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.
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.