When The Bough Breaks: Sleep Training

Let him sleep, for when he wakes he will move  mountains. – James Edward Millerimage

When Jack hit 2 months he hit his first sleep regression and boy was it rough. I hadn’t read much on sleep because at that point I was determined to bed share and the thought of crying it out was barbaric to me. I even made the mistake of declaring, “I will never ever let my child cry himself to sleep. Ever!”

I read all the horrific articles stating if I ever even let the thought cross my mind my child would end up with the social, intellectual, and behavioral equivalent of a potato. He would be ruined for life!! To add insult to injury, I had worked for the state as an intake worker for child protective services and all I pictured  was a urine soaked new born with a flat head screaming for love.  Yup, pretty dark.

That’s the one major problem I have with these articles and research on letting a child cry it out; they fail to describe the demographic of children they did their research on. I suspect that many of these children suffered from neglect and other factors must come into play because… my child is the complete opposite and I’m sure you’ve guessed where this is going. We decided after months of sleep deprivation, horrible acid reflux, and a relationship stretched to its limits that cry it out might need to be considered. *GASP* Yup. Our pediatrician even recommended it after she asked how he was sleeping since he had been medicated for his reflux. She looked at me deadpan when I responded with, “Better, I only wake up 6 times now instead of 10.”

I like to say that we sleep trained, not that we chose to CIO. Declaring that we let him cry himself to sleep often allows the mental image of a child crying for hours and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want other mothers to jump to the immediate conclusion of neglect or to give up this option immediately because the words have a negative connotation. When we chose to sleep train, we were in a dark spot and even though I was severely sleep deprived I did a ton of research to see if there was an alternative to get Jack to sleep. I read countless books including ‘The No-Cry Sleep Solution’ and while the information was helpful, I reaped the most benefits from a website formerly called Troublesome Tots. It is now called Precious Little Sleep and I’m assuming it’s because, as we can see from the weight words carry, troublesome was not very popular. Definitely check out this website/ blog by Alexis Dubief. No joke, it saved our lives, relationship, and sanity.

If you want to sleep – click here. 🙂

Now I’m going to talk about what I learned from her site and how we incorporated it into our lives. One of the first things I read that really hit close to home was that the depression and distance our family was feeling was not worth the idea I had that somehow several months of horrible sleep would ameliorate that. I’m the type of person that works with facts, loves logic, and will listen to reason. I understood that if our baby slept, we would all be healthier and happier and teaching Jack to sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time was integral to his ability to learn and to be happy. Without sleep he was sluggish, I had no patience, and I felt like I was failing as a mother. The Dad was so exhausted he had an accident on his way home from work and had totaled our car. I had no reason to believe I was suffering from PPD until I had the thought that we should never have had Jack because I was failing at being a mother and I was so much worse at it than everyone else if I couldn’t even get my child to sleep for an hour. All these things made me realize that we were already losing and that sleep training was our last resort. We had already hit bottom – could sleep training be that much worse?

If you’d like a step by step from Alexis she even has a post called ‘How to Cry it Out: The Bedtime Edition’ so check it out.  How to Cry It Out

This is what we did and most of it came from her site.

  • First The Dad and I evaluated our situation and we knew that we had to get him into his crib first. So we transitioned him to his crib in our room but kept up our normal routine of crappy sleep for a few days. He easily transitioned but of course it meant I would physically get up and out of bed and soothe him. Sometimes I’d nurse him but he was never the type of kid that fell asleep on the boob so every time he woke up we did the exact same thing – sing 3 songs, bounce on the bed, then bounce on an exercise ball, then sing another song and put him down and slowly and stealthily as we could, hop into bed and not really sleep because he might wake up and then do it all over again an hour later. IT WAS AWFUL but it had to be done.
  • Once he was sleeping in his crib we decided to move him to his own room across the hall. Again we kept the same awful routine so he’d adjust to the room. This may not work for everyone. Maybe you want to rip it off like a band-aid and do it all at once but I knew Jack even then and to this day he likes to know what’s going on and transition slowly.
  • After a few days of sleeping in his room and a few days of forgetting my name and address due to lack of sleep we made the decision to jump into our first night of sleep training. Alexis suggests picking a parent to stay and deal with the crying and if one of you can’t cope, leave the house. We both decided to stay but in retrospect, The Dad should have left. He was definitely the one wanting to stop ‘abusing the baby.’ We decided to do checks because of Jack’s reflux. We knew crying too much would make it act up so we committed to an initial 15 minute crying session then checking back in added 5 minute intervals. So if he was still crying after 15 minutes we’d pop in, pick him up, kiss him and tell him we loved him and we would be right outside but that it was bedtime. Then we’d put him down and let him cry for 20 minutes. I know this sounds ridiculous and I genuinely feel that Jack needed this because the first night he feel asleep in the first 15 minutes! AND HE SLEPT FOR 6 HOURS.
  • I was in shock. However, I’m glad that Alexis talks about ‘Extinction Bursts’ because on the third night, guess what? He decided he was going to give us a run for our money and we almost quit but after two nights of sleeping more than an hour (6 and then 8!!!) I couldn’t go back. We went in 4 times that third night totaling an 1 hour and 45 minutes of check backs and crying. IT WAS FUCKING ROUGH.
  • Since then we’ve had illness – including febrile seizures – and teething that have set us back but every time we help Jack relearn his sleep pattern and he’s two now!

Jack is such a bright and happy kid that I know we needed that in our lives. He’s vibrant and very sensitive towards the feelings of others. His caregiver even described him as incredibly bright, patient, and magnanimous for a 2 year old! We feel we did something right and our entire family is better for it. Condemning parents for the decisions they make in parenting is horrible and plays into what I’ve spoken about before, the “mommy wars.” All that is bullshit. Being a parent involves so much more than being at war with each other. At the end of the day – if it brings you joy, then you made the right decision. Good luck mommies!

Going through this with a toddler? Check out the toddler edition or my Lunch Box Chat with Lori Strong with Strong Little Sleepers. 

 

XOXO

Jack’s Mom

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16 thoughts on “When The Bough Breaks: Sleep Training

    1. We will have to check this out . We have three kids (1, 2, and freshly 5) . The younger two are crap sleepers . It took 18 months to get the two year old out of our bed and into a different room , still a crap sleeper . Now she’s climbing out of the crib and we’re back to driving her around to fall asleep. Smh !

      We trust tried moving our baby’s crib to his own room and he’s woken up pretty fast , much sooner than expected . He’ll end up back in our bed as usual.

      But we’re definitely desperate to figure something out ! Our oldest was so easy and a different creature . The younger two are much more difficult .

  1. I am struggling with sleep right now – I don’t think Emily’s acid reflux is under control, though. May I ask what treatment regimen worked for you? We are re-trying the Zantac route, but last time it stopped working after awhile. 🙁

    Generally, she sleeps pretty well if she’s comfortable. However, comfortable is not often. Last Sunday night, for example, she slept for 11 straight hours. Last night, up every two arching. :/ Most naps are 45 minutes, but today there was a 2.5 hour one… !!!

    Anyway, what ended up working for your little one’s reflux? Did you have to go with more than an H2 blocker and, if so, did you see side effects? I’m really hesitant to start PPIs like Prevacid or Prilosec because of the side effects.

    1. My baby had silent reflux. Zantac worked at first but then I noticed he was having trouble sleeping with it. Then I researched and found that sleep difficulty is a side effect. We put him in Prevacid and it was his miracle drug. By 11 1/2 months he had finally outgrown the reflux, but his first few months were rough. I didn’t have to sleep train him, but I sure did my first son! At about 5 months we did cold turkey, full-on Cry it out training. He would usually cry for 30-60 minutes, but then would sleep a 12-13 hour night. Naps were much shorter in sleep length. He was and is still a stubborn child :). He is 9 now and a perfectly well adjusted child who feels loved and not abused. Good luck!

      1. I hear it’s different with every child. I’m hopeful it will go well with our next but if it’s different we’ll just try and deal with it the same way we did with Jack. Trial and Error…I mean that’s the definition of parenting right? lol

    1. Hey there! We tried everything but in the end we went with compounded prevacid and infant probiotics. It was night and day! In about 3 days we saw such a huge difference that any side effects were unnoticed. We may have just been lucky that he had no side effects. Zantac did not work at all. It was awful. We ended up going to a specialist and he suggested prevacid, probiotics, and at 4 months- one mini bottle (2oz) with the probiotic and goat’s milk before bed. I know it’s scary but it was so different that it was totally worth it to us.

      1. The Zantac seems to be working for now, but it also seems to be causing her crazy gas, did you have that experience with Zantac or Prevacid? I’m nervous because I’ve heard it can cause severe gas and stomach pains. I’m so scared to try PPIs.

        I’ve heard that prebiotics and probiotics can make a big difference for reflux as well. To complicate things, she also has some food allergies – dairy for sure! Nutramigen made her break out in hives. 🙁

        I don’t think we would need to sleep train her honestly if we could get her digestive issues under control. When she is seemingly more comfortable, she sleeps WONDERFULLY at night. If we do, though, I will keep your story in mind! We also have to transition to the crib from the Rock and Play, and from our room to her own. Another transition that is scaring me to death is the loss of the swaddle. Ah!!

        1. We did probiotics and goat’s milk as well as breastmilk. We used the Windi for gas too and it all helped but he was used to a bad sleep schedule. 🙁 definitely try probiotic and remember…this too shall pass!

  2. I want to thank you for your hugely flattering post. AND to say like you, I hate the term CIO. Like kids cry in the car seat but nobody calls those “baby crying strappy seats.” In book (forthcoming) I’m making an attempt to rebrand it – we’ll see if it takes. But to so many CIO means neglect when it isn’t AND the focus is on the crying vs. the outcome, which is developing a new skill which is essential to our health and wellbeing. And THAT should be what we’re most concerned with!

    1. I completely agree. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to this subject. Everywhere I turned I felt this heat of anger and resentment from mothers that disagreed with letting Jack cry himself to sleep. When he finally did start sleeping all night long I’d hear little angry quips about his learning or emotional maturity and so forth and so on. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It seems to be like this with most everything we do as parents these days. If you nurse in public you’re disgusting, if you use formula your selfish. I had to get over myself and your words definitely helped me. We weren’t doing anyone any good by being martyrs and now I just repeat – if it doesn’t bring me or my family joy then we try something else. Thank you again. Your presence in our life, albeit through the glow of a cell phone or computer screen, really made our lives better. 🙂

  3. My son had silent reflux from about his first week of life. Rough stuff. We tried Zantac, which worked for a bit then it seemed to cause sleep problems, which after research we found out was one of the side effects. We started him on Prevacid and it was a miracle drug. He outgrew the reflux and stopped needing the Prevacid around 11 1/2 months. We didn’t need to do any sleep training. He took long naps and slept fairly well at night. Nights progressed from us holding him, to sleeping in his swing with us in the living room with him, then to his room in his swing, then to his crib with the head elevated, then eventually to the flat crib. My first son, however, was a stubborn sleeper and at 5 months we instituted full-on cold turkey cry it out. He would usually cry from 30-60 minutes. And I usually would to, but more from frustration than from guilt. He was the kid who would hear the door click when it opened and be wide awake to see what was going on, so we didn’t ever check on him after putting him to bed. He took short naps but slept 12-13 hour nights, going to bed around 6:00 and waking up quite early. He woke up early whether he went to sleep late or early, so all we could ever control was his bedtime. He is 9 now and a well adjusted, happy, creative, healthy and active boy who has never shown signs of neglect or abuse because we let him cry at sleep time. My youngest is almost 6 and is a good sleeper as well. And my sanity is largely intact as I realize how lucky I am to have boys who think 6:30-7:30 is a normal bedtime, and who wake up ready to conquer the world the next day 🙂

  4. Yeah, Jack was an early riser for almost a year but The Dad and I had a deal – I dealt with him all night (since he worked all day) EXCEPT after 4 am. From 4 am until 7 am I got to sleep a solid three hour chunk. I’m so grateful that I have him as my partner in this.