Sleep Training–It’s a Gift
If there is one thing I am evangelical about in motherhood it’s sleep training. I want to spread the gospel far and wide. I want to convert those who don’t believe. I simply don’t get why moms (or dads) would rather suffer and put themselves through Guantanamo Bay-sleep torture by choice.
In fact, I don’t think you should complain about being tired/up with your baby at 3 a.m. if you choose not to sleep train (this excludes the first few months when you hunker down and deal with it). And there are exceptions: illness, special needs babies, adjusting to travel, etc. But at a certain point if you choose not to sleep train it’s like complaining about you’re unhealthy diet and eating donuts all day. Makes no sense. Especially because you’re not doing your child any favors–I mean, babies need sleep. Humans need sleep. We need uninterrupted sleep. It is essential to life, to our well being.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I first had Fia and my pediatrician suggested letting her cry it out all night, I gasped in horror. And changed pediatricians. By three months I was the walking dead. By four, my husband threatened a padded room and straightjacket. Our strong marriage foundation was getting weaker with each anguished night. Many of my friends had sleep trained. They were gentle with me and would simply say, “If you do it right, it works.” I thought they were monsters.
My new pediatrician said the same thing. But she cautioned: you must do it right and you must be ready. She went on to give me a few options. Go full throttle and let them cry it out all night or, do a more gentle approach that I could handle better–like Ferber. The advantage to the first method is you get it over with quicker. The downside is you might not be able to handle it. So know your limitations. I would have lost my heart. It would have fallen right out of my body. A gruesome thought, to say the least. So believe me, I get it. It’s not easy. But I know in my mom-heart that sleep training is absolutely essential to anyone who values a good nights sleep for themselves and their baby.
To the people who think they’re protecting their child, think again. You’re doing the opposite. You’re not giving them solid, uninterrupted sleep. In letting them cry for a few intervals for a very finite time (7 nights tops) you are giving them a gift that cannot be overstated: the gift of teaching them to fall asleep and stay asleep. I mean, would you rather your baby be groggy all day like you are? Or down the road, rely on drugs to put them to sleep? (Okay, I’m not saying that will necessarily happen. I’m sure over time, like by the time they’re 5 and you’re completely insane, they may learn to go to sleep on their own).
And after a certain age and weight (consult Ferber or Sleepy Planet for specifics, but typically no later than 5-6 months), the nursing or bottle-feeding in the night is pure habit. Guess what? If you ate a pizza every night at 3 a.m., your internal clock would wake you up expecting that. Babies are no exception. Same with getting to sleep. If they fall asleep on the boob or bottle every night, or with you rocking them, then that is what they get accustomed to. And they don’t know how to put themselves back to sleep without your help. And, by the way, where is the rocking chair–or better yet, the boob, when they’re 5? (Hopefully not still in their mouth!)
Now I know this is a controversial issue and I don’t expect to make a lot of friends in this post. But let me say a few things: Ferber works. And he is not, let me repeat: NOT the cry-it-out-all-night dude. He has a gradual approach where you go into your child’s room in 5, 10, 15-minute increments until they fall asleep. You stay in for 30 seconds or less and just reassure them that you’re there. I think it’s more for us than them, but it made me feel better. You keep doing this until they fall asleep.
When people tell me, “Oh we tried. It didn’t work,” I know that’s not so. Because I’ll say it again: if you do it right, it works. If you cave or do it half-ass, you only create more bad habits.
For us, it took 3 nights when Fia was 4.5 months old. I needed to get rid of crazy me and feel like a human again. I was so beyond clarity at that point, I actually welcomed the challenge. So did Phil, as he was about done with me too. We had a stopwatch and a pad of paper. We were armed and ready. ”Bring it on baby!” we said. “Show us what you got!” I took the first shift, Phil took the second.
From about 9 pm-1:30 a.m. it was tough. She’d fall asleep for 45 minutes, then wake up and cry. 5 ,10, 15 minute intervals I’d go in. Rinse repeat.
From 1:30-4 she slept.
From 4-6 Ferber ferber ferber again.
The next day I was completely freaked out. And irrational. Fia was so fussy and wouldn’t nap. I was sure I destroyed my beautiful baby. I called a friend in tears. “I think I damaged my baby.” She had done sleep training 2 weeks prior and talked me off the ledge, and gave me the strength to continue.
Cried for 5 minutes, slept for 5 hours. Repeat.
Cried for 3 minutes, slept for 10 hours. I felt like Helen Keller when she first put her hands under the water and learned to communicate. It was a miracle. Except it’s not. It’s science, it’s proven and it works.
From then on, she stopped crying and now actually reaches for her crib. She goes down like a little lamb. Wakes up like a lion 12 hours later.
To each their own…but just don’t complain if you’re unwilling to do something about it. No one said parenthood was easy. It just has to be worth it. And for us, having a rested and happy baby and mama is beyond worth it. It is life changing.Add a Comment
Tags: baby, baby napping, baby sleeping, boob, bottle, bottle-feeding, cried, cry it out, crying, eating, Ferber, Ferberizing, fussy, nap, pregnancy, pregnant, sleep, sleep associations, sleep training, sleep training methods, sleepy planet, torture | Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read