Let me start by saying this: holy moly this sleep training stuff is hard! It has been overwhelming, tiring, and worst of all, heartbreaking. Okay, ya I’m being dramatic, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to! All jokes aside…
I knew early on that I would have to sleep train once we had a baby, but I didn’t know what that really entailed. I wasn’t unaware of the struggle entirely as I’ve heard horror stories about all the crying involved… but I’ve also heard it only took one baby a single night with 10 minutes of crying. Ah, and the best one to date – “I didn’t need to sleep train” – my response to that was, (pardon my french) you lucky bitch!
So it’s not like I was surprised when I started sleep training. I was one of the last girls in my mommy group to start sleep training. I should actually say I did start training earlier but the first time I tried I failed miserably when I went in and hugged him because I felt so bad, and in that moment I decided it wasn’t right for us, or at least the timing wasn’t. I realized after reading a specific parenting book that it wasn’t actually bad for him, and he needs it to be healthy. The amount of sleep my son actually needs is beneficial, and the amount of sleep he would be getting once sleep trained was actually good for me too. I really liked this book – yes I’m sure so many women say OH I have the right book, but this book really explained to me why I’m doing what I’m doing in detail, and the sleep training method in this book suited our family and made me feel a lot better about how to train my baby.
I will say this, while my method worked best for us, it m ay not work best for your family. All of our babies are these little human beings who, just like us adults, are all unique and all need different methods in training and when raising, just like I may not learn things the same way as you might. Bottom line, as with many of my posts, I’m not here saying HEY GUYS use this method or do what I did, I’m simply telling you my experience and what worked for us. I really don’t want to tell you which method to use but I actually encourage you to do the research for yourself and choose what you feel is best for your family.
I have one friend who did the modified ‘cry it out’ method where she did not go into the room at all but that failed so next she chose to try the Extinction Method (the most aggressive method) which turned out to be successful. I have another friend who’s tried every single method out there but eventually found success in the Modified Furber’s Method (the least aggressive method, you help them self-soothe with verbal affirmations), but another friend just gave up completely and won’t sleep train at all – like I said, our babies are special and all protest differently. Patience is your best friend, and only you will know what is best for your baby in the end.
There is so much literature out there that contradicts one another, too. One book encourages a few methods that all advise you to let your child cry and figure it out on their own to establish independence. Another online guide that few girls and I purchased (it gets pricey, buying all these books and online advice) suggests to coddle your baby by sitting in the room but not physically touching them and slowly move away each night (it sounds silly, I know).
Contradicting as they may be, they all have on thing in common: teach your child to soothe themselves. That’s the plan, right?
This book says this, another book says that, but how do you do actually accomplish this sleep training thing? All you want to do is make your baby feel better as soon as they sound hurt or are crying and in obvious distress, so tell me, HOW??? Well, you make patience your best friend. And use your husband as a punching bag – JOKING, what I actually mean is use your husband and friends as support. My mommy group, my friends who don’t even have kids, and my husband were my go to. They cheered me on when I needed it and bitched along with me (especially since some of us suffered at the same time.)
Did you know there is research about how your baby’s cry impacts you on a physical level? Apparently it is ingrained in us moms to want to immediately help our baby as soon as we hear them cry. According to an article in the publication Motherly, a mother’s brain reacts at a higher sensitivity rate in comparison to how a dad responds to a baby’s cry. Whether this is true science or not, it makes sense right? I definitely think so, and it explains why sleep training is so hard for moms. I asked my husband how it makes him feel when Ryo cries like this, and his response was “Well, yes, this sucks” whereas I’m crying and completely in distress, pacing back and forth praying for him to stop crying.
For Ryo we ended up choosing the sleep wave method from the book The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon. It’s a combination of the cry it out method and the modified crying method. You set up a bedtime routine, which you will implement every night because the book harps on repetition and consistency.
Example of a night time routine :
1.Sing a song
2.Change diaper and outfit for bed
3.Feed (don’t let baby fall asleep)
5.Place baby sleepy but awake in crib and leave
Once you do your bedtime routine you put your baby into the crib or bassinet awake but sleepy. Wait until baby cries, and don’t go in until baby cries – and truly cries, none of this babbling, whining adorableness – and go in every 5 minutes and say a script. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, something like: ‘It’s okay, mommy and daddy are here, we love you, night night’ But, this script has to be word for word every single time. The book explains that this is uber important as consistency is necessary for the baby to recognize a pattern, and it assures them that you’re always there and you haven’t completely left. It’s called the sleep wave because if 5 minutes go by and baby is still crying, you repeat the beginning by going in and reciting the script. If the crying stops, reset the time to zero and go back in if the crying starts again and lasts for 5 minutes. This helps your baby detect a pattern, they pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for! The book says your baby needs these visits to be 100 percent predictable, and that baby will get louder and madder with each visit but the frequency and predictability of your visits will still reassure them and make them feel safe and secure. Who doesn’t want to fall asleep feeling safe and secure, right?
Remember when I said I’d heard all the horror stories about all the crying?
Yeah, no one told me that it wouldn’t just be the baby crying – it would be me too!
There have been nights where I would just finish crying as my son finally, after one full hour of crying, falls asleep, and those were the nights I had to rely on my support network to keep my spirits up because I felt just absolutely terrible.
It took about 4-5 days before he started to get the trend and he actually was sleeping without crying himself to sleep. At least, he was, until the 8th day when he had a 50 minute cry-it-out session. He starts off whining or babbling, then it turns into a whiny cry followed by a sad cry and it just progresses into a cry that makes you cringe. My heart races, I get super bitchy towards my husband (which I feel bad about but luckily he’s super understanding) I start to talk to the monitor cheering him on saying “you can do it my little boy, you can do it!” in hopes that he will settle himself and then I end up crying because it breaks my heart that I can’t just go in there and scoop him up and rock him and hug him until he feels better. Yep, it sucks. Its sucks major dick and not in the good way either.
All I want to do is crawl into his crib, lay beside him, snuggle my nose into the fat rolls between his cheek and neck and give him a hundred gazillion kisses so he knows mama loves him. I may call my self a badassxmama but fuck I’m a sucka for my little boy.
If you aren’t a mom already you’ll learn once you have a baby that the bond you and your baby have is so strong. It comes from those long nights of feeding with him, all of the hours of the day and night with your baby, you build this bond of friendship, companionship, family ties – whatever you want to call it, and this also what makes sleep training so hard.
I figured I should write this out while I’m still feeling so horrible about it before I (purposely) forget this experience, because as difficult and seemingly traumatic as it seems to me now, I will look back and be glad I went through with it, and hopefully hearing how hard another mom (me) has felt about it will give other new moms hope as well.
Full disclaimer: I co-slept with baby Ryo and after the first attempt of sleep training, I had full intention of co-sleeping. I’m not against it as long as you’re being safe about it. We are currently still somewhat co-sleeping as his crib is flush against our bed with out the side up between us. Really, its an extension of our bed, it’s like we have a huge king size bed once you include his crib attachment. We don’t really have a choice in having the crib in our room or not as we currently live in a 1 bedroom condo, but 1 bedroom condo or not, I always had intention of having him in our room until he turns 1 anyways.
I’m paranoid about him not breathing when I’m not around, and I still look at the monitor all the time to make sure his chest is still moving up and down. I laugh at myself because I know our parents didn’t have the technology we have today to monitor our babies and we turned out fine. Some might argue I did, others might… disagree. Haha.
I know that, for the next few years, this will be a work in progress. During the next few years, even with an established schedule, sleep training will get off track with teething or baby coming down with a cold. Developmental leaps also are a factor, so I will say again, patience is your best friend and of course your support network is always important to rely on.
I don’t want to scare you, my beautiful readers, but this is the shit that really happens.
You grow this attachment and bond with your baby and then all of a sudden you are like okay son, you must become independent and learn how to go to sleep yourself. Sometimes I think that this is harder for me than him – not only is it mentally draining for me, but physically. I feel like the energy and life-force has been sucked out of me each and every time we go through each cry cycle.
But wait, before I scare you completely off – There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
You’re doing this for your baby and for yourself. You can’t be a good parent if you’re always sleep deprived and your baby needs the sleep to grow into the great human he or she is supposed to be. They do eventually get it together (so I’ve heard). Honestly I have seen Ryo’s days improve dramatically with more sleep. He’s more active, laughs a lot, and he doesn’t get fussy nearly as much as he used to. I see it so clearly now, but I never before realized the fussiness was just a cue that he’s tired. It’s amazing how these little humans get cranky because, well, they’re just like us adults; when we don’t sleep we get bitchy and/or cranky.
It all works out like everything else. It’s just another experience you get to go through with your little one – as hard as it may be it’s rewarding once you see your hard work sweat and tears (lots of tears) pay off.
Like all my mommy friends say “ You got this mama!”