Our Experience With Sleep Training
I thought about turning this into a how-to article for sleep training. But instead, I chose to share my experience for those of you who are wrestling with the idea of doing it yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. A well rested baby is a happy baby. And a well rested mom is a happy mom.
Sleep training is a controversial topic, and I am in no way an expert. I am simply sharing what has worked for us in hopes that it can help others!
The Early Days
Before Myree was born, I swore up and down that we would sleep train. He would sleep in his crib from Day 1 and we would get him on a routine.
A few of our friends recommended a book called On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. We loved the concept, so we read it and took notes in preparation.
But when we brought him home from the hospital, it was an entirely different story. We literally didn’t set him down.
I’m not kidding. Somewhere in my prenatal classes, I got it in my head that the best way to build a strong nursing relationship was through constant skin-to-skin interaction within the first 48 hours. You may recall my initial challenges with breastfeeding that I shared before. (Rest assured, that’s all been figured out. Now we are nursing champs!)
After the first two days of ’round the clock shifts, Dad and I were both zombies. Our son preferred the comfort of our warm bodies to his cold, hard crib mattress. To be honest, I don’t even recall trying to put him in his crib. I suppose I assumed he wouldn’t like sleeping in it.
Building a Routine
As several days passed, we followed (most of) the steps outlined in Baby Wise. We stuck to a Feed, Wake, Sleep schedule and it seemed to be working. Myree had a relatively predictable nap routine and was sleeping longer and longer each night. But he needed help.
He was well rested, but Mom was not. There were days that I didn’t shower or eat because I was “trapped” under my sleeping babe. I went on long walks and drives; anything to help him fall asleep and stay asleep
Fortunately, night time wasn’t as difficult. We discovered the DockATot* early on and it quickly became our best friend. It mimics the womb much like swaddling, and also allows for safe co-sleeping with parents.
As much as I yearned to be a well rested mom whose baby didn’t rely on her to fall asleep, part of me didn’t care. This was motherhood, and I loved my little guy with every ounce of my soul. And exhaustion was normal, right?
At 2-3 months (I can’t recall exactly now), Myree started sleeping 7-8 hour stretches and only woke once to eat in the middle of the night.
He was sleeping in his DockATot in our bed at night, and finally napping in his crib during the day. He still liked to be rocked to sleep (and nursed if it was Mommy).
But we never let him cry. If he decided he only wanted a 20 minute nap, in we’d go. If he woke up at 5am for the day, so did we. Essentially, he ran the show.
After 4 months of maternity leave, it was finally time to go back to work. This also happened to be the same time he started teething. Plus, his 4 month shots. And finally, the mysterious 4 month sleep regression hit. It all added up to multiples wakings at night and very little uninterrupted sleep.
Fast forward to 6 1/2 months. Our baby was happy, growing, developing on schedule, etc. But we were still rocking and nursing him to sleep, plus he was still sleeping in our room. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely enjoyed the cuddle time. And I loved coming home and nursing Myree after a long day at work.
But the interrupted sleep and effort to put him down was finally catching up to me. I wasn’t alert at work, I was constantly running late, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I also worried about traveling or leaving him with family overnight.
I was waking to nurse him sometimes 5-6 times in one evening alone. And just as I got him down to sleep, he would wake up crying. And out of exhaustion, sometimes I would cry with him.
Ultimately, I realized something had to give.
The Sleepeasy Solution
Before Myree was born, I had also read The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep. This method involved the “least crying approach” and also explained why waiting until 4 months to “cry it out” is important for cognitive development. Babies under 4 months simply don’t have the ability to self-soothe, it explains.
So when I hit my breaking point last week, I pulled this book back out and started developing our sleep plan.
And can I tell you the incredible news?! It actually worked!
We dedicated this past weekend to allowing Myree to learn how to sleep, and I am so proud of him, because he picked it up like a pro!
For the past 3 nights, he has slept 10+ hours with 3-4 hours of naps during the day. He is happy, thriving and even more energetic and alert than before. He is accomplishing things that he was just on the cusp of doing prior to sleep training. He is starting to crawl, making new noises like “Da-Da,” and best of all, he can put himself to sleep (most of the time, without crying)!
I remember thinking this would be a cake walk before having a baby. I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just let their children cry it out. But then the reality of being a new mone set in, and I couldn’t bear to let my sweet boy cry without assisting him.
Studies have shown that abnormal sleep patterns can lead to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. In addition, sleep deprivation inhibits your ability to regulate negative emotions like anger and rage. Yet as new moms, we accept it, we face our new fate, and embrace living in a sleepy haze 24/7.
But I’m here to tell you, we can all be well rested without the torture of crying it out. We saw results after just two naps. And after conquering the first 24 hours, I honestly don’t know what’s taken us so long!
Here are the top 5 things I love about this particular method:
- It allows check ins. This is your chance to give reassurance. Remind your little one that you’re still there and encourage him to keep trying. It’s the “least crying approach.”
- You don’t have to start right away. Aka you can enjoy those first couple of months holding your baby and rocking him to sleep. The book has strategies from birth to age 5!
- You develop your own sleep plan. You’re not just going in blindly allowing your child to cry indefinitely. It outlines a daytime nap routine that, in turn, sets you up for success at night. It also includes a weaning schedule for nursing mothers who can’t fathom dropping the night feeds cold-turkey.
- It changes the way we think about sleep training. It actually refers to it as “sleep learning.” Imagine if every time your child was trying to crawl to an object, you handed it to hI’m to avoid crying. He would never learn! Like any new skill, falling asleep is something our little one has to learn. And he will never learn if we keep assisting him through walking, driving, rocking or nursing.
- It works! I kid you not, after two naps “learning how to sleep,” Myree put himself to sleep that first night without crying! I observed him throughout the weekend and took notes as he built a new set of skills that allowed him to fall asleep. And every day since then, he’s been able to wake and fall back asleep on his own.
Other Recommended Sleep Resources:
I think it’s worth mentioning that I am in no way sponsored by or affiliated with this book. I’m just an exhausted mom that finally found a solution to sleep training! If this post helps even one person, I would be happy.
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Image Source: www.allthatsheis.com
*As a disclaimer, we received the DockATot as a gift. It has a pretty hefty price tag at $165. I know what you’re thinking. $165 for a pillow? That’s outrageous! But when you’re an exhausted parent, you’ll pay any small fortune to get some shut-eye.