Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 6

Sleep Training Series, Part 6: Nicole's Story

If you are just joining us, you may want to start with Part 1 of this baby sleep training series.

In this final part of the series, I am going to share my story. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. First, I want you to get to know me and my story, so I’m not just some name on the internet claiming to have gone through something similar to what you might be going through. I want you to know you aren’t alone. Sure, I suppose, I could be making up my story, but believe me I wish I were, but I’m not. LOL 😀 Second, I want to tell you my story because it shows that “experts” don’t have all the answers. You know your baby best! And, away we go!

Sleep Training My First Son

Donovan (in photo above), my eldest son, is a spirited child. He was high-needs basically from the beginning. He needed a LOT of soothing, whether it was me nursing, rocking, or holding him or my husband rocking him or walking him around (and he never took a pacifier – we must have tried 20 of them!). But, thankfully, he was not colicky. He didn’t cry a lot unless he was tired and we weren’t walking, rocking, nursing, etc. He was and still is very sensitive to becoming overtired. I/we had to watch him like a hawk to see if it was time to sleep again. Once he was overtired, it was much harder to get him to sleep.

Around 6 weeks old it was taking me upwards of 2-3 hours to put him to bed at night. I am NOT exaggerating. I would rock him and put him down ever so gently and he’d wake right up and I’d start alllll over! It was so exhausting. After I’d finally get him down, I’d start all over 1-2 hours later when he woke up again.

Of course, now I know about sleep associations and why he was doing that. At 8 weeks old, I went back to work and simply could not keep up, so we started co-sleeping, something I never planned to do. I knew it worked for other people, but just wasn’t what I planned or wanted. But, it got us both more sleep…sorta. Since he had to nurse every 1-2 hours, he had to sleep with me and I was so fearful of rolling on him or my husband covering him with covers that I really didn’t sleep well, not to mention it wasn’t always so easy for me to go back to sleep after he nursed (and I never got good at nursing on the other side without physically switching sides! LOL). Anyway, it was better than what I was doing before, though.

Fast forward 8 weeks and he was 4 months old. I was getting depressed going to bed every night at 7 pm and never seeing my husband that I had to do something to transition him back to his crib, where he originally started.

I needed to formulate a plan, but I didn’t just want to put him in a room to cry when I had been sleeping with him every night. I didn’t think that was fair. So, first I used the method I described in Part 2 of this sleep training series. The first night, it took TWO LONG HOURS and was very frustrating for both of us. He surprisingly didn’t cry too much, either. He took to sucking on my sheet to soothe himself. The next night it took another TWO LONG HOURS. Ugh. But, by night 3 he did it in just 20 minutes and then the 4th night in the crib with NO CRYING! I was ecstatic!!

But…a week later he decided he didn’t like this arrangement. 🙁 He had a revolt. LOL I had given him a light receiving blanket that I slept on to suck on, but by the end of the week, I guess it just wasn’t enough. So, at that point, my husband and I decided to let him cry-it-out. At this point we knew he could do it and we decided he was protesting the change (like he’s done for other things for years now LOL). It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. No mother plans on letting their baby cry to learn how to sleep. I made myself a mantra to get through it and reminded myself why I was doing it. As I said, he’s spirited, so he didn’t cry just 5 minutes and then sleep through the night like some books want to make it seem! But, we got through it in just 4 nights and on the 5th he went to sleep with NO CRYING.

I only focused on bedtime, at this point, and promptly responded to all other wakings. Thankfully, after he learned to fall asleep AT bedtime, he could go BACK to sleep throughout the night during sleep transitions. He still woke to eat twice until he was 7 1/2 months old and then he only woke once until I tried to night-wean at 8 1/2 months. Even though the “experts” will tell you babies don’t need to eat at night after a certain age/weight/whatever, he continued to wake in the 5 o’clock hour 3-4 times per week for a feeding. I tried to extend him but decided it was just best for both of us to continue to nurse and put him back down for 1-2 hours up until he was a little over a year old when he stopped waking on his own. But, even then it was difficult for him to go 12 hours without food and he’d want breakfast immediately upon waking. All babies are different in this regard. Heck, I know some adults would have trouble with going 12 hours without food! :p

Alas, sleep training was not a cure-all for us but it did make things 10 times better. We had many many ups and downs after that. He would slip back into bad habits and all of a sudden I’d find myself rocking him for an hour again. 🙁 I don’t know how it would happen, but I suppose it was during a teething episode, illness, etc. and things would just start to unravel again and we’d have to let him cry-it-out again. Some might say that this means cry-it-out didn’t work, but I don’t regret my decision one bit…EVER. It *was* our only option. We had tried everything else and it would land us in a big abyss of not-enough-sleep-for-any-of-us and when he didn’t get enough sleep, he was a BEAR! It wasn’t good for him. It wasn’t worth it for me to rock him for an hour to avoid 10 minutes of crying. That was robbing him of 50 more minutes of sleep and believe me, he needed it.

Nowadays, sleep is still ever-important in this house for him. He is still a bear if he doesn’t get enough sleep only now he whines more, cries more, and has more tantrums. I *know* that as he goes through life and goes to school, it will be IMPERATIVE that my husband and I get him adequate sleep or he will be one of the kids with behavior problems. I think many parents probably struggle with this and do not realize their child simply needs more sleep. I can imagine that if you haven’t really been able to tune into the relationship between sleep and behavior, you might miss it. I know the fact he is spirited makes a big difference.

Of course, I need to mention that my sweet son is just that, too. He is much more challenging without enough sleep, but boy is he one of the brightest lights of my life! He is so smart (I’m not exaggerating LOL) and such a sweetheart giving me kisses and telling me he loves me and kissing his little brother and…I could go on and on. At one point he knew over 30 baby signs for communicating before he could talk, he could point to over 30 U.S. states when he was just over a year old, knew his ABC’s before he was 2, and so on. Allowing him to cry-it-out in no way damaged him or his self-esteem. He is still ever so strong-willed and negotiates EVERYTHING (I swear he will be a lawyer!). He still trusts us and loves us to pieces. 🙂

Sleep Training My Second Son

Nicholas (photo to the right) is my 2nd son and now just 4 months old. Completely different than Donovan. We haven’t had to do much with him and he has started to sleep well. You might think it’s because I know more this time. I disagree. I have not done things THAT much different with Nicholas. Because I seem to birth screamers (not fussers), when he came home from the hospital I had to hold him all night for at least 2-3 weeks. I sat upright on the couch while he laid on the boppy. He just couldn’t be set down much at all. Then, I just HAD to get off the couch, so what did I do? You guessed it. We started co-sleeping. That didn’t last long, because he was such a loud sleeper and even when he wasn’t awake, I’d reach over and pat his back probably waking him up. We moved him to s crib.

For a while, we still rocked him to sleep (and still do for naps, for now), but then we slowly stopped that and started letting him fall asleep on the boppy on our lap in the rocker and then eventually was able to just put him in the crib and he sucks on…yep…a light receiving blanket. Naps might be a different story, but overall, he’s simply learned how to soothe himself much easier than Donovan did. I really don’t take credit. He’s just different (and not as sensitive to over-tiredness). Pure and simple. And, that’s why those with “easy” babies won’t ever understand how someone like me could allow my son to cry or how some people would find it strange to even have a whole website dedicated to sleep for babies. It’s simply not easy for all babies!

I hope sharing my story has given others either a) hope that they can also have a good sleeper, b) strength to make a change, c) comfort they are not alone, or d) all of the above. There really isn’t just one way to help your child sleep better. There really isn’t a “right” method for all of us. We all must find what works for our personalities and for our children’s temperament. I hope you can find information on this website to do just that.

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57 thoughts on “Sleep Training (From No Cry to Cry) Series – Part 6”

  1. I was shaking my head in disbelief at how similar your son is to our daughter: Very bright, spirited, curious, happy little 9 month old, already walking but completely opposed to SLEEPING. My husband and I were against CIO methods and have basically been working around her crazy sleeping habits since she was born. We tried co-sleeping for the first 4 months, then we split our nights in two shifts so we could both get a minimum of a few hours for 3 months, then just as a few nights got a bit better, at 8 months it suddenly went down the tubes again…

    We tried the Ferber method once before but gave up right away because it was so gut-wrenching to hear our wonderful, sweet little girl crying like that. But we’re taking the plunge again, with more determination, because after 9 months of nightly shifts, losing days from trying to catch on sleep, rocking/nursing for hours on end, we feel our health is on the line. We want to be the best for our girl, but we realized we simply can’t do it much longer while being desperately sleep-deprived. She’s an amazing, adorable little girl and an easy baby on all accounts, but her sleeping patterns can only be described as a monster that’s been eating at our lives.

    I’m just thankful to hear all the similar stories. It’s been so hard to have personally known no other parent with the same baffling sleep problems. Even our doctor didn’t seem to think it was a big issue (since she’s a perfectly healthy child) and couldn’t give us any advice or help. It’s also comforting to hear rational, level-headed arguments and testimonies and not just that we’re horrible, cruel people to try this last-resort technique. It’s excruciating enough to have to do this without harsh judgements and fear-mongering from people who don’t happen to have a radical non-sleeper.

    No success story yet: Although the technique is working great on naps, she cried for 1 1/2 hours on Night 1 but we’re decided to see it through. We all need better sleep. But thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for providing this information and support!

  2. Hi Nicole,
    I was so glad to read all of your articles. My son is quite similar to Donovan. For a long time we were trying to figure out if he was colicky. He was difficult to soothe and wouldn’t take any pacifier (and doesn’t suck his thumb). He never fit any of the descriptions and different pediatricians had varied theories. He is now almost 10 months old and we are struggling to get him to sleep and stay asleep. He never got attached to any “lovey.” We tried everything from a stuffed animal to a $80 blanket! We tried leaving our clothes in the crib. Nothing worked. He just never cared. Like many moms, I read pretty all of the top sleep training books out there. We often tried to apply the “No Cry Sleep” techniques (Pantley) but they never worked. At the same time we never felt a strong need to use the crying or CIO methods during the first 6 months of his life because most of the time he would only wake up twice each night for feeding. I didn’t expect him to sleep through the night then. So we rocked/bounced him to bed day and night. Then things worsened after he turned 6 months. We first thought it was teething (and he was actually teething for 6 weeks before he got his 2 front teeth) but we soon realized that wasn’t it after we gave him teething pills, Oragel and Motrin. He would wake up every 1.5 to 2 hours and a few days each week he would stay awake for 2 hours from 2-4a. A month of sleep deprivation went by and he turned 7 months and got very sick and was hospitalized for respiratory problems. Then for 2 weeks he would wake up every 20 minutes and take 1 hour to get back to his “20 minute” naps days and nights!!!! Poor baby he was so sick. After he was discharged and we got the green light from his ped, we started to sleep train him because all of us were so sleep deprived and our arms nearly fell off. We used Ferber, first night he took 1.5 hours and woke up 6 times. I was so sick to my stomach that I got sick as I listened to his cries. On the second night he fell asleep in 30 minutes and woke up 4 times. After the 4th time, we took him to our bed and found out he was running 104F and had a relapse which turned into pneumonia. I never felt so horrible in my life. I blamed it on sleep training for the next several days! After he finally recovered from everything, we decided to try again (2.5 weeks ago). By that point, he (we) hadn’t really slept longer than 30 mns for nearly 2 months.

    Our second try, on his first night, he took 50 mns but subsequent nights he actually took no more than 15 mns. He would still wake up during his first week several times but would fall back asleep quickly (less than 10 mns) except 1 or 2 nights of 1.5-2 hours staying up spells. I should mention that we only did Ferber check in on the first night and found that every time we went in we made him cry worse than before. So we ended up using the “extinction” method by default. By the 2nd week, he was sleeping 8-10 hours. We were so happy with that and didn’t mind feeding him after 8-10 hour stretches. He was an early bird (still is) and would be up and ready to go between 5:30a-6a. We didn’t mind (7a-5:30a bedtime). This was a big improvement. He went from sleeping 9 hours a day (including naps!) to 11-12 hours. Well our “success” didn’t last long. The past few days he relapsed (our 3rd week). Now he wouldn’t go to sleep without screaming his head off for an hour, then passed out and would wake up again 2-3 hours later. He also started to stay awake for up to 2 hours again, screaming the entire time. We let him the first 2 nights but then we gave in because it felt so wrong. We fed him twice the last 2 nights and he ate everything. So now we’re wondering he that was why he woke up.

    We have difficulties with fixing his bedtime too because his naps are so inconsistent (ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours) so his bedtime fluctuates from 5:30p-7:30p depending his naps. I don’t know what to do anymore and at my wit’s end. However, reading your articles and other people’s comments made me feel like I’m not alone. We’re gonna take a few days off and decide if we should go back to extinction again or do the “chair” technique.

    Thank you Nicole and everyone

    • Gwen,
      Sounds like you all have had quite a few ups and downs especially with all the illness. Hopefully, he’s back to healthy now. I would highly recommend you consider purchasing a customized sleep consultation with Nicole. She has a two email package that could really set you on the right track. You can find out more out her customized services here:

      Hang in there. With his recent illnesses, you’ve have a rough go of it so far. Things will get better though!

  3. I did read that beforehand; I just wasn’t sure if it was ok to begin sleep training at this time. I’ll talk to my husband about the consult. Thanks.

    • Hi Theresa,
      You can also consider posting any additional sleep questions in our Free forum at where you can post more details about your specific situation and other moms and myself can help you with suggestions or ideas. It’s a nice place to continue our discussion.

  4. Hello,
    I just found your website and it is very helpful. Thank you! I read all the parts.
    We have an almost 8 month old who is used to being rocked to sleep every night. He is also still in a woombie. He is also teething right now, and is waking almost every hour. Should we wait until the teething is over until sleep training? When we do begin sleep training, should we take him out of the woombie so he’s able to self-soothe (suck his thumb, find the paci, etc)? or let him cry in the woombie? It seems he will rarely put himself to sleep anymore. He starts fussing and then it turns to crying. The other night we tried letting him cry and after 10 minutes went in there to check on him and he smiled at us. This tells me he is ready for sleep training, I just don’t know if it’s cruel to do while he’s teething. Orajel seems to help; I’m undecided if Tylenol is helping. Please help!

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