Going into parenthood, I knew that sleep training was a controversial subject from the moment I started researching “how to take care of a babything”. On one side, you’ll have scientific and medical research talking about how babies need to be able to self-soothe and learn the skill of falling asleep on their own. On the other hand, the attachment parenting side of the world insists (through equally as legitimate-sounding research) that babies lose their ability to trust and that they simply just “give up” when you stop taking care of their needs. You know, judgmental statements like “parenting is a 24/7 job, and those who let their children cry-it-out are putting sleep as a higher priority than caring for their children.”
I drank the Kool-Aid, as I often do. Here’s the deal — when you have a beautiful, innocent, perfect little creation (like I do) and you read things that talk about how you’ll destroy the bond you’ve created with them if you let them cry for even a minute — that’s fucking painful to read. It positions sleep training as this almighty choice: either you’re a shitty person who lets your child cry, or you’re a wonderful attached parent who values your relationship with this little developing mind and you tend to their needs constantly without complaint.
Henry is a rock star overnight sleeper – always has been. His main “problem” — if you want to call it that — is napping. He started out as a good napper, though it was always on my lap after nursing. And then he started napping in the carrier, stroller, or carseat — but still, never on a flat surface by himself. This is all fine & dandy while a person is on parental leave from work and can surrender to a baby’s every whim. But when we had a nanny with her 3-year-old, it simply wasn’t possible for her to get him to sleep. I couldn’t nurse him to sleep constantly, because I had to get actual work done. And now Henry is in daycare and they’re really struggling to get him to nap, which is a problem. It’s a problem because he’s getting really crabby and overtired, and it’s affecting his ability to sleep at night. He’s a 6 month old, and he NEEDS to nap even if he doesn’t want to.
So, we decided that he needed to be able to fall asleep in a crib or pack-n-play, because we don’t have the luxury of having a stay-at-home parent, or a FT nanny who can babywear him every day. I read Ferber’s book, and I was actually pretty astounded at the content. For anyone who is anti-Ferber or anti-sleep training, I actually highly recommend reading his book because it contains all sorts of interesting factoids about children’s sleep cycles. Deciding to do sleep training or not is a personal decision, but there is still great information in the book. Anyway, I realized that Ferber isn’t about letting them cry all night long for hours and hours. So we decided to try it.
Night one was hard. I won’t deny that – it wasn’t easy to listen to him cry. But here’s the deal – from the moment we laid him in the crib until when he fell asleep, it was 28 minutes total. I went in to check on him every 5 minutes. 5 checks, during which he’d quiet down, and then he was passed out. For 6 hours. Prior to this, he had never even slept for a single hour on his own, so this was freaking amazing.
The second night, 21 minutes. Third night: 10 minutes. Fourth night: 2 minutes. And now when I lay him down, he cries for less than 15 seconds and then he’s soundly asleep. Some nights he just fusses and doesn’t even cry. He’ll wake up 4-6 hours later, and I’ll bring him into bed with me because I’m not quite ready to give up the snuggles just yet (and neither is he). He’s getting more sleep, and I’m getting alone time with my husband which I haven’t had in months. My back hurts less because I’m not contorted into an awkward position all night.
BUT the best thing is – he’s the same baby. He’s just as happy as before, if not moreso. He’s well-rested at night, and he now understands that when he’s laid in his crib, it’s time to sleep. This *is* an incredibly useful skill no matter how you look at it. He’s not upset, he just fusses a little bit. The internet would have me believe that I’m now the worst mother in the world and that my child has lost his ability to connect with me and feel safe and well-cared for. But I think now that it’s a bunch of rubbish. I wasn’t ready to do this at 4 months, but at 6 months he needed it — and it turned out, so did I. And now I can envision a future where we’re not cosleeping forever. I’m fine with doing that if Henry needed it, but it turns out that he’s sleeping better in his own bed and we’re a happier family as a result.
The moral of the story: no solution is one-size-fits-all. You’re not a terrible parent if you decide to Ferberize or sleep train. Everyone is making the right choice for their baby.---------------
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