How I Sleep-Trained My Baby

First weeks of life are tough for a newborn! After almost 1 year in a 5-star hotel, warm and cosy, with food and everything at your own discretion, you are thrown out into the cold cruel world, filled with noise and light and uncounted images you have never seen before. You find yourself alone. Mummy’s heartbeat doesn’t soothe you anymore. You can no longer feel her warmth and her tempo doesn’t rock you to sleep like it used to. You are left on your own, in a crib, with the expectation to sleep through the night. Alone. Alone! She comes in from time to time to feed you and you are so content! She holds you close and nurses you and there in nothing in the new world you love more! You long for these moments! Then she leaves and you are by yourself again. You start crying, calling her back to hold you close.

Here is where things can go in so many different directions. Your response is everything to this little human being!

Before having children, I studied a few books about sleep training and schedules and I inclined to apply them in my new-mom-life. I thought routines were good and that they would help my baby settle easier. Everybody loves to know what happens next, right?

In all material I read, there was one common advice: Always put the baby down when he/she is drowsy, not fully asleep! Like I mentioned here, this never worked for me. Every time I nursed my baby, he was fast asleep, and every time I put him down, he woke up screaming. He had managed to sleep pretty well, in his own crib, in our bedroom, for nearly 6 months. He never liked it when I put him down, but after less than 2 minutes he was fine. We nursed every 3 hours and after fussing a little, he went right back to sleep. Except after the 2 am feed. This was his limit. So I used to spend my nights from 2 am on with him sleeping on my chest, like an angel, until 6 am. As he got a little older he only wanted to sleep on me and I could not rest at all so I had to do something, for my own sanity. We took out all our baby-sleep-technique books again. I have always known I won’t be able to let my baby cry it out even if I was never going to sleep again. With some pressure, I accepted to try the gentle sleep training approach and the no-tears-sleep-training technique. All of them, with no exception, involved tears! My baby really hated his crib! The second I put him in it, he cried like if it was burning him! I warmed it up with a water bottle, I put in a nice little monkey comforter, pacifier, nice music, … nothing helped. I even let him cry for 3 minutes at a time before picking him up! Listening to your baby scream for 3 full minutes is terrible! Those were the longest 3 minutes of my life! I just sat outside the bedroom door and I cried with him. This whole circus lasted 3 days. I  could not watch my child fall asleep sobbing with that stupid monkey in his mouth. The comforter he needed was me!

From this experience, I have learned that a baby can be sleep-trained but you will shut down the cry-when-you-need-mummy mechanism. They will be quiet but will they be content? I don’t believe a baby is capable to self-soothe.  (Please, read the linked article.)

I want my baby to know that I am there to fulfil his needs, whatever they are: physical contact, hunger, thirst, affection, belonging and so on.

And I also believe that it is okay to let him cry sometimes and not to answer his every whimper, but our sleeping problem was way too stressful for both of us and at the end of the day we had to do what worked best for us.

If you have children, accepting you are not going to get much sleep is the best sleep-training. Like a wise mum said, “If you want to sleep through the night, have a Gerbil, not a baby!”

So, for almost 2 years now, I’ve been (co-)sleeping like a baby.  Meaning, you know, waking up every 2-3 hours, to nurse, to rock, to hold. And the good part is some day I will miss these times!

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4 thoughts on “How I Sleep-Trained My Baby

  1. I could have written this myself. 3 years and still not more than 3 hours sleep (when my eldest started sleeping better, I had my second)…they will
    get there, when they are ready- and we will maybe miss the times of sleepless nights and cuddles and being our babies whole world. I really don’t
    understand this pressure to get them to sleep thought the night. I also lie to my health visitor and say yes, the baby(who is now 14 months) sleeps
    fine, and no, I don’t have a problem with him waking up…otherwise I get the whole sleep training speech. Been there, done that with baby number
    1 and I NEVER want to go there again.
    Thank you for writing this 🙂

  2. Nancy, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience! It’s funny I do the exact thing, but don’t tell my friends!
    lol. It is so nice to know you are not alone! While I was writing this article I was thinking that before we know it, one night will
    be the last night we nurse our baby to sleep and I am sure we will not be relieved but sad. Like you said, we might miss these
    times! x

  3. I can totally relate to your story! I remember feeling guilty when talking to the specialists (midwifes, paediatricians) and
    trying to hide the fact that I was the best comforter for my baby.

    For a week I tried the Ferber method (“cry it out”) and it was emotionally draining for both of us (my baby crying in a cot and
    me outside the room). I wasn’t able to let him cry for more than 5 minutes and I think this made a lot more damage to his
    sleeping routine, making him think that if he cries louder and longer mommy will eventually come and pick him up. He
    ended up sleeping in my bed and this is what worked best for us.

    Currently there is a huge pressure from society to have the “perfectly trained babies” that would be able to self-soothe and
    sleep alone in a different bed/room, probably not considering much the impact that this might have on their psychological
    development.

    In the end each mom decides to do what’s best for her and her baby. Deep in my heart I still feel that I made the right
    decision and that being sleep-deprived is a minor effort compared to what my baby’s personality will gain long term.

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