How to get your baby to sleep in one easy step

Sleeping Popple in her moses basket

Regular readers will know that the Popple has never been a great sleeper. I’ve written about it a lot. For example:

This past year has been one of sleepless nights, blurry mornings and a lot of watching Netflix on my iPad on mute in bed at 3am with a baby attached to my boob. It’s been pretty s**t, sleep-wise.

That being said, I think we MAY have turned a corner when it comes to sleep. I say ‘may’ because you never want to be too optimistic when it comes to the big S word, but things have taken a turn for the better.

I’d like to share my ultimate sleep training secret with all the other sleep-deprived parents out there. So here it is – how to get your baby to sleep in one easy step:

1. Wait.

I realise that doesn’t sound very helpful, and it’s not exactly how we sleep trained the Popple, but it’s pretty close.

Popple sleeping
A very tiny Popple sleeping in the very early days.

Adrian and I attempted actual sleep training months ago, and the Popple was resistant to everything we tried. The pick-up-put-down method? Controlled crying? Gradual retreat? It all just made her angrier. She never de-escalated – her cries just grew louder and more insistent as the hours went on. We stopped trying and just gave in to all of her sleep associations – breastfeeding, giving her a dummy, letting her pull on my hair, patting her on the back, picking her up. I spent most of my nights sleeping in the bed next to her cot in her room, with my hair in her fist and one hand on her back.

Then, one day around her first birthday, all of our tricks stopped working. If we tried to comfort her when she woke up in the middle of the night, she screamed louder. That left us with just one choice – leave her to cry. I was never a big fan of the cry-it-out method, and it definitely hadn’t worked for us in the past, but we were out of options. We went in periodically to check on her until she eventually stopped crying and went to sleep on her own.

The first night, this went on for two hours. The second night, she cried for one hour. The same on the third night. And then, on the fourth night, she cried for five minutes – then went to sleep.

I couldn’t believe it.

She’s sleeping for longer stretches now, and I’ll usually only go into her room to give her one night feed. Adrian turned to me the other night, after she’d fallen asleep at 7:30pm following a brief cry, and said, “Who is this baby?”

But that’s the thing. She’s not really a baby anymore.

The Popple just turned one, so she’s technically a toddler now – a proper grown-up little person who seems to have decided that she’s ready to give this whole sleeping thing a go. I’m convinced that her sudden change in sleep habits has little to do with our involuntary sleep training – it’s because she was just ready to sleep. When she screamed at me when I went in to offer her a cuddle or my hair to pull, what she was really trying to say was, “GO AWAY MAMA! I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!”

If you’re going through sleep hell with your wee one and nothing seems to work, just know that it won’t last forever. I know that’s a really annoying thing to say – I wanted to punch people who said that to me when I was going through the worst of it – but it’s true.

Some babies will figure out how to sleep at six weeks. Some will take to sleep training at six months. For the rest of us, there is only endurance. And coffee. And sneaky snoozes on the toilet. And wine. All the wine.

35 Replies to “How to get your baby to sleep in one easy step”

  1. Our little girl was exactly the same at 1 she didn’t want to co sleep any more and decided sleep was her thang! I’m happy to say she is now a three year old who will sleep all night in her big girl bed with no trouble! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you mumma!! #fortheloveofBLOG xx

  2. Ooh yes the wine definitely helps!! We thought we’d cracked sleeping fairly early on, but for the past few months she (14m old) has been waking up in the middle of the night for a bottle. Whaaa? But the past two nights she’s slept through. O to the M to the G. Definitely a high5 when you can get them to go to sleep. I completely agree with you about the whole ‘I want to do it myself’. My Georgia is SO independent it drives me mental. Anyway… I hope some of that ramble makes sense… 😉 x #triballove

  3. Ah bless you! TM has been pretty good at doing a long stretch at night for a while but he won’t nap in his cot and doesn’t go to bed at a normal baby time haha. He’s got worse recently I think because of his teeth. I think if you just accept when a baby is born that most of them don’t sleep the way we want them to its easier – for me, anyway, acceptance took away the stress and worry and made it a little more bearable! #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. The Popple wouldn’t nap in her cot until she was 7 months, so there’s hope for TM! She’s always gone to bed around 6:30-7:30, but was waking up every few hours until recently. I’m so used to getting woken up every few hours that I still wake up frequently, even when she’s sleeping longer!

  4. We had exactly the same problem and all of a sudden he just wanted to do it himself. He is pretty good at getting himself of for a sleep (apart from now of coarse, where he’s screaming in his cot even though he is knackered!) We are leaving ours to decide for himself when things are going to change as gave up trying to change stuff when he wasn’t ready – still has a bottle in the night as well but hoping he will drop that soon 🙂 #fortheloveofBlog

  5. This is brilliant! Emma is so similar to the Popple and only recently got better with sleeping at 13 months. It really is giving them time and they work it all out 🙂 We tried the sleep training when she was 9 months but it had the same effect, she would get so cross that it didn’t seem worth it. I think when I made peace with the fact that her sleep would change naturally at some point, it made me much calmer all round! #triballove

  6. Ohh dear! I am so happy that Mini wasn’t a particularly bad sleeper…but the again she did sleep with me so I’m not the poster child for happy sleepers!

    Lucy xx

    #TribalLove

  7. We just happened to get really lucky with our little boy being a good sleeper. I’m nervous for the next one because I feel like no parent gets two good sleepers. I will have to remember this in the future. Bless you for riding it out and making it work. I’m glad she started to want to fall asleep by herself YAY! #TribalLove

  8. Ah yes THE WAIT. I remember when I realised this was the approach we were taking, just waiting. Probably around ten months I came to the realisation that we were doing that technique. Trying a huge amount of other little things, although no formal sleep training with my son, but ultimately for us it wasn’t about my son, it was about us and what we needed to make peace with/get our heads around. I’m just writing ANOTHER post about my son’s sleep, so this is good timing to read! Glad to hear the Popple is sleeping a bit better now though #fortheloveofBLOG.

  9. Hopefully you have got there at last! Baby girl is a really good sleeper and has been since she was like 8 weeks old. I feel lucky. She obviously loves her sleep like her mummy! xx

    #triballove

  10. Controlled crying is never easy, but it worked for us too, so hard to do but within a week we had a 6 month old night time waker sleeping through, or waking and seeing himself back to sleep in a couple of minutes. It doesn’t work for everyone but can work.Glad you got there. #KCACOLS

  11. thefrenchiemummy says: Reply

    I love her pyjamas, even if it’s not the point of the post ahahah Anyway, I read a lot about sleeping routine, but it doesn’t work like that in a perfect world. It’s best just to do what works for you. I have been lucky with Baba. But I have to admit, he falls asleep in my arms after his last feed. I know I shouldn’t but …#KCACOLS

  12. sleep training can be so hard. and we all have our own tricks and tips but those silly babies just do what they please!! im glad shes sleeping better for you!! crossing my fingers it sticks!! #KCACOLS

  13. Hahaha yes, all of the wine really does help 🙂

  14. And sneaky snoozes in the bath! Little B is 20 months old this month and STILL not sleeping through the night… #KCACOLS

  15. beccaweatherall says: Reply

    Ah, bless you! I bet it feels surreal at the moment?! So pleased you can finally catch up on some zzzzz’s and long may it continue. It really is just patience isn’t it with parenting in general I think! The photo is gorgeous!! 🙂 #KCACOLS

  16. This does make me feel a little better….. Freddie sleeps ok but only when I put him in with me. If i try and put him in his cot and he realises then he cries. A lot. So sometimes we can get him in there for a couple of hours (if he feel asleep feeding elsewhere first) but then once he wakes up he will keep waking up and I have to keep getting him to sleep on our bed and putting him back. Then eventually I give in. Its good to know that this might not last forever! Glad you are getting more rest now x
    #KCACOLS

  17. So true. Wait. We’re still waiting 15 years later! My eldest has never slept when he’s supposed to and now he’s a teenager, he sleeps when he’s not supposed to. My second child slept through from 6 weeks. We could not believe it – problem was, our first was STILL not sleeping through and he was two years old by then. By the time our third came along we were too tired to pay attention to whether he slept or not. Honest. Good luck with it, sounds like it’s been tough going but you’re starting to see the light at the end! #MyExpatFamily

  18. I love my sleep so much I was so grateful when our girls slept through from quite an early age. I can’t imagine how exhausting it can be otherwise. But your right in what you say.. they will do it all when they are ready. Of course there are guides you can follow to try and make the process work sooner etc and in some cases they do work, but ultimately you will only get some sort of routine and sleeping pattern when your baby is ready. Glad its all getting better for you guys now 🙂 #bigpinklink

  19. sneaky snoozes on the toilet! Brilliant! Oh I’m so glad you have finally made huge progress – long may it last because there is nothing worse to man on earth than a sleep deprived woman! #KCACOLS

  20. You know, I think that actually is helpful advice. I wrote a post a while ago about how maybe we should stop offering false hope to parents of babies who don’t sleep, all these ‘miracle cures’ that people insist will work that just don’t work for every baby. This advice to just accept it, and wait it out is more helpful in my opinion, because it’s real, it’s honest, and it lets other parents know that it’s normal for a baby to not sleep through the night and that they’ll do it in their own time. x #KCACOLS

  21. I know what you mean though re it wont last forever. I am currently trying to tell myself this with some potty training woes at the mo. I also felt sh*t with sleep deprivation and I really felt it WOULD last forever. they change and they change for no reason sometimes. id say my boy has always been a better than ok sleeper. not amazing though and he went through a bad patch at 2 and a half – so last xmas. just peeing about all night, getting distracted, wanting cuddles etc. playing me basically! but I know my boy though and I know after a cuddle he is usually ok. he had just gotten into a bit of a routine of wanting 5 or 6 cuddles! I also tell myself there will be a day when he doesn’t want any, so ill take the extra now too :)#KCACOLS

  22. Yay for more sleep! Luckily my monster loves sleeping! #fartglitter #triballove

  23. Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme) says: Reply

    My mum told me to do this very early on with my eldest (now 11 years old). It worked with both of mine and i’m so thankful! We all love sleep! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  24. My little boy is currently screaming. Literally nothing you can do to stop him. I hope he reaches the conclusion that sleep is good soon… #KCACOLS

  25. I’m completely with you on this one lovely, you and me sound like we’ve had pretty similar sleep journeys too. Our little one has just started to sleep through, or wake up once in the night. When she does wake up and I pick her up, she screams even louder, so I’ve resorted to picking her up, giving her water, and putting her straight back down to sleep, she has a little cry and resettles. I believe that now she is ready to sleep, she knows what it is. Looking back I thought that there would never be an end to the 4-month sleep regression, it feels that we are a long way from that now. A great post for all mum’s experiencing sleep issues, be patient. Thanks for linking up this week at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  26. We did ‘cry it out’. It was a really rough week but my god I’m grateful for it now. We have generally easy bedtimes and he generally sleeps through the night. Of course now I’ve said that I’m sure he wont. I think people just have to do what they feel comfortable with. It all works out in the end. Glad you’re getting a little more shut eye now.

    #fartglitter

  27. Oh man, wine is the key huh?(: My son is just s few days shy of 15 months and is nowhere close to sleeping through the night haha. He till spends most of his nights curled up next to me and clinging onto my boob for dear life 😛 Thanks for sharing! <3 #KCACOLS

  28. As hard as the cry it out is, I have been there. 12 years ago, but still vivid in my mind. I remember my son crying on one side of his bedroom door and me sitting on the other side bawling in a ball. There was nothing we could do. My poor husband was distressed as he didn’t know what to do. (kinda funny now actually hehe) I am glad you found something that may have worked. Enjoy the sleep while you can! #KCACOLS

  29. Arthur is 17 months and has never once slept through the night. He wakes regularly and always ends up in our bed by about midnight and still asks for milk – he has really bad separation anxiety and becomes so upset when he’s left alone that he stops breathing properly. I am against crying it out for many reasons (I follow advice from the gentle sleep expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith) so this isn’t really an option for us (I genuinely don’t think it would work for us anyway!) but so glad that you’ve managed to find something that may have helped you along. Sleep deprivation is the worst and is the main reason I still bring Arthur into my bed in the middle of the night as it is a sure fire way of us all getting more sleep! I agree that the only thing to do is wait though – I’m not sure I have many other options anyway!! Lol!! #KCACOLS

  30. We ended up letting him cry at about 9 months and it worked very well. After just a couple of nights he would stop waking and he would fall asleep quickly. That was after months of trying the pick up put down and all those sitting in his room waiting hours. Now though that has changed and at 19 months he smashes around in his crib and has hurt himself, so I can’t just let him fuss himself to sleep anymore. It just changes at every stage, doesn’t it? heh.
    #KCACOLS

  31. agentspitback says: Reply

    Coffee and wine will definitely help. I have tried all sorts with my children and nothing ever really worked and each kid was so different. We just tried different things until we found something that sort of worked for each one. But until then, I just had lots of cake and chocolate, hahaha… Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink… I would say just keep trying till you find something.

  32. I’ve been waiting 14 months… please tell me it’s not much long….zzzzzzzzzzzz #KCACOLS

  33. As ridiculous as this may sound, we used that “self-soothe” technique on Meet the Fockers when my son was a baby and kept waking up in the middle of the night. It took a lot of self-restraint to not go into the nursery and dance him back to sleep but it only took a short while before he started sleeping through the night. So yeah, waiting does work!

  34. I have faced many sleepless nights because of my baby starts crying in the middle of the night. I will surely try this ” cry-it-out” method, I hope it will work.

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