I can’t attempt to speak for every family, but I can write about what works for ours. For ten long and unbearable months Audrey didn’t sleep through the night. I am not talking once or twice waking up for feedings, I am talking about 17 plus times a night. I was a walking zombie and was taking my frustrations of sleep deprivation out on everyone I could. It was around the 10 month mark that I truly understood why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. Jamari returned home from an overseas trip and declared that we were done with waking up in the middle of the night and as responsible parents we had to teach Audrey how to sleep since she wasn’t catching on herself. Insert…sleep training. *cue horror music*.
Audrey has a very strong willed personality so after reading up on a few different sleep training methods we decided the more delicate techniques would never work for her. I couldn’t stomach the idea of not starting off gentle with the “no cry” methods, so we tried those first. FAIL. She would get so upset she’d hyperventilate when we left the room. It wasn’t a cry that was indicating that she was hurt or sad, it was very clear that she was pissed off. That is when Drill Sergeant Daddy came in full force and sent me into the guest room and took over. I scoured the internet as I listened to her screaming waiting for my Tylenol PMs to kick in. It was horrific. Article after article said that she would stop after 30 minutes. She didn’t. “If it goes more than an hour, go in and check on her.” Nope! Drill Sergeant Daddy was standing guard so I couldn’t go in the room. He kept telling me to put on headphones and watch a movie. I couldn’t understand how the screaming was not affecting his psyche like it was affecting mine. His mantra for the night was “you can’t scream forever, eventually you’ll go to sleep”. Night 1 was the worst of it. 3.5 hours later she finally stopped screaming, and the Tylenol PMs kicked in for me and we both slept. I remember rushing into my bedroom after the screaming stopped for 120 whole seconds (I used the timer app on my phone every time she would stop) and whisper-yelled to Jamari “OMG what happened?!” That night was the first night I reclaimed my sleeping and I have never looked back!
Night two and three went better, the crying went from 3.5 hours to 1.5 hours, to 30 mins. We were cutting back the cry sessions each time. I must confess, it never gets easier to hear those cries but I have learned that Audrey has different sounding cries. They are more of a protest than a cry. Now that we are months into this sleep training bonanza we put her to sleep at 7 pm and get her from her crib at 7 am. She may wake up in the night a few times, but she has learned we don’t come in the room, so she grabs a pacifier and soothes herself back to dreamland. The same goes for nap time. She actually enjoys sleeping and never gives us a hassle. It was a new beginning for us because we now had our evenings together and we no longer had to play the “your turn” game 17 times a night. Audrey was much better rested and was in a better mood during the day. It was definitely a game changer in our household and months later, I still come downstairs after putting Audrey to sleep and thank Jamari for making me stick to this routine.
Now, let’s have the dreaded conversation about the sleep training debates. There are people on each side of sleep training that either feel it works or it is cruel. Some Mama’s prefer to cuddle their little ones and co-sleep so that their babies never have to experience crying and are soothed by them being close by. That’s totally fine in my book. Some parents believe that you should respond to every cry and it is emotionally damaging to allow your child to cry out with no response. You will never hear me say one parenting method is right or wrong, because I have no idea what I am doing in this parenthood role. I just know what works for my family. For us, we could not sleep with Audrey in our bed, none of us slept when she was in our room as an infant so co-sleeping definitely wasn’t working for us. She slept better (including the 17 wake ups each night) in her room from 5 months old. Audrey is well adjusted to this routine and I’d go as far as to say she now loves sleep. When it is around nap or bedtime she asks for her milk, she waves bye to whoever is around, and starts marching herself up towards the steps.
Below are some quick tips for how we successfully sleep trained. (Until the next developmental leap which will send us spiraling down into a regression and I will have to re-read my own post for sanity):
Start on a Friday night (or whenever you and your partner will be off the next day)
Hunker down for a long night. Mentally prepare yourself that this may take hours.
Put them in the crib drowsy but still awake. If they are already asleep then when they awake during sleep cycles it might cause more anxiety and the crying will continue.
Be on the same page as your partner. If one person is all in and the other is teetering on the edge this will not work. You will need each other’s support.
Be consistent. Children are SO smart. If you decide on the ‘Cry It Out’ method and let them cry for 45 mins but then walk in the room, they now know that you will enter and those 45 mins are down the tube.
Tylenol PM for 3 nights will not destroy your liver…take the pills, put on headphones, and binge watch a show until you fall asleep.
The smile in the morning is completely worth the tears the night before.
Turn the monitor sound off. You will hear the crying without the monitor. You don’t need it to be in stereo.
Above everything else, you know your child and yourself. If you truly feel your child will not ever stop crying or you can’t bring yourself to do CIO, then don’t. Google “sleep training methods” and find a different method that may work for your family.