Sleep training has a negative connotation for me and makes me think only of the “cry it out method”. How do you get your baby to sleep without distressing him or her?
Some of the most common questions from parents on our Facebook page relate to baby’s sleep, such as:
- how can I get baby to sleep through the night
- how can I get baby to fall asleep on his/ her own
- how do I go about sleep training
- how can I get baby to nap during the day
I always giggle when I hear people saying “sleep like a baby”. How does waking every 2 hours throughout the night equal sleeping well, especially when a lot of babies cannot go sleep on their own and struggle to go back to sleep after waking. They require swaddling, rocking, dummies or a bit of boob suckling to be able to go back to sleep again. I don’t want to wake up every 2 hours and struggle to go back to sleep and this does not equal a nice restful night for me.
When I hear the phrase “sleep through” the night I think of going to bed at 10pm and sleeping till at least 6am (a lekker 8 hour stretch for me thanks), however technically it refers to when baby sleeps for 5 hours at a time, specifically from midnight till 5am.
With my daughter I struggled with everything related to her sleep for a long time. I struggled to put her to sleep at any time, and when she was asleep she just wouldn’t stay asleep. It would take anything from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours to put her sleep at night, and then she woke up constantly during the night.
During the day it would take at least an hour to put her down for a nap and she would usually sleep for 15 minutes at most. I would sometimes be able to make a cup of coffee AND drink it before she woke, although most times I would sit down with my much wanted cup of coffee, take a sip and hear my girl crying.
I spent a lot of energy and time trying to find a solution. What kept coming up as a “fail proof” solution was the “cry it out method”. Searching online, asking family and friends all came back to the same thing, majority ruled this was the way to do it. I came to think that sleep training referred to this method only. I just couldn’t bring myself to try it. There were plenty of times I was so tired I was going to do it and I lasted at most 3 minutes before picking my baby girl up (both of us in tears).
The cry it out method basically refers to putting your child in his cot and leaving him to cry, you don’t go into the room even if he cries all night long and no matter how distressed your baby is. A lot of websites suggest closing the door so you don’t get disturbed by the crying.
Apparently this works without fail within about 3 nights. Your baby will go to sleep on his own and sleep all night! I would just about kill for my babies to sleep like that, however I cannot do that to my children.
According to a lot of articles I have read the reason that after 3 nights your baby won’t cry and will sleep through is because this is how long it takes for your baby to realise there is no point in crying because you won’t come to comfort him. Apparently this can cause a huge break in trust between you and your baby and you just can’t repair this damage.
This reasoning makes perfect sense to me. As a parent I want my children to know I am there for them always, no matter what. This includes no matter how tired and exhausted I am. I want my children to know if they need or want comfort it will always be there.
Don’t get me wrong, I won’t judge any parent that chooses this method of sleep training! It is just not for me or my family. It is not my parenting style and never will be.
Instead I chose a different method, it took about 2 months for my daughter to learn to fall alseep on her own, and even then she would wake often. Only now at 3 years old does she (sometimes) sleeps through the night. Other nights she wakes up and quietly comes and sleeps in our bed without too much sleep disturbance.
The method I chose was referred to as the “pick up put down method” and I adjusted what I read online to suit my parenting style so when I describe what I did it is an adaptation to what you might find online somewhere else when they refer to this method.
I started off with swaddling her and rocking her like I did before and instead of waiting until she was completely asleep before putting her in her cot I would put her down just before she was fully asleep and walk out the room. When she cried (which she did almost immediately after being put down at first) I walked back and picked her up and started all over again.
The first night it felt like all I did was rock her for what felt like hours, put her down, walk to the door, she cried, turned around, picked her up and started again. My back and arms felt like breaking. Eventually she did fall asleep after about 4 hours of this, not because she learnt to fall asleep on her own, I think she just passed out from exhaustion.
The next night it was exactly the same and I started to think I should just rock her till she fell asleep instead of torturing myself. However on the 3rd night she didn’t cry immediately, I even made it to the lounge and sat down in front of the tv…. for about 5 seconds and then she cried.
On the 4th night she started complaining and moaning, not real crying and I left her until she actually cried. Over time she started chatting and playing when I put her down instead of moaning, then she would moan and then cry so things were changing. At this stage I started rocking her for shorter periods before putting her in her cot.
I think it was about 2 weeks when we had our first success. I cuddled her for a few minutes (no rocking) and put her in her cot. She played happily for about an hour and when it went quiet I looked in she was fast asleep! After that about every 3rd night she would go to sleep on her own, every other night I had to go back in at least once. Sometimes there was a bad night and it would feel like all I did was go in and pick her up and put her down over and over again.
After about 6 weeks she would play for a while and then go to sleep on her own most nights and it got better and better over time. It is now a pleasure putting her to bed at 3 years old. She has her bath, gets dressed in her pajamas and I read her a story. After her story we chat for a bit and I give her a kiss goodnight and she goes to sleep very happily on her own.