The truth is, I decided to sleep train our baby after an all day cry fest on the couch one Saturday in September. I had already given it enough thought to know I was open to sleep training our baby, but at the time I hadn’t read any books on sleep training, and I had no idea how to start.
Let’s Get This Out of the Way First…
Sleep training is one of the most hot button, highly debated topics in just about any and every corner of the mom world. I witnessed feelings about sleep training cause a mom group to implode in a single day. I’ve seen it break friendships and heard of it causing major rifts in families. So I’m going to start by saying I am not here for a debate. You’re either interested or you’re not. If you’re not, feel free to jump to a different post, or leave this site entirely. I’m not holding you hostage here!
If you’re still reading, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you are at least somewhat interested in the idea of supporting your child’s sleep habits, and you’re agreeing to read what follows with an open mind. No mom shaming please.
When I Decided To Sleep Train Our Baby
It was a Saturday, our daughter was almost 8 weeks old, my husband was out golfing, and I just completely, utterly broke down. I don’t remember what triggered it (probably nothing). I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling or thinking that day. But I know I was exhausted and still very hormonal and my day to day life with a newborn felt like absolute chaos. I’m a type A, overly organized control freak. I am not comfortable with chaos. I felt like something needed to change. I had been told for months and months just how hard life with a newborn would be, but here I was 8 weeks in and I was not ready to accept that it had to be this chaotic. There had to be a way to introduce systems and routines and predictability into my day, even with an 8 week old baby.
And sleep training was my answer.
It was that simple. I was afraid of actually losing my mind, and I needed something to give. I cried for hours that day. I sat on the couch and held and fed and changed my baby and just cried. And then I ordered every baby sleep training book I could find, I bought a Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit, and I decided I’d start it all on Monday.
Why I Decided To Start Sleep Training
At the time, my decision to start sleep training our baby was less about suddenly getting 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. In fact, I didn’t think that would happen for at least another month. Instead, it was about creating a healthy and developmentally appropriate routine for our baby. One that would benefit her and me.
For me, there were many pros of starting sleep training early, and sleeping through the night was pretty much the last one on the list.
- Selfishly, I was desperate to calm the chaos around me. I was desperate to fall into some sort of routine with predictability, and I knew that Babywise encouraged both.
- Selfishly, I was excited to reclaim evenings as time for my husband and me to have a few hours of alone time to cook dinner, eat, and relax before our own bedtime.
- For Gemma’s sake, I wanted her to learn how to fall asleep on her own. We would spend hours rocking Gemma to sleep, and it felt like we played the ‘try to transfer sleeping baby to crib’ 5 million times before succeeding. Only to wake up a few hours later and try it all again. When I heard other moms talk about putting their baby into their crib, wide awake… this felt so far from possible it blew my mind. Gemma would scream the second her back hit the crib mattress.
- I simply wanted the best for Gemma! Yes, she was still just a teeny baby, but I truly believe that healthy sleep patterns are the key to a happy, thriving baby.
- I also believe that one’s sleep patterns and habits start as a baby, and I wanted to set the foundation for a good sleeper!
- I believe a well rested baby is more likely to feed well, play well, learn well, interact well etc.
- And yes… down the line I hoped for longer stretches at night.
- But most importantly, I wanted to “give my daughter the gift of sleep.” I read that once, and it hasn’t left me since.
How We Started Sleep Training Our Baby
We did not do anything extreme at 8 weeks old. In fact, we never did. At 8 weeks old Gemma was already 12lbs, she was eating really well during both day and night, and she was gaining well. While we felt she was ready to start learning healthy sleep habits, we also felt it was too soon for her to do anything extreme like extinction CIO.
At 8 weeks old, we began our sleep training experience by:
- Setting and sticking to a bedtime and desired awake time.
- Removing a swaddle.
- Not allowing her to fall asleep while feeding.
- No longer rocking her to sleep.
- Laying her in the crib, awake for naps and bedtime.
- Reading and believing in the Babywise way.
- Aiming to feed at set times during the day.
At just 8 weeks old, our main two goals were to teach Gemma to fall asleep on her own (aka no more rocking to sleep), and to establish some sort of a daytime routine and schedule.
Our Biggest Success
Some aspects of our sleep training experience were wildly successful. For example, Gemma began sleeping through the night just a few days after we began the above strategies. I’m talking 12 hours. 7P-7A. And we really haven’t looked back since.
Our Biggest Challenges
But other parts of our sleep training experience were really challenging. It took a few very long weeks (maybe even a month or a month and a half) for Gemma to fall asleep on her own without putting up quite the fight. Until then, we tried the shush pat, we did the pick up put down, and eventually once she was 12 weeks old we tried a modified Ferber method. She finally learned to fall asleep on her own – quickly and quietly – but then there was the issue of napping. Despite beginning to sleep 12 hours a night at just 8 weeks old, Gemma was a chronic cat napper until almost 6 months old. Gone were the 2 hour stretches of quiet time I dreamed about during the day. Instead my day was centered around trying to beat the 45 minute intruder.
Looking Back on Our Experience
Gemma is now 6 months old, and she’s on a really great 6 month old, 2 nap a day schedule. She still sleeps through the nights, and her naps have finally fallen into place. Even though naps just turned the corner recently, and there were many weeks of tough bedtime routines, I am so happy that we chose to sleep train Gemma when we did and how we did. We never had to let Gemma cry alone for long periods of time. We never left her unfed or hungry in the middle of the night. We never left her alone to feel unsupported or unsafe when she was really upset.
We took a rather gentle approach to sleep training at a point when we felt our daughter was ready, and it has been hugely beneficial to us all.
If we’re so fortunate to have another child the only thing I’ll change is to actually start earlier. I wish I had started Babywise routines as a 2 week old!