Ahh, sleep. My dear lovely sleep. How wonderful you are! How elusive and treasured in the first year of mommyhood! Today I want to write on a somewhat controversial topic, sleep training. There are about a bagillion points of view on the subject but here is my experience, may it bring you rest.
When Zoe was just a little newborn, people would ask me, “How does she sleep?”. “Great!”, I replied. She goes to bed at the same time we do and wakes up 12 hours later. How sure she wakes up 5 – 6 times per night to nurse but that is totally normal!
If wasn’t long before my friend’s babies of the same age magically became making the long haul through the night. “Oh wow, that was early”, I would think. Still doing ok here though, right?
Four months old is the recommended age for sleep training, but due to Zoe’s lower weight percentile (she is 85th for height but just 40th for weight) the doctor recommended to wait until six months. No problem here! I am not even planning on sleep training. She will sleep through the night when she is good and ready.
Well at six months, it seemed time to do something, plus now we had two very bad habits. One: waking every 90 minutes to nurse (dear god help me!) and two: only nursing to sleep. And by nursing to sleep I mean I literally nursed her until she slept and then put her down, asleep. If she did not fall asleep, there was a massive effort to be undertaken including walking in circles with her in the Baby Björn. Oh lord. Seemingly moving backwards, I was starting to get worried. “How does Zoe sleep?” “Errr, not good.”
Around this time, I picked up the “No Cry Sleep Solution“. The thought of letting my precious angel cry literally put me in a cold sweat. There must be a more gentle way to get some sleep! We tried a lot of things in it: introduced a “lovey”, creating a strict go-to-bed routine, key words to get her to sleep. We tried letting her fuss a bit to see if she would go to sleep but that only made her faster to the high volume screaming. Uh oh.
Now she is eight months and growing. Even my doctor is getting impatient, “You really need to let her learn to fall asleep”. I am trying!! Surely if we keep going she will grow out of it, or will I have a two year old who wakes up five times a night. Dear god no. The precious time I was in bed, I lay awake trying to come up with a solution. Something had to give.
So at 10 months, I finally relented. Oh god, here we go. Sleep training. We opted for the 5 – 10 – 15 minute plan from Eat, Sleep, Poop. That is let her cry for 5 minutes, then go pick her up and sooth her. Put her back down then wait 10 torturous minutes of crying before you pick her up again. Then a 15 minute block which you continue on until she is asleep.
As you might imagine, the first night was hell. Watching the clock, counting the seconds until we could go rescue her. She woke up four times that night. Each time we repeated the process and did not feed her. I am not going to lie, it was gut wrenching.
The next morning I went in to pick her up. Did she hate me now? Although subdued, she seemed largely ok. So we started our day. Naps brought some fussing but surprisingly little. At 8 pm that night, I put her down, filled with dread. Oh god, here we go again. A little fuss, we went in one time to sooth her and then sleep. Well that was not too bad! That night she slept 12 hours. WHAT? Are we done!? Did it work!? We were amazed but we weren’t out of the woods yet.
Over the next 10 days or so, there was still night waking. The worst was always around 4:00 am. I felt like if I fed her, all the work would have been for nothing but finally I relented. I was afraid but much to my surprise, with the one night feeding, things stabilized. She went to bed happier and no more big crying periods at night.
Today, she is going down to sleep without a peep and still waking 1 – 2 times per night. When I hear her, I go feed her and everyone is much happier. So I guess I learned that every baby is different. I can live with this plan and so can she! We accomplished two major goals: she can put her self to sleep without nursing and she can (mostly) sleep through the night.
Yes it was hard. Yes it was worth it. This week I spoke with a mother who is still waking 10 times a night with her one year old. I have been there! It is a choice for each person to make but if you asked me if I would do it again, the answer would be yes.