Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Why I Decided to Sleep Train My Babies

Sleep training is one of those push button topics of parenting. People's opinions regarding sleep training are almost as strong as their opinions on breast vs bottle. Most parents have a deep belief in one method or another, and if you don't agree with them, they're going to tell you about it. That's not always the case, but look at any Facebook parenting post, and you'll see how opinionated many parents are.

I know I was positive CIO, cry it out, wasn't for us. Then I had kids who refused to sleep without nursing before, during, and after their naps and nighttime sleep. While I could deal with the sleep deprivation, Harrison couldn't and eventually refused to let me help him to sleep. He wouldn't let me nurse him, rock him, snuggle him. We both cried for 5 minutes, and then a miracle happened. For the first time in his 9 months of life, he fell asleep on his own, and stayed asleep for more than 45 minutes. CIO worked really well and really quickly for Brooke and Harrison.

With Scarlett and Clark I wanted to avoid CIO. We made sure the babies had designated sleeping places, not our bed, and we put them down awake. We had babies who slept 8+ hours at a time by 2 months. I thought for sure we had lucked out and that maybe we actually knew what we were doing the second time around. Then the 4 month sleep regression hit.

We had moved the babies to their cribs for naps, and they were still sleeping in their rock and plays at night. Naps went from an hour or two to never more than 45 minutes. Clark went from sleeping 10 hours straight to waking every couple hours. Scarlett wouldn't sleep more than 45 minutes at a time, and as soon as I put her in her rock and play, she'd start to cry. I reread Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby, and we started light sleep training. Not cry it out, but checking and consoling until they would fall asleep. Clark is a much better sleeper than Scarlett, so she needed a lot more consoling.

3 weeks into sleep training, and we'd made zero progress. Scarlett was still up all night and wouldn't sleep for more than 30 or so minutes at nap time. She was constantly tired and was waking up Clark, making him tired too.

One morning while I was getting the babies ready for their first nap, Brooke came in and started pestering the babies and talking back to me. After asking her repeatedly to stop, she got lippy with me and I smacked her. She rarely gets smacked, so she wasn't expecting it. It threw her off balance and she fell off the bed. Talk about a parenting low. I still hate that I reacted that way.

It was a major wakeup call that things couldn't keep on the way they were. I was exhausted, the babies were exhausted, Brooke and Harrison were desperate for attention. Our entire lives were revolving around the babies sleep, or rather their lack of sleep. Starting that same morning we began stronger sleep training.

We decided we would let the babies cry for short increments and slowly let them cry more and more if needed. 5 minutes, then 7, then 10. Within a couple days, we were seeing major progress. Our naps were back to 90+ minutes. Night wakings started to settle into a predictable routine. We're not anywhere close to sleeping through the night on a regular basis, but that isn't the goal. Yes it's the end point, but I feel like sleep training is a process. I wanted my happy babies back who weren't exhausted. I wanted my sanity back, which I have, mostly. I wanted more time to spend with my big kids, which happens now.

Most nights and naps now, the babies go down without any or with minimal crying. When we messed up their routine with a week at the lake, we had to let some crying happen. They now know how to put themselves to sleep and can make it through sleep cycle transitions. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they still get to come nurse, just not every hour. If they are having a particularly bad nap, I'll let them come snuggle in our bed and try to soothe them back to sleep. It's not about ignoring them all night, it's about letting them learn on their own while still being there when they really need it.

So this is where we are. 7 months in, learning to sleep on our own, but still a ways away from sleeping 7pm-7am, although Clark has done it twice. Scarlett hasn't come close since she was 3 months old. For the time being we're very ok with still waking to nurse. We may revisit our decision again in a couple months, but for now it works for us.

I'm not sure where exactly I'm going with this post, but I feel it's important to talk about some of our not so great parenting moments, and to share some of our more controversial parenting choices. I know sleep training isn't for every family, but for some families it is the right option, and that's ok. It has turned out to be the right option for us with all of our kids. I'd love to hear if and how you decided to sleep train, and how old your kids were when they started sleeping that glorious 12 hour stretch. While we aren't pushing for uninterrupted nights, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to the day it does happen.


  1. Ava cries every time we put her down for a nap or for bed. Sometimes she cries a few minutes and sometimes it's 15 minutes. She goes to bed at 8:30 and I normally have to wake her up at 7 to get her ready and head to grandma's house. It was important to me to let her figure out how to put herself to sleep. She has some bad days where she takes short naps. For awhile I thought she wasn't going to be my little napper. She is doing a lot better!
    When she went a week without nursing in the middle of the night is when I stopped the night nursing. She proved to me she didn't need it and it was more about comforting. She hasn't had a night of waking up and not being able to put herself back to sleep in at least 3 or 4 months. I had to turn the baby monitor off because she is a noisy sleeper. You are a wonderful mother! It's exhausting but so rewarding!

  2. First, I just want to say you're doing an awesome job! Juggling 4 kids is no joke, and I think you're rocking it. Making the best decisions for you and your family and what works for all of you!

    My twin boys are 3 now and back when I was pregnant with them, my greatest concern was sleep. So I read the same book you are, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins, and took everything to heart. From the day they were born (much to my mother and mother in law's sadness) I was adamant that the boys were to fall asleep on their own and not in someone's arms. I was so concerned that once all the help left and I was on my own with them, they would both be used to being held and I wouldn't be able to give them what they needed on my own. So we've always had them be put down drowsy/awake and let them do it on their own. They started sleeping through the night at 3 months old. 3 years later, one son is an amazing sleeper and one likes to use every stall tactic known to man to delay bed. But once he gets there, he's asleep.
    I really believe one of the greatest tools you can give them is the ability to put themselves back to sleep. Sleep is so important (to us all!) and for them to have to be dependent on someone else to help get them there is just hard.
    All this to say, I think you're on the right track! I don't think sleep training has to be a baby crying for an hour alone in his/her crib - it can be done in a much kinder way and I think you're demonstrating that!