Hi friends! So I’ve received a ton of questions about the method of sleep training we used for Little Man so I thought I would type up a review. Before I get started though, let me say that how you handle baby sleep in your choice and whatever you are doing (or not doing) is the right choice for your family. I know that some people begin earlier, and some begin later. Some never sleep train because they don’t need to or don’t want to. Like I said, whatever you are doing or not doing is the best choice for you. I don’t think there is one right way to handle baby sleep because every single baby is so different. I’m just sharing our experience.
Cara and the Taking Cara Babies team are only able to do what they do because of their program sales. I noticed she doesn’t run ads on her website, so I’m guessing the programs are her primary source of income from her business. For that reason, I will not be giving away any of her proprietary secrets. Instead, I’ll just be sharing my experience. This is not a sponsored review.
The Newborn Class
I’ll probably never forget our first Thanksgiving with Baby K because every time I think about it I laugh. At only four weeks old, the little man stayed awake ALL DAY. I mean ALL DAY! I tried everything I could think of to get him to sleep. My mom tried to get him to go to sleep. Paul’s Grandma who had FIVE children and umpteen grandchildren tried to get him to sleep and couldn’t. So it wasn’t just me being inexperienced, he was a tough little very awake nut. I still can’t believe a four week old stayed awake from 7 am to 4 pm without napping AT ALL. He wasn’t melting down, but he wasn’t particularly happy the longer he stayed awake. He didn’t even fall asleep nursing, so ya we had our hands full.
When Little Man was six weeks old, I somehow stumbled on Taking Cara Babies on Instagram, and I desperately ordered her newborn sleep program.
I had read two books already:
They all had various suggestions on when your baby should sleep and for how much, but what they didn’t tell you was how to make it happen.
“Put your baby down for a nap.”
Um, I tried that and he screamed for 10 minutes. I’m sorry what the hell?
“Put your baby down and makes sure they take a nap from x time to x time.”
Again, what in the actual hell am I doing wrong?
That basically summarizes my thoughts on most sleep training books and programs. It just wasn’t very helpful.
Taking Cara Babies videos and program teach you HOW to make it happen and what to do if it doesn’t happen. I was so happy to have just 20-40 minute naps during the day; I didn’t even care about the night stuff. Finally, I could shower, lay down, go to the bathroom, or eat. Twenty minutes was LIFE CHANGING. I know it doesn’t seem like very long and many parents wouldn’t be happy with 20-minute naps, but for me, it was a huge improvement. Not all his naps were 20 minutes, they were anywhere from 20-40 minutes and sometimes, rarely, up to two hours.
Her tips for the night time worked too, Little Man was putting himself to sleep, and he started to sleep longer stretches. For about 3 weeks we usually got 4-7 hour stretches out of him.
Things I learned from the class:
- How to help him fall asleep.
- How to teach him to fall asleep on his own.
- How to stop him from fighting the swaddle.
- How to calm him down.
- How to use the sound machine.
- Wake windows for a newborn.
- Research concerning the pacifier.
- How to create a flexible schedule/routine with a newborn.
- How to help him sleep longer at night.
- So much more!
Around the 9-10 week mark, everything fell apart. We found out his weight gain was low so we figured my milk supply must be inadequate. I started nursing him more at night, his weight gain did not improve, but now he was waking up every 20 minutes to 2 hours during the night. One of my blog readers had left a comment about how they “didn’t want to read a ton of stuff on the internet, so they hired a sleep consultant.” I thought that was good advice, so I decided to pick someone and stay with them.
I loved how Cara presented information in her videos, and I believed in her credentials and messaging, so I decided to stick with her. I loved her positive coaching style, that’s how I coach my clients as well. She gave me lots of good advice during the consult, and much of it worked to help improve sleep, but we never got 5-7 hour stretches again until after the ABC’s of Sleep. The gist of the conversation was that when he started not sleeping well, I started changing a lot of things quickly which might have contributed to the prolonged regression. She encouraged me to make changes slowly. Two weeks later we found out that the reason Little Man wasn’t gaining weight (and probably not sleeping well) was due to Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (I wrote about breastfeeding an MSPI baby here.) I turned my attention to getting a handle on that before worrying about how much sleep we were getting.
Navigating Months 3 & 4
Month 3 was riding out the food allergy issue and being responsive to his needs including around the clock nursing. Around Month 4, my already sleepless baby went through the four-month sleep regression or some kind of separation anxiety. He went from waking up every 3 hours to refusing to be put down at all. We would put him down, and he would wake up 20 minutes later, over and over and over. I would do that for hours before finally I gave up and decided to cosleep for a few hours. He would usually sleep 3-5 hours if he slept with me, which was significantly better than 20 minutes of sleep. Cosleeping was never something I had an opinion on either way; for me, it was a means to an end. By Month 4, I was sleeping with him all night every night which wasn’t great sleep for me because I was so nervous about him being in bed. Then, I got so overtired that I fell into a really deep sleep and that made me nervous too.
I had purchased the Navigating Months 3 & 4 downloads as a bundle with the newborn class, so I printed it out, highlighted it and made notes of things to implement. A few things helped, but ultimately I ditched this part of the program. It just didn’t feel right for us during that time. After discussing it with our pediatrician I decided to just continue what I was doing until we took the ABC’s of Sleep at 5 months. I know tons of people who were really able to improve the 4-month sleep regression using this booklet, we just weren’t one of them ( because I didn’t follow it).
The ABC’s of Sleep
The things that drew me to the ABC’s of sleep were:
- The program started at five months. I was ready to be done with a baby in my bed.
- The program shows you how to keep a night feeding. Our pediatrician wanted us to keep feeding him once throughout the night. (BTW speaking of, we have a real old school pediatrician and he LOVED this program when I explained it to him. He wrote it down to recommend to his other patients!)
- The program weans night feedings versus cutting them cold turkey. I know a lot of people do this; it just wasn’t right for us, especially since baby is on the 5th percentile for weight. And at that point, little man was getting well over 50% of his calories during the night.
- The program came with a consult. I knew I would use this and I did on day 5. This was such a BIG help!
- I was already comfortable with Cara’s approaches to sleep for babies.
I will tell you that the program involves some crying with intermittent reassurance. I trusted Cara when making the decision to take this class because in her newborn class she had said so many times that babies before 5 months aren’t developmentally ready for sleep training. So many other programs (including the books mentioned earlier) suggest allowing crying at a younger age then I could have ever been comfortable with. I figured she chose 5 months for a reason, and I trusted that. There are many sleep training methods I’ve seen online and programs that are similar to her class but they don’t offer the same level of customization or support that Taking Cara Babies does. I just can’t imagine going at it alone without any support. The phone consult I did on Day 5 with a member of the Taking Cara Babies team was incredibly helpful. It provided just another layer of support and customization.
The ABC’s of sleep program also offers ways to customize your plan based on your level of comfort. We chose the first method, but there are three other methods offered in the program that can be chosen based on your level of comfort. What is the most unique about her program is the ability to keep a night feeding and to wean other night feedings instead of going cold turkey. However, because of these two aspects, the progress (baby sleeping through the night) is not as linear or as fast as I’ve read about in other programs, but it’s gentler, so it made sense to me.
The awake time was never wailing endlessly. It was a mixture of hard crying, low-level fussing, talking, and playing with hiswubbanubs. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done (yes even harder than having the baby), but absolutely the best decision I ever made. Here is a summary of what our 14 days looked like:
- The first day was the second to the hardest. We had one long stretch of 2.5 hours of awake time.
- The second and third day we had less than 15 minutes of awake time each night.
- The fourth day was horrendous. We had 4 hours of wake time during the night in a 3 hour and 1-hour stretch.
- Days 5-9 the awake time got shorter and less frequent awakening started to occur. It started at 30 minutes and decreased to less than 10 minutes per waking.
- By day nine we were only dealing with early morning wakings. I noticed that by this point he could already replace his pacifier himself!
- By day 11 we were getting 11 hours of sleep which put us at a 5:30 wake up time. Not ideal, but I’ll take 11 hours of sleep any day over 20 minutes.
At the one month mark, we went to California for Easter. I braced myself for wakeups and reminded myself we could get back to the program when we went back home. Although he took naps that only lasted 20-30 minutes (unless he was in the car or car seat then he slept longer), he slept at night in a pack and play for 12 hours! We did have a little fussing when he was putting himself to sleep, but it didn’t last longer than 20 minutes. We only had one early morning wake up, and it was because he peed through his diaper.
Since coming back home, we’ve struggled with him peeing through his diaper causing early morning wakings. We are currently doing sposies plus Huggies overnights, but he is still peeing through 2-3 nights a week. (UPDATE 7/12/19: No more peed through diapers with these dappi diaper covers dappi diaper covers, they are amazing!) If he doesn’t pee through, he sleeps 11.5-12 hours. If he does, it’s tough to get him to go back to sleep. Bedtime is usually between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm or 2.5 hours after his last nap ends. Our wake up time is still between 5:30 am and 6:15 am. Would I love for it to be from 7 pm to 7 am? Yes, I would. However, right now the earlier time works for us. It’s going to get hot, and Nala will need to be walked, the earlier, the better. His early wake-up time allows me to feed him, get him dressed and get ready to go on a walk or go to the dog park before he needs another nap.
Let’s not forget, that before the ABC’s of Sleep Little Man was full time sleeping with Mama, so if he makes it 10 hours in the crib by himself I’m still thankful.
We have not done any formal nap training. Nap training is covered in the program, but around day 9, naps started to improve on their own. They are now usually anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours (2 hours for first nap, 1 hour for the second nap, 30 minutes for the third nap). We were rocking him all the way to sleep for naps until a few days ago when we started laying him down awake. He’s had no problem falling asleep from awake, so this is working for us right now. He has skipped a few of his third naps so I’m thinking he is starting to want to drop that nap.
A few other things improved after sleep training as well. His mood improved; he is a much much much happier baby nowadays. He started falling asleep in the car seat. I can’t be sure this is related, but it seems coincidental that once he learned to sleep at night, he learned to be more comfortable sleeping other places like the car seat. The best improvement has been in his nursing. He is much more patient and less fussy when nursing. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that that the program saved nursing for us. He nurses so much better after a good nap and a good nights sleep than otherwise. We still supplement with formula every night, but breastfeeding is still going strong despite the fact that I can’t eat eggs, dairy, soy, gluten or nuts.
I can’t say enough good things about Cara and the Taking Cara Babies team. They are all so very knowledgeable, supportive, and encouraging. Cara hasn’t just put together cookie cutter programs she really shows you, especially in the ABC’s of Sleep, how to customize the program for your comfort level.
Overall, I would recommend all her classes and definitely follow her on Instagram if you aren’t already. She shares so many free helpful tips and insights on there, it’s really great!
Let me know if you have any questions on anything I didn’t cover!
Did you do any sleep training or follow any sleep gurus? How old was your child when they first slept through the night?