I did it. I decided to sleep train my baby. What seemed like 6 months of blissful attachment parenting (as what Dr. Sears calls it) of breastfeeding on demand, napping on demand, warm nights of cuddling while we coslept, had started to become physically and mentally exhausting. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy any of it. It was because I had become sleep deprived.
I learned that sleep training your baby isn’t just for the baby. I, too, had to sleep train myself! I frequently woke up every two hours because I became so used to nursing my baby throughout the night. The only time I got to nap was when baby napped and still, I couldn’t because I wanted to do other things like shower and eat. It didn’t bother me because I accepted that this was my idea of being the best mother I can be for my son. To be there for my son 100% of the time. I refused to acknowledge that I wasn’t being there for myself. I kept pushing my needs to the backseat.
Once my little one turned 6 months old, I vowed to myself and my husband that I will start taking care of myself. It was important I do so in order to take care of my son and husband. They need me and I forgot how the importance of self-care and well-being can immensely affect your loved ones.
I read about 3 books on sleep training and ALL of them made me even more anxious about doing it. I was still doing attachment parenting and the mere thought of hearing my baby cry for that long scared me so much that I quit every chance I got. That’s when I realized that I need to hire an expert.
It was 3 am and I was lying down next to my son breastfeeding. It was just one of those nights when one boob was in his mouth for 3 hours straight and every time I pulled away, he fussed and refused to sleep without it. I always woke up with a bad back or neck and it impeded my ability to function fully as a mother, physically. That’s when I Googled for local professional sleep experts. And low and behold, I sent an email and managed to schedule the first visit with one eye opened. Realizing in the morning what I had done while half asleep, I had to explain to my husband what was going on and asked him to brace himself on the expenses for it. He didn’t hesitate for a second to also hire one because he too felt the repercussions of my lack of sleep.
I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted answers and just wanted someone to teach me how to teach my baby how to sleep well. In my mind, I went over a million times the guilt I was feeling.
“He’s just a baby..”
“He’ll outgrow it on his own…”
When Miss Sleep Expert arrived, she was everything I had imagined. A mother, an early childhood educator, and a no-frills kind-of-woman. She had observed one nap and already started showing me what to do. He cried for 40 minutes and then napped for a good 45 minutes. In between, I picked him up and nursed him back to sleep. I gently patted him. I wasn’t allowed to rock or sing to him, which was honestly the most heartbreaking thing I had to do. I loved nursing my baby to sleep and I loved him sleeping on top of me. And I was so glad I was allowed to continue to nurse him to sleep. But, majority of my days were in that glider or rocking chair. Then, I listed my own goals separate from the sleep expert’s. I want to teach my baby how to sleep, stay asleep, and be good at sleeping anywhere, not only in my arms.
Bedtime came around and Miss Sleep Expert went home and stayed on-call throughout each night for two weeks! I’ve had a bedtime routine I continued to do with the exception of adding a bedtime bottle of 6 ounces. That seemed to help a lot in decreasing amount of wakings and nursing sessions throughout the night. I called her multiple times at each waking, letting her listen to his cries to determine his needs/wants, and also, just for words of encouragement and reassurance to feel like I’m still being a good mom.
It took about 2 weeks until my little one slept through the night for 12 hours without having to nurse in the middle of the night, as long as he was sufficiently receiving enough milk throughout the day, in addition to solids. Then, his scheduled screwed up a little bit when we traveled to London 3 weeks later, but our little one managed to stick to his 3 naps a day in any space, whatever time he felt the need to, and sleep in his own space without too much of a fight.
Here is a sample of what our little one’s sleep schedule looked like at 6 months:
7am: Wake up and Bottle
6:30pm: Bedtime Routine
This was at 3 naps totally no more than 3 1/2 hours of nap time and 12 hours of overnight sleep.
Our baby is now 8 months old and he has been transitioned to 2 naps due to Montessori daycare. I just eliminated his last afternoon nap and spaced out wake time to be 3 hours in between the two major naps.
Seems like a lot of work, right? YES, it is. It included LOTS of tears and cries at higher octaves, feelings of guilt, and feeling less of a good parent while he protested and screamed at us for not picking him up.
Is it necessary to sleep train? Only if it affects your ability to function as a parent, and that’s how I justified the sleepless nights during our sleep training. After just a couple weeks, my husband and I finally got a stretch of 6 hours and more of sleep. No longer sleep deprived; except during teething times and when he is ill, but I’ll take that over nothing.
Sleep trained success! For both mama and baby!