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 my 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. It didn’t feel 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.
Even now, sleep is still ever-important in this house for him. He is still a bear if he doesn’t get enough sleep. 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. 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!