We started sleep training little Bee over Christmas break (horrible timing, I know). Although she found herself in a fairly regular sleep rhythm at an early age, visits with family and holiday traveling meant a lot of inconsistencies, leaving little room for any sort of sleep pattern. She quickly fell out of her routine of 7pm – 6am snoozing and into a crazy night-owl-that-will-refuse-sleep-at-all-costs baby. It was trying, although nothing compared to what came next: sleep training.
Because she shows pretty obvious signs that she’s tired (eye rubs, arched back, increased fussiness), it’s not hard to know when she’s ready for bed. And it became increasingly obvious that our former methods of soothing her to bed were no longer working, causing her more distress and resulting in an overtired baby. So instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to learn new soothing techniques for a frustrated baby that just needed sleep, we decided to take a step back and, for once, just let her cry.
We agreed on a set time we’d allow her to cry, and for us, that was no longer than 20 minutes. Except that it completely didn’t work.
We’re softies, so after 11 minutes of incessant crying on the first night of sleep training, we rushed into her nursery and soothed her for 25 minutes until she finally fell asleep, completely exhausted. The next night was much the same, and the one following was even worse.
Something had to give. So the fourth night, we put on our game faces and as soon as she showed her first signs of sleepiness, we headed into the nursery for a diaper change, nighttime feeding and lullaby. And yes, she cried. And cried and cried and cried.
But this time, we repeated a mantra to ourselves: “We’re allowing her to get the sleep she needs to grow stronger and healthier.”
It’s a simple phrase, but it shifted our mindset into a more productive place, rather than the negative thoughts swirling around before. And you know what? It worked. She cried 19.5 minutes (she really knows how to work the boundaries!) the first night we began thinking positively, 17 the second and 14 the third. After two weeks, she now fusses for just 5 minutes before falling asleep.
We now joke that we were never really sleep training her, we were sleep training ourselves. Because sometimes, parenting calls for taking a step back and letting your child lead the way (even if we’re holding our breath the entire time).
Tell me, what were your experiences in sleep training? Did you find it easier than we did? I’d love to hear!