To Sleep or Not to Sleep (Train): That is the Conundrum
New parents have to make a lot of decisions about the welfare of their baby. Some of these decisions are ones they may have never considered prior to meeting their 4-limbed bundle of joy. Usually, couples are not contemplating the best kind of bottles to use when they are courting one another and making out on ferris wheels.
During those delicate first few weeks of parenting, so much newness is occurring and with very little sleep attached to it. All soon-to-be parents are made aware that there will be some degree of sleep deprivation. It comes with the territory of Parenthood. As does a new relationship with poop, snot and getting yelled at by a 2-foot dictator. What varies is the length of time that babies catch on that they are supposed to sleep in 10-12 hour stretches at night and how well individual parents can tolerate interrupted sleep day in and day out. My tolerance for sleep deprivation is very low. I am an 8-9 hours per night gal. My son was waking up every 45 minutes when he was 4 months old and I was a wreck. A real wreck, not a "hot mess". There was nothing hot about me. I was tired, cranky and anxious all the time (like waaaay more than usual). Sleep deprivation is a huge contributor to postpartum depression and anxiety. I experienced this first-hand and knew I needed a shift in my and my child's sleep habits before I snapped.
This brings us to the highly controversial subject of SLEEP TRAINING. I say it is controversial because there are certain parenting groups who are highly against the idea of "training" one's child to sleep through the night as opposed to allowing them to learn more organically as they are ready. Neither tactic is "right" or "wrong". When you parent benevolently, you are doing what is best for you and your child. I practiced "Attachment Parenting" for those first 5 months. I wore my baby everywhere. He slept with me in my bed. I breast-fed on demand. I ran to him every time he cried. It was beautiful. It was exhausting. I learned that this style of parenting is not for me. I am one who needs her space. Becoming a parent has really shed light on that fact for me. And guess what? My kids like their space too! I had to abandon some of my parenting ideals in order to teach my baby how to sleep so he could grow, thrive and be a happier baby and so I could rejuvenate and be a better mother and wife.
Sleep training is not for everyone. I have friends who still sleep with their elementary-aged children in the bed with them. They are very satisfied with this dynamic and it works for them. Kudos to those parents and the ones who don't mind getting up once or twice per night to tend to their baby or toddler. I strive for that kind of patience and dedication. If it gets to the point of marital, social and personal dysfunction, one may want to consider changing course with their current sleeping arrangement.
But HOW? There are many different ways to go about teaching your baby or child to sleep through the night on his or her own. I am not a sleep training expert so I won't give a step-by-step guide. I will share with you the method I used and continue to use with both of my children who sleep very happily in their own beds from 8pm to 6:30am every night (except during an occasional family bed night which hold over the kids' heads as collateral to get them to listen). This is #notanad. We began Sleepy Planet's SLEEP EASY SOLUTION method at around 4-5 months. A link to their website is provided on the Postnatal Resources page. Their method is a gentle, humane way to help your baby learn how to sleep. It saved me and my husband and our children have healthy sleep skills because of it.
Sleep Training your baby is not easy- regardless of which method you use. It may involve some tears. From baby and you. My first experience with it was intense. I knew we had to do it for our family, but I was terrified. I actually had Jennifer Walburger come over and hold my hand through it. I wanted to make sure I crossed all of my "T"s and dotted all my "i"s. My approach to life is little bit like this and if you also cannot leave your house with a dish in the sink or work from home in a messy house, then you can relate. But babies are not predictable or controllable in the way our things are, so a few things caught us off guard. First of all, my son was waaaay more pissed about our new plan than I expected him to be. It's kind of his personality to resist adult intervention as I would later discover. However, once he fell asleep initially, we did not have to deal with much crying in the middle of the night since we followed Sleepy Planet's method of weening the milk. Each consecutive night was easier and easier until he figured it out and slept from 7pm to 6am. It was life-changing. We did the same thing for my daughter (who was a piece of cake in comparison, but I was also a lot less anxious). If I could have googled "Sleep Training" (which I did 7 years ago, only to discover that I was a horrible human being for even thinking about letting my baby cry) and found an article like this one, I think it would have really helped my mindset going into this process. I needed to know someone else out there was suffering enough to do something that went completely against their own beliefs only to discover it was necessary and beneficial for everyone. So, if you are where I was 7 years ago and in need of some support and SLEEP, I do hope this helps you!!