Sleep Training in Real Life – How Rigel Learned to Sleep

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So you had your baby and now you’re hearing that you need to sleep train. That it’s paramount that you get that fresh baby on a sleep schedule, if you and baby ever want to be happy and healthy. You went out and bought all the courses, TakingCaraBabies, Moms on Call, you hired a baby whisperer, you even considered indulging your Mom’s idea of giving the baby rescue remedy (thankfully you didn’t do that) but your baby kept waking up for months and months. And you learned to appreciate those 3 to 4 hour stretches of sleep but every time you heard someone say that their kid goes to sleep at 6:30pm and sleeps for 12 hours a night you felt a little like a failure. Well have I got a story (and some tips) for you Mama. It’s the story of how Rigel learned to sleep.

Fresh Rigel having a little nap on his lounger while I stared at him, still getting over jaundice.

When Rigel was born he was hungry…ALL THE TIME! While most newborns eat about every 2-3 hours, he was eating about every hour to hour and half; and this was even after we started combo feeding. The kid was ravenous! So we rightly assumed that he would wake up a few times overnight for the first couple of months (or until he weighed about 13lbs). Well he woke up almost as often as he did for feeding during the day and any bodily function that ended up in his diaper woke him up. He hated sleeping on his back and he hated being swaddled. As new parents we didn’t know what to do but we were losing our minds with the lack of sleep. So we did some research and my husband suggested we try the 5S Method (Swaddle, Side or Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck). This method is what inspired me to create a DIY Snoo (read how I did it here). Rigel started to settle faster after waking up after we starting using the 5 S Method but he still kept waking up.

Rigel in his Fisher-Price Bassinet with the Rock-It rigged to rock the bassinet.

We tried putting him to sleep earlier like many of the baby sleep experts suggest and it just ended up in screaming or worse a baby that would be UP for the day wayyyy too early. I noticed Rigel moved a lot when he slept. He started rolling over at about 6 weeks and basically never stopped. He would roll around in the bassinet, often hitting the sides of it until he found a comfortable position for himself. It terrified me at first because everything said that babies should sleep on their backs and he desperately wanted to sleep on his side or belly. I asked the pediatrician about it. He said as long as I felt that he was protective of his airway (meaning that he would move himself to breathe) that I didn’t need to worry about it. But I worried, that my baby wasn’t getting adequate sleep and that my baby might get hurt for insisting on doing things his own way.

Rigel sleepng in his Baby Delight Snuggle Nest while traveling.

Still something told me I needed to trust him and his instincts. At three and a half months we moved him to his crib and against some expert advice we initially had him sleep in his crib in his travel bassinet the Snuggle Nest. I did this to ease the transition since he was now moving to such an open space. I first had him try this method for a nap and he slept so well! By this point he was waking up less often, about 3 times a night but he would still move ALOT while he slept and sometimes was very difficult to settle. We considered using the Merlin sleepsuit but my gut told me it was not going to help his develop in the long run and I was concerned that in an emergency it would limit his ability to move himself should he need to. I also worried that it would make him too hot, he already seemed to run on the hot side and I didn’t want to further exacerbate that. So we didn’t get it.

Rigel sleeping in the Snuggle Nest placed in his crib as seen through the monitor.
Rigel in his sleep sack with the mesh bar covers we got to keep his little limbs in the crib.

Instead we used sleep sacks that let his arms move around from about 4 months until about 15 months when we transitioned him from his crib to a toddler bed. At about 9 months old I had figured out that Rigel had confusional arousal, which is a parasomnia that consists of waking up but not realizing you are awake. This is what made getting Rigel to settle and fall back asleep so hard. His body was awake but his brain hadn’t quite caught up. The kids that have confusional arousal usually grow out of it by the time they are 3 but for some it can develop into sleep talking or even sleep walking. Rigel’s Dad is a sleep talker and the way my mother-in-law tells it he did some sleep walking as a kid. Having confusional arousal meant that even the best sleep training would not get my kid to sleep through the night. We would have to work with how HE worked.

Rigel joking around with Dad in his toddler bed. It was the Spongebob bed but we applied NASA mission stickers instead.

So we moved him to a toddler bed much earlier than other parents might have. And it worked great for him for a few months. As he got bigger he would roll into the sides of the bed more and that led to more confused awakenings. My husband tired from literal lack of sleep one day decided to get rid of the bed frame and just put the bed on the floor. The rousings again stopped for a while, with only the occasional bad wake ups from naps. But after a while he was rolling off the mattress and onto the floor.

Rigel’s toddler sized mattress on the floor.

At 28 months old Rigel got his first full size bed. I mean a literal full size bed, we skipped right over a twin bed because I wanted to be sure that he had plenty of space for all of his movements. He sleeps with cozy pillows and his favorite stuffed animals and a big cozy comforter and he sleeps through the night. Occasionally talking to himself randomly at night but nothing that requires us to intervene. And it is glorious! I’m telling you all this so you Mamas know that just because your kid isn’t sleeping the way the sleep trainers say they should doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. You just have to find a system that works for YOUR baby! And that could mean co-sleeping (gasp!), it could mean transitioning much earlier than recommended to a different sleep setting, maybe even trying a different sleep position.

Rigel’s bed today, he sleeps through the night and wakes up mostly in good spirits.

I always talked to Rigel’s doctor before switching him from one setting to the next and he was confident that Rigel could handle any of the changes. Like I said Rigel was very mobile very early and had a little bit of an independent streak, much to my sadness (he wasn’t much into cuddling). So don’t shelve your Mama intuition as you’re trying to figure out the best sleep situation for your littles. Read the expert advice but also trust your gut. And if you have more questions about Rigel’s journey to restful sleep feel free to leave them in the comments.

Wishing you a good night’s sleep,

Author: Grace G.

New Mom and Retired Lawyer trying to share the ride.

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