*disclaimer: Because I am really not qualified to give any type of advice, I avoided not going into details. I’m just here to share my story!
Two weeks ago if you would have told me that I was going to sleep train Rainer, I would have laughed. We never did sleep training with Lúthien, and though I wouldn’t have called myself “anti-sleep training,” I did not believe that it was a good or beneficial thing for a baby to undergo. I had glanced at articles seen on facebook every now and then, reading about the risks of sleep training. My attachment parenting book that I used to refer to as a first time mom, put “cry it out” in a very bad light. And honestly, I probably judged parents who sleep trained a little bit, “How dare they let their baby cry!” However, in my head sleep training looked a lot like leaving your baby to cry for hours at a time until they passed out (which it does for some). I had also heard that there were different methods to sleep training, but I just dismissed them as silly and over-controlling. Little did I know that there were good reasons for parents to sleep train and sleep training can actually be incredibly beneficial! I do not believe that sleep training is for everyone, but now on the other side of things, I can attest that sleep training is not as terrible or scary or cold as I thought.
When you are a first time parent, in many respects you have no idea what you’re doing. You learn as you go. With our firstborn, we really benefited from many aspects of attachment parenting and I do not regret anything in that regard. We co-slept from 1 month-5 months. In the beginning I had never planned to co-sleep, but it ended up being the best thing for us at the time. Once she had hit 4 month sleep regression, she began to wake up more frequently at night; and as much as I loved co-sleeping, I missed the alone time with my husband.
Once we transitioned her to her crib, she immediately began sleeping better at night, waking up only twice versus 4-5 times. It was as if all she needed was her own space. Our nighttime routine was just as long, if not longer, but I treasure those moments with her in the dark, rocking her to sleep in the rocking chair. Like many 5-7 month olds, she was not a very good napper (which often drove me crazy), but she eventually grew out of it. All in all, now she is pretty good natural sleeper.
The first 4-5 months with Rainer looked about the same. We began co-sleeping at night pretty much from the beginning. I also wore him in the sling or the ergo for many of his naps, just as I did Luthien. And just like her, he hit the 4 month sleep regression and started to wake up more frequently at night. During the day, when I would try to rock him to sleep he actively tried to fight sleep – and boy did he fight it.
What eventually pushed me to consider sleep training was NAPS. When Lu was an only child, it was not such a big deal for me to spend 30 minutes trying to put her down for a nap that would only last 30 minutes. Yes, it was pretty frustrating at times, but fast-forward to two kids, repeating the same routine is not as realistic when there is a 2 year old with needs too. Though I tried to wear Rainer for as many naps as possible, I also have a legitimate neck/spinal problem that is aggravated by too much babywearing.
Last week I was eventually pushed to the limit and feeling pretty burnt out, so I reached out to my friend who has three children. Her youngest is the same age as Rainer, who they just started sleep training. I knew that they had had what seemed to be a positive experience with sleep training in the past. After doing some more research on sleep training – the benefits, what it looked like, personal success stories, I knew that I wanted to start but I was pretty anxious.
My first experience with letting Rainer “cry it out” was almost accidental. I didn’t plan to start when I did, but things were so chaotic trying to get both kids ready for bed that night, that I just needed to leave him awake in his crib. (My husband is not always home during bedtime on weekdays, so I’m often solo). So…just like that, we started sleep training. I went in every few minutes to comfort him (but not pick him up) and I wouldn’t stay longer than a minute. He fell asleep just within 25 minutes. It was not easy, and it was pretty nerve wracking that first time, but Luthien kept me distracted for half of that. Because I wasn’t completely prepared though, and Rainer’s bed was still in our room, we co-slept that night beginning at midnight when he woke up to nurse and I brought him in bed. I usually don’t check the time in the middle of the night, but out of curiosity I did…he woke up every hour and a half that night.
During that first night, I was able to have a great conversation with my friend, Ali, who basically coached me through what they do with their children. It was so reassuring hearing from someone who has come out on the other side three times. Now it has been four days since we first began sleep training and Rainer went to bed just within minutes of me putting him down drowsy but awake. The progress of the past few nights have looked like this (note, I differentiate between fuss and cry)
Fussed/Cried 25 minutes
Coslept beginning at 12am, he woke up every 1.5 hours
Woke up around 6:30am
Fussed 25 minutes
Up at 1am and 5am to nurse
Woke up around 7am
Fussed 15 minutes
Up at 12am and 4am to nurse
Woke up around 6:30am
Fussed 25 minutes
Up at 1am, 3am (I probably could have let him go back to sleep on his own), 5am
Fussed on/off for 7 minutes
Up at 10:30pm, made a little bit of noise, fell back asleep
Up at 12am and 4am to nurse
Up at 6am, made a little noise, fell back asleep
Woke up around 8:20am
Barely made a sound
Up at 11pm, made a noise, back to sleep
Up at 12am to nurse
Up at 4am to nurse
Up at 6:20, he probably could have slept longer but he had a blow out (haha!)
I should note that on days 5 and 6, I began nap training. Ali explained to me that the sleep consultant they worked with years ago said that we use different parts of the brain for nap and night sleep. Because of this, that’s why it’s a little harder for babies to nap long. Nap training has been a bit harder than our night training with Rainer, but today we’re going on our second day and already it has been positive. The first time we attempted nap training, he did not go down after 40 minutes, so we quit and tried again later. That has been the worst of it though. He has progressively been getting better and better.
If you’ve actually read this through, congratulations! I honestly just wanted to share my relief and excitement and amazement at how much better he is sleeping because of sleep training. Just like his sister, it seems that he loves having his own space. And in addition to that, just by giving him a little bit of independence, I am a little saner and he’s sleeping better too. It wasn’t the incredibly brutal and cold process that I pictured. I will confess though, I was pretty sad the first night I went to sleep without him in the room. It was basically our first night “apart” EVER. That didn’t last too long though, seeing as he woke up to nurse pretty soon after that. There’s my baby! 🙂
We’re still in the process, but I am looking forward to a new week of a more ordered, happier, and well-rested home. It’s pretty incredible how much more time I have at night now, and how much more time and energy I have to put into my day. I may come back and update this a little when we are through, but for those of you who are scared to sleep train and feel like you are interested…do some research, talk with people who have had positive experiences, and maybe modify as you see fit. I am not an expert by any means, I only have my own (so far) 5 day experience. And for those of you who are not drawn to sleep training at all, that’s totally ok! Do what is best for you and your family. ❤