I have now officially sleep trained three children and let’s just say I am not a sleep expert but here’s my story about our sleep training experience! I am just going to write about each experience, because anyone with multiple children knows that each child is extremely different in every way, including sleep.
So first, there’s Braxson. He was my hardest sleeper, such an easy kid yet he never wanted to sleep. I was a walking zombie for the first 18 months of his life. I started out putting him in the bassinet right next to my bed and he slept really well for the first 3-4 months. He would wake up 2-3 times to eat in the middle of the night, I would lay him next to me and feed him while I was half asleep. You know, where you lay down and whip out the boob and they latch on and feed on and off until you both pass out. I call this the “whip it out method.” Ya I told you, I’m a real sleep expert over here. Half the night he would be in our bed. Once he hit 4 months old, I swear, he could smell my milk or something. He would stay up all night wanting to do the “whip it out out” method. It was exhausting. So I decided to put him in his crib in his room so he wouldn’t be so close to me. Miracle! He would go to sleep till 4 or 5am. Then I would get him and bring him to my room for more of the whip it out method. Or I would feed him in the rocker, we would both pass out and I would wake up with a neck and back ache. #momlife
It seemed like all was well. Then he started teething. FML. He would wake up 3-4x a night crying and the only thing to get him back down was letting him fall asleep on the boob. Everyone told me, “don’t do that. You’re going to create a monster. He needs to soothe himself.” To which I would politely smile but say in my head, “do you see the bags under my eyes you idiot? I’m doing my best and whatever it takes to get my full 2 hours of sleep in. I’m desperate. You want to come over and teach me the right way? Be my guest.” Sleep deprivation makes me sassy. One day I actually blacked out at 4am while walking back to the room after feeding him. My husband was so worried and he wanted to help me with getting him to sleep, too bad he didn’t have boobs-that would have helped a lot. Everyone wants to help but no one really can when your baby is a slave to the boob, and I’m a slave to my baby! I mean: I swaddled, I soothed, I shushed, I played music, I made it quiet, I gave him baby massages, I tried everything short of giving him a tranquilizer. I googled and read and read and read and cried.
Long story short. We tried letting him cry it out, they say let them cry and they’ll learn to soothe themselves. Two weeks of him crying his eyes out for an hour every night, and even throwing up once, I gave up. Sean and I cried too. Every bone in my body wanted to go hold my screaming child. And the crying never stopped or lessened. There was no progress. We would think he stopped and we would look at each other and smile, then he’d start back up and we realized he was just pausing to catch his breath. This. Was. Torture. For all of us.
So whip it out method left me exhausted. Cry it out method left us all traumatized. What else? We finally decided to just lay with him. Once he hit a year old, we would lay him in his crib and lay next to him for 30 minutes. Ok sometimes 2 hours. Until he fell asleep. We gave him a bath, we read to him, nursed him and laid him down. One of us would lay next to the crib and hold his hand. He would doze off and we’d carefully skip our finger out of his hand. He’d wake up and say, “hand. Hand. Hand mommy.” So I’d hold his hand until he fell deeper asleep. Once I successfully slipped my hand away and he was really asleep, I would army crawl out of his room to be sure not to make noise. The floor creaked. Shoot. He woke up, “hand. Hand mommy.” Back to square one. I learned where all the creaky floor spots were very quickly and army crawled like a spider to avoid the creaks. This worked. We stuck with this “hand holding sneak out method” once he was asleep, he usually did well, the battle was getting him to fall asleep.
Here’s the good news. Now my son is 5 and he sleeps all through the night (he has since about 18 months old). I can’t even wake him up for school now, he loooves sleep. He is still harder to put to bed. We usually read and lay with him for 20 minutes and he will go to bed. We trained him to go to bed on his own but he prefers the snuggle time and so do we. Dude, they’re only little once so as long as he wants snuggles he will get them from me. He still wanders into our room some nights to sleep with us and we love it as long as he goes to bed in his bed.
Now my daughter, Brynn. Easy baby. We brought her home from the hospital and she slept until 5am with one feeding and back to bed. I still did the whip it out method at 5am and she would lay the rest of the morning in bed with us, all asleep. I didn’t even think I had a newborn. She was a breeze. I was so well rested. She teethed for like a week and had times where she’d be up here and there but I don’t even remember because it was so quick. At 4 months I ditched the bassinet again, they just move and make noise and kept me up for some reason. We put her in the crib, she cried it out for 20 minutes. Next night 10 minutes. By the third night she would lay down and go to bed. Ooohh so this is how this was supposed to work! It worked for her! She’s an easy sleeper. Now she’s 3 and we do the same as we do with Brax, we lay with her and snuggle after reading and prayer, she goes out fast.
Now Brooke, she’s 7 months old. I’m still trying to find her wings cause I’m pretty sure she’s an angel. I would say her sleeping is so similar to Brynn’s, we just moved her to the crib a month ago because the whip it out method was beginning to keep me up. The whip it out method is great when they are little but they start to want to eat all night so eventually you stop doing it just so you both can sleep more. I feed her, put her in the crib and she’s out until 5am. Then I feed her in bed with me. Poor girl never gets a full nap because one of the kids always wakes her up so by night she’s just tired and sleeps.
My conclusion: whether you whip it out, cry it out, sneak out, or do any method you’ve heard about. Find what works for your child and go with it. They are all different. Brax is still more cuddley and needs a little more lovin on the daily. He pouted one day and I asked him what was wrong and he said, “‘you didn’t love on me that much today mom.” Easy fix! His love language is personal touch so I’m always affirming him with hugs and kisses, pats on the back, high fives etc. It wasn’t that he was a bad kid or a bad sleeper, he just needs more personal touch. Everyone told me it’s bad to get them used to it and on and on, but I think it’s just who he is and I love it. Don’t fight your child’s nature, work with it.
Brynn is super independent. Don’t get me wrong she is as lovey and huggy as it gets, but she does it on her timing and when she wants to. I allow that. I don’t force her to hug, I let her come to me when she feels like it. Her love language is words of affirmation, so I affirm her with encouragement, smiles, kind words etc. she slept better on her own and that was great.
I’m not sure what Brooke is yet but I think she’ll be a mix of them both. We will see but whatever it is, I will honor it.
Don’t make bedtime a battle, even though you want sleep and want to “do it right” just let them show you what they need and go with it. They are just babies and one day you will be so glad you held them when they slept. And when you need the sleep to be sane, put them down and don’t feel bad about it. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. I value sleep AND snuggles so I found that mixing both works for me. They go to bed in their own beds but when they wake up, they come in and snuggle. Find your perfect balance and don’t read too much or over analyze it. The best advice I heard is this: “you’ll never hear a parent with grown children say, ‘I wish I didn’t love on them so much'”
Share in the comments how sleep training worked for you? Or your best advice!