strongest little thing ever and while you're supposed to be able to use the sleepsuit through six months, we had to drop it at four when she managed to roll over in it. I was so sad to see it go. We also tried the Zipadee-Zip, but it ended up being super distracting because she would just stay awake to suck on the arms, ha. We then moved on the Halo and it's worked out perfectly and we haven't looked back!
NAPS & SELF SOOTHING
When she was tiny tiny, she would only nap while being held. That was okay for the first couple months, but eventually I started to want to be able to do things during the day that required my hands- like eat or go to the bathroom. I slowly just started putting her down in her bassinet once she had fallen asleep and naps would only last for a super short time at first (like ten minutes!), but she started getting used to being in there and they eventually got longer and longer until she didn't mind sleeping in there at all.
I also wanted her to be able to self soothe and put herself to sleep, so I started a nap time routine that I still follow today. First I put her in her sleep sack, we sit in her chair and read a book or two, then I turn on the sound machine and give her her pacifier, put her down and say 'I love you, have a good nap, I'll see you when you wake up' - literally, I say the same thing every.single.time. Haha I am sure that is completely overkill, but hey, babies love a good routine.
At first putting her down and awake was hard and she would cry. And I will admit, I did let her cry it out a little. It was difficult, but necessary. I'm not the type of person to just let her cry incessantly, so I did a modified version of cry it out. First, I would give her five minutes alone. She was almost always still crying after five minutes at the beginning, so I would go back in the room and put her pacifier back in, put my hand on her stomach or back, and basically 'shhh' to help her calm down, for one minute. Definitely don't pick them up though because they will f-r-e-a-k when you go to put them back in the bassinet, learned that one from experience! I would then leave the room again for another five minutes and just keep repeating the process till she fell asleep. At the worst, it took 30 minutes. And it is torture and was rough to do like four times a day, but within a week, she was putting herself to sleep. Like I would put her in the bassinet awake with her pacifier, she would start sucking, roll over and close her eyes. It is SO NICE that she's able to do that.
THE CRIB TRANSITION
At the beginning of the month, we moved Hadley over to her own room, in her own crib. Before she was born, I was planning on keeping her in the bassinet for the first three months. But when that time came, I was SO not ready to move her. The SIDS thing still scared the crap out of me, we were still doing a lot of nighttime feedings, and honestly I just loved sleeping right next to her. I'm glad I didn't push myself to move her before I was ready and instead waited because it made the transition much smoother (on my end anyway).
For Hadley... not quite as much. What we did was actually move her over in the middle of the night at first. She would start in the bassinet and then when she woke up for a feeding, we would feed her and that usually makes her pass out, so we would put her back to sleep in her crib. That way she was able to get a little used to being in the crib. After doing that for a couple days, we started putting her down for the night in the there and shockingly, that was no big deal. She's usually so tired at the end of the day that she just rolls over and goes right to sleep.
The night wake ups were no joke though. That first week in the crib, she was probably waking up like five or six times a night. Mostly because she uses her pacifier self soothe in the middle of the night and she could never find it in her crib because it was so much bigger than the bassinet. So what we did was put like five pacifiers in there! This worked until she realized she could throw them out of the crib ;) So as against them as I was, we put up this mesh breathable bumper to solve that problem. For now anyway - until she can throw high enough, ha.
Nap time was also a struggle and she basically had to re-learn the self soothing process in her crib, so we did the modified cry it out again. It took a LOT less time though, only two days before going down was no big deal again.
GETTING ON A SCHEDULE
This has kind of developed all on its own. I loosely follow the Moms On Call book, but I adapt it to our days and every day is somewhat different. I try to stick to 2-3 hour wake times for her now that she is (almost) seven months. So whatever time she wakes up, usually between 6 and 7am, the first nap follows about two hours after that. And then it all depends on how LONG those naps are, too. The first one is usually pretty short, about 45 minutes. So once she wakes up, I make a note of the time, and try to get her down 2-3 hours after that. This also helps with being able to put herself to sleep, because I know that she is tired and ready for a nap, but not totally over tired yet - that makes for bad naps.
It took a loooong time for us to figure this out, but that third nap is super, super important for determining how well bed time goes. For the first six months of her life, bed time sucked. She would either pass out as soon as she started eating and get in like one or two ounces and then wake up 45 minutes later pissed, or she would not go to sleep without SO much crying. What we didn't realize is that her last wake time of the day - between that last nap and bed time - needs to be short. Way shorter than we thought. Like an hour short, although now she can do an hour and a half. That way (again), she's tired, but not over tired. When they wake up at the 45 minute mark after going to bed, that usually means they're over tired. So through a LOT of trial and error, we realized if we want her to go to bed at 7pm, we need that last nap to end about 5:30pm - and no later or much earlier than that.
Of course all babies are SO different, so it really is just about what ends up working for you. We tried everything that everyone recommended for bed time and nothing work. Heck, not even crying it out worked. She would cry for up to two hours and of course I could never, ever let her do that. I usually ended up walking around or feeding her till she fell asleep. It was hard and let's just say I'm super glad we're past that stage. As for how I handle night wake ups, I just feed her back to sleep. I feel bad depriving her of food if she's hungry, and a warm bottle and 15 minutes are all it takes before we're all back in bed. Half the time she sleeps straight through the night now, so I figure if she's up, she needs food and she'll stop doing that when she no longer needs to.
Holy crap, that got long. I'll end here (finally, right), but let me know if you have any other questions! Happy sleeping!