Sleep Training: Bootcamp for Parents!

This month is passing by pretty quickly.  Not sure how I feel about that.  We’ve been trying to sleep train (Honey hates that term, he would rather just say, “teach her to sleep on her own”) Kiggster the last couple days.  We originally had switched her crib into a toddler bed so she could climb in and out herself and we wouldn’t worry about her jumping out the bed and hurting herself.  However, it doesn’t really work for sleeping if they know how to get out and stay out of bed.  She sure loved playing in it though!  So Honey switched her toddler bed back to a crib last Tuesday and we’ve been trying to help her sleep on her own.  So that means, Mama has to lose her crutch of nursing her to sleep, nursing her in bed, nursing her through the night…you get the point.  Also, this means, not rocking her to sleep, holding her until she falls asleep and all the traditional “no-nos” that Honey and I are both culprits of.   Honey doesn’t agree with all the sleep experts out there that say don’t stay in the room with them and let them cry it out, that just makes it harder for the babies and will take them a lot longer to learn how to sleep on their own.  He wants us to be there with her, by her side so that she knows we’re there for her and slowly taper down once she’s used to going from nursing to sleep and cosleeping to the other end of the spectrum.  I don’t know how to feel about all this, it’s so confusing.  There are so many schools of thoughts about this out there (Ferber method, cry it out, Dr. Sears, Baby Wise, etc) but ultimately, I think I stick with my motto, “One size does NOT fit all!”  There are success and failure stories to all the methods and I think that is due to the fact that no baby or family is alike and each one (even between siblings) needs a method tailored specifically to their needs and lifestyle.  We’re still finding our way to what works for us and it is all trial and error at this point.  I think there aren’t right or wrong ways, just different ways and as long as you are guided by love, then your decisions will also be guided by love-your baby will feel that!

Although, I never would have thought in a million years that I would be cosleeping with my baby…until she was born!  I remember telling myself that I wouldn’t be “one of those parents” that lets my baby to sleep in the bed with me for fear of losing our space as a couple and for fear that our baby won’t leave our bed, ever.  But after she came, she wanted to nurse every hour 24/7 and my body just couldn’t handle walking across the hall one more time to her room to nurse her throughout the night.  It just seemed the only way to get sleep was Honey bringing her into bed (because I couldn’t wake up to her cries) with us so that at least I could try to sleep and Kiggster could still get her milk.  Then when I went back to work, she reverse cycled (started drinking almost all her milk at night and almost none during the day) and nursed even more at night than she did in the past.  At that point we actually almost had her sleeping longer stretches at night between her feedings but the moment I went back to work, things went haywire and we haven’t been able to change it since.  It always seemed like a bad time to sleep train, whether she was teething, going through a growth spurt, hitting a developmental milestone, feeling sick, we were feeling sick or “something” always made it a bad time.  So here we are, 15 months down the road, hoping it’s not too late to try now.

We are on night #3 (when I started writing this), I feel like she’s been training us more than the other way around.  Training us to realize that crying will happen, especially when she doesn’t get what she wants but it will be ok in the end.  Training us to read her cues better.  Training us to not ignore her simple gestures, requests, or sleep cues.  Training us to work our schedules around her nap and sleep times.  Training us to be more disciplined with our routines and sticking to a schedule.  Training us to say no to too many activities.  Sleep training us to go without sleep.  Training us to not worry about what the neighbors think or if the cops will come with a noise complaint for worries of child abuse from all the crying.  Why do they say parents need to sleep train babies when I’m feeling like the one being trained?!  Really, I don’t get it!  It’s so heart-wrenching to hear her cry, at all, and we aren’t even letting her “cry it out.”  At 15 months, does a baby know how to manipulate or use excuses to avoid bedtime?  She’s just learned this week or so to do a lot more sign language. Since she hasn’t been eating very much during the day, it’s hard to tell how much food she’s really getting.  But right around bedtime, she signs for food like crazy and she does eat though.  So we let her.  We let her eat, read books, drink water, eat some more, read some more books and when she’s really tired, she actually stops signing (though still puts up a fight about being in the crib) and eventually falls asleep.  Though I think I’ve been falling asleep faster than she has.  My eyelids get so heavy staring at her over the rail and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep first these past couple nights.

I am glad we’re doing this because I can see how because I’m not there next to her, she doesn’t seek out milk in the middle of the night as much.  She’s woken up once in the middle of the night and once in the early morning, which I think is pretty good for a girl that used to nurse throughout the night.  We’re still being trained by her but I can already see how it helps to allow her to sleep on her own but I don’t know how I would have done it by myself.  I needed Honey there with me, him encouraging me to not give up, and he’s been so patient with her, reading her signs so much better than I have!

Night #3 3AM Update: Kiggster woke up wide awake, asking to read a book (signing book), signing eat, signing milk…everything except sleeping.  So night 3 ended with Mama and Kiggster falling asleep on the couch finally at like 4am-ish.  It will be a new day today, fresh start, right?!

Night #4 Update: Tonight, she cried hysterically for almost 2 hours, then it was time to drink milk again.  So I fed her and she was good during that time but the moment she sensed the crib in her future, she got hysterical again.  That lasted for another 2 hours and finally 7am rolls around and we’re exhausted!  All three of us had no sleep and lets just say, all 3 of us were not happy campers and pretty delirious!  This was with us in the room with her so I guess onto new tactics for the next night!

Night #5 Update: Tonight we decided that maybe we weren’t going to be in the room with her and try the “check-in” method of 1, 5, 10, and 15 minute increments.  Well, there was still crying but just different.  Not as much hysteria as night #4.  The end result: we have a strong-willed child that would rather get no sleep than sleep on her own.  Luckily we got a inexpensive video monitor at a consignment sale and was able to watch her and make sure she didn’t jump or climb out the crib during the hysteria.  Parts of it, if we weren’t so sleep deprived, were actually almost comical.  I wish I would have video taped it!  She has a few stuffed animals and her blanket inside her crib and in her frustrated moments during the crying, decided to grab an item from inside her crib and hang it out the railing like she was holding it hostage.  She would wave it all around and do her baby talk (in tears) like she was trying to tell us, “I’m gonna do it, I”m serious, I’m gonna throw Teddy over the bed if you don’t come pick me up!  Don’t make me do it, you wouldn’t want to hurt Teddy right?!”  She did that with each item she threw out the crib and was looking towards the door when she did it, knowing we were out there!  Oh and she also learned how to take her shirt off!  Also during her frustrated moments, she pulled her shirt over her head but couldn’t take the sleeves off so she looked like she was wearing a shrug.  If only it was like 4am in the morning, it would be so much cuter! So check-in method didn’t quite work for us again, so new night, new tactic?!

Night #6 Update: Tonight we decided we would put her in her crib but stay in the room with her so she could see that we hadn’t abandoned her.  So this night, we did our bedtime routine (bath, book, nurse, extra book, crib) and when we put her in the crib, we sat in a chair next to her crib.  She squirmed a little but seeing us still there, singing to her, she finally fell asleep (I think I did too).  However, if we tried to leave the room, shift our butt on the chair, breathed differently, she would open her eyes to check that we were still there.  It didn’t matter if she was “fully asleep” or not, she was checkin’!  So I think she still didn’t get deep sleep but at least she was trying.  I still fed her twice but that was still ok!  So I think we’re going to try this method again!

Night #7 Update: Honey thinks because we had tried the methods of her being left completely alone on night #5 that she now appreciates just having our presence there when she sleeps and so this method of being in the room with her may actually work.  We are hoping stay in the room with her but every couple days, move the chair a little bit farther away from her crib and closer to the door until she finally feels comfortable with sleeping in her room alone.  Well, that was the plan in the morning anyways.  That was until I got a call from the sitter saying she’d been crying hysterically for over an hour with no signs of wanting to be consoled.  I took off work to make sure she was ok since she wasn’t eating or sleeping or drinking or playing. Turns out, she had a tummy ache and also had diarrhea.  Remember how I said, it’s never a good time to start sleep trying because there’s always “something” going on?!  Tonight was one of those because she was having such a hard time being awake that sleeping would be even harder.  We put her in bed like the night before and she didn’t put up a fight and fell asleep staring at me.  But later in the night, she ended up being in the bed with the remainder of the night.  We will try again tonight to see how she’s feeling and if she’s feeling better.  Trial and error people but also perseverance!

Night #8 Update: So this night, she was running around like crazy before bedtime saying she wanted milk but wouldn’t drink, signing she wanted food but wouldn’t eat, and just seemed to have a hard time sleeping.  But somehow, I don’t remember how, she finally wanted to nurse and fell right asleep.  But then was “awake” when we went to put her down.  She didn’t put up a fight though, just opened her eyes and looked at me, then slowly closed her eyes again.  I had an early morning flight this morning so I had to go to sleep right after putting her down.  I am ashamed to admit this, I was a totally impatient with her about her not going to bed earlier because I was afraid to miss my flight, but Honey read me some scriptures and helped me to get my heart right!  He did end up bringing her into bed with us so I could feed her milk without me having to “wake” up.  But it seems for her nap this morning, she went down in her crib with the sitter!  She is totally progressing and hopefully she is also feeling better.  I can’t wait to go home and give her and Honey lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles (might be too late for her though but we’ll see).

If you’re trying to get your baby to sleep on their own, just know you’re not alone.  Your fears, questions, anxiety, worries, and ultimately, victory, is shared by many many other parents, but at the very least, our household knows how you feel.  I would love to hear about your journey to sleep-filled days, whether you’ve reached it or not!


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