28 Jul 2015

Sleep Training


Ever since Becky was three months old, she was a brilliant little sleeper. Before that, she had colic for the first 12 weeks of her life, and it was HORRID. She didn’t sleep at all and cried for 18 to 20 hours a day, and it nearly sent John and I over the edge; it was literally the worst.

But once we overcame this, months of lovely, full night’s sleep ensued, with Becky snoozing soundly from 7.30pm to 6.30am the next morning, sometimes even longer. It was bliss.

Until that is, she turned ten or eleven months old. I don’t know whether it was a developmental stage and the fact that she needed less sleep, but getting her off at night suddenly turned problematic. She would refuse to fall asleep, and instead just stand up in her cot and complain, and the only way to actually get her off to the land of nods was to take her into our bed, lie with her - often anything between 40 minutes and an hour - wait until she was sleeping soundly, and then carefully transfer her back to her own cot – while desperately trying to avoid waking her up, which more often than not failed, and we had to do the same procedure again.

It was draining, time consuming and exhausting, and something had to happen. I had read about and been aware of the so called sleep training method, often also referred to as “controlled crying”, but I was really not keen on the thought of letting my daughter cry it out until she fell asleep by herself. In fact, I was really dubious about it, and not entirely convinced that it would work. It felt pretty mean and against all my parental instincts and whatever literature or forums I was reading on it, it had as many critics as supporters.

However, Becky’s sleep pattern became so difficult, that eventually we decided to give it a go. I was quite nervous about it. I’m neither in the Gina Ford camp of parenting, nor an attachment parent - I would like to think that we have quite a balanced and moderate style of parenting, so the crying method did seem a little dubious and was unchartered territory and a bit of an experiment for us.

I’m not going to lie – the first night was horrible. We did everything by the book, followed Becky’s normal routine with bath time and bedtime story, but instead of taking her upstairs into our bedroom, we put her down in her cot, gave her a kiss goodnight and walked out of her room.

As expected, Becky went berserk. She was crying and wailing and shouting and standing up in her cot, and it was absolutely awful. As I was downstairs, listening to her sobs and waiting for the appropriate time to pass before we would go back in to assure her we were still there – you start with two minutes, then go back after five, then ten, then twenty, and double it each time until they fall asleep – I, too, was bawling. The only thing stopping me from not going back in and picking her up was the fact that I knew she was safe and that no harm would come to her from crying.

Luckily, the sleep training method actually works – well, at least it did for us. On the first night it took 40 minutes before Becky fell asleep, on the second it was just under 15 and on the third night she moaned for a couple of minutes – but was much, much calmer overall – before falling asleep soundly, and we never had a sleep issue ever again (obviously apart from infrequent things like a brief stage of night terrors or illness), to this day.

So whilst this method may not be for everyone, it did the trick for us, and I know many of my friends who also did it, and it worked for them, too.

Recently, Alex went through a similar stage at a very similar age to Becky back then. It must have been around the nine or ten month mark, too, when he started to not fall asleep during his night time bottle and be awake when we put him down in his cot. And equally, after a while he began to cry as soon as we were leaving the room.

Initially, his cries were so heart-breaking and he seemed genuinely terrified of being on his own that we refrained from doing sleep training with him. It was clear that his cries were genuine upset, and that he was not ready for this. So we did what we did with Becky, we’d lie with him in our bed, cuddle him, until he fell asleep soundly. Luckily, it rarely took him longer than 15 minutes, and I’ll be honest, I actually loved the cuddles.

But over time, as we continued to try putting him down on his own, his cries became less heartfelt and emotional and more like protest chants – they do have quite a range of cries and noises, haven’t they? – and his falling asleep time took longer and longer, so that, a couple of months ago, we decided to do sleep training with him, too.

Same method, only that he pretty much fell asleep after twenty minutes or so, and it took four days until he had learned to settle himself.

Having a good bedtime routine and to be able to get the kids off to sleep at a predictable hour is important to both John and I. We are both quite busy on an evening, often catching up with work (or blogging), or just trying to relax and have some time to ourselves, which is what keeps us sane. We’re happy to bend the rules on occasion and let the kids stay up longer when we have plans or are out, as it’s important to be flexible now and again, but overall, a solid sleep time is vital to us. And the sleep training method has helped us achieve this.

Now, apart from those times when Alex is ill, during which time we just go with the flow and react to his needs, he is pretty great at falling asleep in his cot on his own, no crying or moaning or anything.

And we now have two children who sleep happily – and Mummy and Daddy have their evenings, too. Win win.



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5 comments

  1. We're advocates of sleep training too. I'm a just not a good mum without a proper sleep. Glad you've cracked it.

    #sharewithme

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    1. Thank you! As dubious as I was initially, it really does work. I'm not good without proper sleep or time to myself either, I do need to "clock off" at some point in the day, so it was essential to establish proper bedtime habits. Glad it worked for you, too!

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  2. Interesting read - my daughter is 16 weeks and has been sleeping through the night since 11 weeks, but you just never know when it's going to change! Children like to keep us on our toes! #shareiwthme

    Helen x

    http://treasureeverymoment01.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. They sure do, Helen! But every baby is different, and your daughter might be perfectly fine continuing to sleep through! But if not at some stage, I can recommend the method. The first night is quite hard, but after that, they learn pretty quickly that Mummy and Daddy haven't abandoned them and that they are ok to fall asleep on their own. x

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  3. Sounds like you did what was best for you and your little ones and it worked for all of you. That's what true parenting is all about. Each child different and each parent so it's hard to say what people should and shouldn't do like Gina Ford or others because it doesn't always suit everyone's needs in the family. This is great and win-win for you all. Hurray! Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

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