Whoever came up with the phrase “sleeping like a baby” must be playing some kind of cruel joke.
The sleep training thing is a long tale, so I’ve decided to talk about the things leading up to it and the things after the fact separately, since there are indeed a lot of factors to consider.
I’ll say this upfront, sleep training is not for everyone, it is extremely hard, but sometimes, it can save an entire family.
When it comes to sleep training, the picture people generally think about is putting a helpless baby in a crib, walking out of a room, and letting that baby scream his or her head off. Then, with enough time, that baby will likely pass out from exhaustion, and hopefully stay that way for another 8 hours while the parents give each other a high five and open a bottle of wine.
I will say, this picture does have some sense of reality, the putting baby in a crib and walking out part, but sleep training has to do with so much more than the barbaric sounding approach and the stereotype of selfish cruel parents.
Before I had my daughter, this was the picture in my head too, so much so that when I heard from a friend that a mutual friend of ours slept train their baby and let her cry for 4 hours, I secretly judged, and thought, “man she’s cruel, I would never do that!” Fast forward to when Emilia was about a week old, irony couldn’t have been stronger, perhaps it’s karma at its finest.
After spending way too much time reading forums, and joining countless baby sleep related support groups, the top reason many family decide to sleep train is that the lack of sleep is tearing them apart, and they are losing their ability to function, let along take care of another human being. The situation could vary greatly from family to family, depending on the baby, how many people is in the family to help, the financial resources available, and so on.
In my case, we had a week of drowsy baby time with Emilia, and that was it! I have barely recovered from my (not even complicated) birthing process, and she has already woken up to the world. Emilia was your typical give an inch take a mile baby. At first, she wanted to be held while she dozed off, and had no problem sleeping in her bassinet, then about a week in, she decided that she didn’t want to be put down. So we held her. Then another week passed, she decided she didn’t just want to be held to doze off, she wanted to be rocked to sleep, so we walked. Then she wanted to be bounced, then she wanted us to wear her, then she wanted to co-sleep, then she wanted to be rocked to stay asleep…and it just went on and on. I tried so many different products in an attempt to free myself when she sleeps, including (not including brands since this isn’t a product review post):
sleeping bag – arms up
sleeping bag – arms down
various transitional sleeping bag
in bed bassinet
rocker (front and back)
rocker (side to side, up and down)
warm water bottle
She was breastfed so nursing often, and then we were trying to follow sleep cues and the whole “new born should only be able to stay awake for 45 min to an hour at most” thing, we even tried the gentle “pick up put down” at the recommendation of someone in my sleep group, all of which were unsuccessful. We co slept, as in, baby in bed, in my arm, face against my chest, totally unsafe, towards the third month with Emilia, since I was willing to try anything at that point, and still, she woke, and woke, and woke some more.
I was desperate, I did not have a moment to myself at all throughout those times, by the time Emilia was three months old, I have not had any chunk of sleep for longer than 4 hours, day and night, I also have a lot of products I need to now sell because they are just cluttering my home. I also stressed because I felt like a complete failure, and added so much financial strain to my family. I was very convinced that Emilia is just too special to ever sleep, because all of these products had reviews proving that they worked for SOMEONE out there, yet none of them helped us.
Because I was so tired, my memory of those times are blurred, I remember crying a lot, stress eating, or not eating at all, days were long, and it was hard to enjoy my new baby. My husband wanted to help, but there is only so much he can do with a fully breastfed baby. We attempted bottle feeding, which ended in terrible breast refusal, so no one other than me can nurse Emilia. Our home was also so small that even if I hand her to him, I wouldn’t be able to sleep since I can hear her cry.
Then one day, at about 3 in the morning, it happened.
Emilia would no longer nurse to sleep. She wasn’t even 4 month old at the time. She nursed, she stared at me, and I felt despair.
I lost it and went into full panic mode, in face I don’t even remember what I did after that. I just lost my last hope of getting her to sleep, and the world was crashing down, I didn’t know what to do next.
The next day, I called a sleep consultant, I knew that this cannot continue anymore, when I am the primary care taker of the baby with no additional hand. It also doesn’t help that when Emilia is tired from lack of sleep, she turns into demon baby Jack Jack from the Incredibles.
If you have made it this far, thank you so much for reading my story! And behind every family that have sleep trained, or is considering sleep training, there will likely be a similar story. Everyone’s situation is different, and every mom or family’s tipping point is different. I’ve come across moms who dealt with severe lack of sleep for over half a year, I’ve also come across moms who bed shared until the baby became a toddler and beyond.
The most important reason that should decide when or if to sleep train is that, the amount of rest, and the sleep pattern is not working for the care taker baby combination. If you are reading this because you are unsure whether to sleep train or not, let this be an encouragement to follow your gut feeling, and not your guilt. Are you depressed? Can you remember what was yesterday’s breakfast? Are you still able to stay alert and watchful whenever your baby is awake? If your life is upside down, don’t let guilt stop you from considering sleep training. A healthy mother is the foundation to a well developed baby.
On the flip side, just because your baby isn’t sleeping in their own crib, is no reason to sleep train. It’s not just something cool to do either. If my daughter would have slept consistently using any of the products or sleep arrangements, including bed sharing, I likely will not have considered sleep training, because the arrangement is working and within my limit.
Why should you sleep train? It’s a very personal decision, whatever you decide, trust in your instinct and proceed forward with courage and will. I will write about the actual sleep training process, and some common methods in my next post. Leave a comment if you have a similar story to share!