Sleep Battles

So this week, Paul and I bit the bullet and “sleep trained” Simon, one of my least favorite parts of parenting. But for our family, gently guiding Simon into a more independent sleep routine was becoming a top priority and fast.

Simon is an unbelievably easy baby. Very little seems to phase him, and I do not want to rock that boat for my own convenience. But we also learned from our mistakes with Declan, and now know that most kids need some sort of help (or training or torture depending on how you look at it) to get enough sleep in a healthy way. I stupidly got in the habit of rocking Declan to sleep as a baby, and while that worked ok when he was a newborn, the older he got, the more difficult that became. We would rock him to sleep and lay him down only to have him pop right up, ready to play. This would go on for hours a night, with Paul and I taking turns “putting him down” until I would finally go get in bed with him or fall asleep in the recliner. We didn’t want to have a family bed or even co-sleep, but I also was extremely hesitant to do any kind of sleep training. Paul would have done it much sooner than I was willing to, but I wouldn’t budge, so I shouldered the majority of the sleepless nights in return. By the time he was 11 months old, we had moved into a new house, and his room was too small to have his crib and a bed, so any co-sleeping was done in a recliner. After a few weeks of that, I was literally too exhausted to drive safely. Our marriage was suffering immensely and our whole family was unhappy. We decided to take action.

I read several books, but the book Sleeping Through the Night by Jody Mindell really resonated with me, especially after my friend Colleen recommended it. After reading it together, we implemented our plan. Declan was going to have to CIO. We spent the first two nights going in at increasing intervals to “reassure” him that we were still here, but after 2+ hours of crying a night, I realized that we were only making him angrier by going in but not rocking him. So we stopped going in. It was agonizing, I won’t lie. But after 45 minutes, he was out. The next night, we laid him down and didn’t go back in. I feared the worst. Eight minutes later, silence. The next night, we laid him down and that was it. He began sleeping 12+ hours a night, napping wonderfully and, most importantly, he had rested parents who could give even more to him than ever before.

I was fully on the sleep training bandwagon.

So with No. 2, I VOWED to not make the same mistakes. I wouldn’t have time to lay around holding a baby all day and night, I’d have another kid (plus the little boy I babysat) to watch over. So from the get-go, Simon napped in the swing and slept with me at night. For the first 3 months, it was pretty great. Sure, he woke to eat often during the night, but it was eat and back to sleep, no prob.

Around 3 months, things got hairy. There is a major growth spurt at 3 months, and it hit Simon with a vengeance. Combine that with his long naps in the swing during the day, and our nights were spiraling out of control. He was nursing every 90 minutes, obviously for comfort, and was fussy and over tired. I couldn’t determine if he was sick or gassy or miserable for any other reason (Reason No. 1 to sleep train: Sleep habits are a GREAT indicator of baby’s well-being), so I didn’t know what to do other than nurse him. I was slowly becoming more and more exhausted, frustrated and an overall frazzled mom. My attitude with Declan was suffering, I had no energy left to even talk with Paul at the end of the day and I felt like I was drowning in anxiety. I knew something would have to change.

While I fully planned on sleep training Simon, I also wanted to wait til he was 4 months old, per Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the child sleep bible. We made some gentle changes leading up to his 4 month birthday that easily got him sleeping in his crib and waking around twice a night to feed. We ditched the swing and attempted to get him napping in his crib during the day. We saw major improvements, but he was still taking 2-3 hours to go down at night and napping was spotty. So while I was at least now sleeping back in our room and getting some rest, I was still fried at the end of the day after battling naps and bedtime.

Four months couldn’t come fast enough.

So after his well-check this week, it was time to act. I hated the thought of my little angel crying without me, but with him being so overtired and frustrated, a lot of crying was already going on all day long. Our nursing relationship was suffering, as well, as I could never judge if he had eaten well since he was nursing so frequently but falling asleep during every session. It was time.

The first night, we never let him cry more than 10 minutes. We checked on him and soothed him every time we felt he was getting too upset, but our goal was to get him to fall asleep on his own in his crib. It took 90 minutes, which I hated. I don’t go outside or turn the monitor off. I sit there and listen to every cry. If he’s crying, I’m crying right there with him. I guess it’s my own version of self-flagellation.

The next day, he napped like a champ. Three great naps, zero tears. The next night, he did even better, and after some crying, I determined he was still hungry, so after feeding him again, he went down happily with zero fussing. He nursed during the night twice and after a 6 a.m. wake up, he went back down til 9:30!! Victory!

I can already see massive changes in things. One, I am a new woman. Having 3-4 hours kid-free at the end of the day is crucial to me. Not every mom needs this, I’m sure, but I definitely do. I need that time to myself and I need that time with Paul. A healthy marriage has to be prioritized. Two, Simon is napping fabulously, which means I have more time to spend with just Declan during the day. Three, Simon is learning healthy sleep habits that I believe are crucial. I think healthy sleep is as important as good nutrition, and if some tears are involved in the short term to set things on the right path for the long term, I’m ok with that. I know I never abandoned my child (a popular complaint against any training involving crying) and I know that there were way fewer tears shed in three days of training than in 11 months of bad sleep.

So like so many other parenting decisions, I had to do something that made my child (temporarily) unhappy in order to make my whole family happy. I don’t enjoy it while it’s happening but I have seen the results in both my boys, and know I did right by them and myself. That, to me, is what parenting is all about.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Sleep Battles

  1. Caels momma

    This was very helpful. Cael was up every two hours in the beginning and at two months he just started sleeping through the night on his own, even made his own schedule, down around 8 and up by 7. It was amazing bc I actually got sleep. But this past month he hasn’t been doing so well, he’s going to bed way later, waking up at least once in the middle of the night, and fussy for the most of the day and his naps suck again. The doctor said he’s teething but babies can teeth for months before ever breaking teeth.

  2. Caels momma

    Idk what to do, I usually can’t let him cry longer than five minutes but lately its been so much crying, I put him in the crib and leave him in his room for about fifteen mins and I don’t feel bad about it. But thats only during the day. I never have let him cry himself to sleep. He gets to upset. He’s going to be 5 months on the ninth, and I think I seriously screwed up by never letting him cry for longer than a few minutes and rushing to console him as soon as he started to fuss, Bc now when I do let him CIO for a little while, he just seems like he’s dying and is extremely feeling abandoned. Any advice? Also I’ve introduced him to solids at four months. but he doesn’t show much interest and I don’t push it. He’s also my first child.

  3. Caels momma

    Oh and I found you on Modg. She was the first and only blog I have ever followed. After falling in love with her I tried to find others but none really interested me enough to read more than two of their posts and never return to their site. But I have to say I love yours. Not only do you have humor like Modg, but your a lot more helpful bc your post are not just on random goofy things. They are very insightful. Maybe bc you have a toddler so your more knowledgeable with babies. And your very honest which I love, I feel like reading your blog is like talking to one of my mom friends, your real and your not trying to sugar coat shit! Good job and keep it up. I’ll definitely be following you from now on

  4. Christi Wampler

    I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to comment. This week has been insanity, but I have read and reread your comments 50 times!
    First off, thanks for reading and writing! I’m honored to be compared to MODG, I think she’s a riot. So, thanks for that!
    Second, girl, I have BEEN THERE. 4-5 months with a baby is a rough time. There is a huge sleep regression around 4 months, and that is usually when things go to shit. Since I don’t know your full situation (breast or bottle feeding? allergies or reflux at all? co-sleeping or not?), I can give you some general advice based on my experiences. At 5 months old, your baby pretty much needs to go down for a nap/sleep every 90 minutes at most. Any longer than that, and they get overtired and struggle. Come up with a consistent sleep routine. Utilize a white noise machine and room darkening shades (or just hang a dark blanket over your window. Redneck? Yes. But it works.) to make it an ideal sleep environment. The sleep routine doesn’t need to be much, but consistency is so great for babies. At the FIRST sign of sleepiness (staring off into space, eye rubbing, slowing down), go to bed. That minute. It doesn’t matter if it’s only been an hour. Go. My son will be 8 months tomorrow (SOB!) and he rarely stays up longer than 90 minutes before his first nap of the day. As the day goes on, he can stay up a bit longer, but I try to keep his wake time NO LONGER than 2.5 hours. Don’t be afraid of a very early bedtime. Babies really can’t get too much sleep. Don’t expect miracles. Right now, Simon wakes anywhere from 0-2 times a night and I’m completely fine with that. He nurses and goes right back down. When we first started all of this, I would nurse him before I went to bed at 11, and he’d still wake 2 more times a night, but that is what he needed, so I didn’t sweat it. I knew he was hungry because he would nurse and pass out. When he’s overtired, he wakes a lot more frequently but doesn’t want to nurse, he just can’t get back to sleep. I don’t mind getting up with him because I know he needs me truly, it’s not just him being unable to sleep.
    OK, that was a novel! Shew! Let me know if that helps. I have been there and know how bad it sucks. You can change things, though, and see results pretty quick! Good luck!

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