As most Moms know, new stages of development can wreak havoc on everyone’s sleep. Enter, sleep training… the light at the end of an exhausted Mom’s tunnel.
Kids are crazy. Like, don’t you want to sleep? All I want to do is sleep 10 hours and nap for two during the day. When my son was born, I knew we wouldn’t be sleeping for a while, obviously. We had our share of the sleepless nights, but then they just never trailed off. He continued to wake up every 45 minutes to an hour to eat, hang with mom, or for whatever other reason. I’m talking like 8-months-old and still waking up to eat during the night.
I started consulting friends, and as per usual, everyone was doing something different. My pediatrician told me to put him down at 7 pm and go back in at 7 am. Uh, what?!?!? No way! I was scared to let my baby cry it out as I had no idea if his cry was hurting, hungry, tired, or bored, and I was worried that constant crying would hurt his brain somehow. I had been so used to going in instantly that all the cries sounded the same. He also couldn’t talk for himself, so I was feeling guilty. I knew I couldn’t keep up going in a gazillion times a night, then get up and go to work to teach little minds. It just wasn’t working.
I reached out to the famed “Nurse Nancy” at St. Luke’s for help in April of 2017 because something just wasn’t right. There truly was no reason this huge 8-month-old, (he was a chub) needed to eat or rock every few hours. She gave us a beautiful plan to follow (lots of papers to reference) and told me there was no sleep plan that didn’t involve crying. She also told me I needed to choose between breastfeeding or bottle feeding, as this would make a difference in the way the plan would work. At the time, I was doing both. Breastfeeding was really dropping off as I began to work again. I stopped breastfeeding over Memorial Day weekend and then headed full force into sleep training.
There were tons of rules, hard nights, and tears from both of us, but we made it! He was a great sleeper through and through in his own crib! Then a year and a half later, and many ear infections and tubes later, our hard work was slowly going by the wayside. In February 2020, he started climbing out consistently. When I say climbing, I mean LAUNCHING out into the middle of the room. We’d hear a bang and go running in, and he’d be laughing on the floor, “No Momma”! The last straw was when he jumped out and came into my room. I put him in his bed, and he jumped out and came into my room again.
In frustration, I took the entire crib apart and put his mattress on the floor. Well, this method didn’t last long as it didn’t help him sleep any better because I had to sleep in there with him. This went on for a month before in desperation, I told my husband it was time to call a sleep consultant. Nurse Nancy had retired, so I had to search for someone else. We worked with Sleepyhead Solutions. This time around, sleep training wasn’t as formal. I didn’t go in crying, unsure of what to do, and there were no lab coats and waiting rooms. The consultant and I emailed back and forth and then had an hour-long phone call where she assured me I was doing a lot of really great foundational things already, but we had some work to do.
It did involve crying, not going in when he was freaking out, allowing him to understand his sleep rules (which we made with him the night before we started), and take ownership of his big boy bed. We worked on this for two weeks. We went over our sleep rules each night, read our stories, got in our bed, and went to sleep. If he got up in the night, I didn’t go in, and then he stopped getting up in the night. I was against letting him cry at first, but he’s older now, and I know when he is crying because he’s sick versus crying because he’s mad.
Not to be dramatic, but it’s changed our lives. He’s sleeping well, and I’m sleeping well, so we are able to enjoy our days together while social distancing instead of being tired and cranky. He knows the expectations for bedtime, and he can tell me what they are. It’s awesome!
At the end of the day, you have to be a mom first, and if your kid needs you to go in, then they do. In fact, one night during our 2-week sleep training, he was crying because he was unwell, and I went in and soothed him. But I didn’t sleep on the floor, and he was able to go back in and go to bed.
I hope everyone is staying healthy, happy, and well-rested!
PS- our favorite items that are working great in his room are: Blackout EZ Window Covers and an amber light night light, which I bought on Amazon.