How Sleep Training Worked for Us

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As I wrote about previously, when I started parenting I very much fell into attachment parenting. You can read more about it there, but if you read it already or don’t want to read it, the long and the short of it was that I had become convinced that it was the only way to raise good kids and that doing anything else would be a failure. So how does someone who is very much AP (attachment parenting in internet speak) go from that to someone who used sleep training methods?

When I had a dream sleeper – and I mean a dream sleeper – it was very easy to be an attachment parent. Attachment parenting is easy, I thought, why doesn’t everyone do it? Of course, my son was sleeping 9 hours through the night at 2 weeks old and could be put down to sleep anywhere (and I mean anywhere – there are pictures of him sleeping on an ottoman at a retreat and on a table at my friend’s wedding – carefully supervised with me right there so he didn’t roll off of course). In my naivety of being a first-time parent, I credited this to my awesome attachment parenting skills. People who used sleep training just don’t know what they are doing, my ultra smug self thought. (I regret thinking this and being so smug. Grace and learning, right?)

Oh, I could not have been more wrong! It is humbling to write this on my blog for who knows (and everyone) to read, but I was so very wrong. I would come to discover that this was because of who was my kid was and not because of anything magical I had done.

And I had come to discover that it would all change, very suddenly.

You see, around 6 months, things changed. What I know now and understand to be the development of object permanence and my baby becoming hyper vigilant, I did not know then. All I knew is that my child screamed in my arms, for every nap and bedtime before falling asleep. Sometimes over an hour. And trust me when I say, nothing, nothing, made me feel more helpless than to have my son screaming in my arms and me trying every. possible. thing. to get him to sleep and to comfort him without luck. I felt like a complete and utter failure time and time again. These crying sessions would routinely last for over an hour before he fell asleep. I’d hold him, he’d cry, he’d act like he’d want me to put him down, I put him down, he’d cry and act like he wanted me to pick him up. It was torturous.

I remember one time – to tell this story I have to back things up a little. When I was in college, I was heavily involved in my church then and after we got married, Nick became heavily involved too. Because we were often involved in the music and the AV, we were usually there like an hour before church. And one time, Dominic would just not stop crying. People were suggesting things to me and I was trying them, but none of them were working. I tried feeding him, but he wasn’t having it. I tried rocking him. I tried everything until eventually, he fell asleep. That crying lasted for over an hour and (hopefully) no one else remembers it, but I felt completely mortified. And broken. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t get my child to stop crying? I felt I had failed as a mother. I handed the sleeping Dominic to Nick and even though church was going on, I slipped out the back and sat on the back steps crying because I felt so defeated. What kind of mother wasn’t a comfort to her crying child?

I turned to the attachment parenting groups and resources I had come to believe would help me and I got not a lot of great answers.

It’s just a phase – wait it out. Well, I tried this but I found myself being utterly crushed over and over again by the fact that he would just cry so much in my arms. My little boy who had been the happiest baby now seemed beyond miserable.

Try co-sleeping. And even though it went against everything I believed in (even though I was AP, we did not co-sleep because I did have concerns about its safety), we tried it. He only slept marginally better and I slept absolutely terrible. I move around a lot in my sleep, but with the awareness of the fact that there’s a baby there, I felt unable to move and I just couldn’t sleep that way. Plus, it didn’t prevent the long cry fests before he fell asleep, just helped with a few of the night wakings.

It’s teeth. But despite giving him medicine that was supposed to help with teething, nothing changed. (And I have since learned that teething is probably not as painful as we think.)

I couldn’t handle this anymore. Finally, in desperation, I said, well, if he’s going to cry anyway, I may as well try sleep training him. I couldn’t handle those feelings anymore. I turned to one of the only people at the time who I knew who had done some sleep training. She told me about “Ferberizing,” which is what they had done and I thought, okay, let’s try this.

I’m not going to lie, it was terrible listening to my son cry. All I could think was everything that attachment parenting had fed me. How I was ruining my son and how he was never going to be attached to me.

But when he finally fell asleep, I was so relieved. And, he had cried less time in the sleep training before falling asleep than he had in my arms! On the very first night!

And what’s more than that, my grumpy boy, had turned into a happy boy again. While I had worried that he was teething, he was actually just overtired. Once he was getting proper sleep again, his mood shifted back to the happy kid he had once been. I was relieved. But I still struggled with residual guilt for a long time. I worried that I would see the signs or something when he was older.

Well, he’s older now and I see no signs.

Now, I’ve had this post on my list of post ideas for a long time. I was too chicken to write about it. I was worried that I would get mean or negative comments, like the ones that people have said to me before. Because people have said deeply hurtful things to me about the fact that I sleep trained my kids. And those words will probably stick with me forever.

Because you all love my selfies so much - our sleep training story and my wonderful friend Alexis' book Precious Little SleepBut, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about a new book that just came out that my friend Alexis Dubief wrote. I got to know Alexis through her online community based off her website Precious Little Sleep. I became an admin and because of that, I got to know Alexis not just as an awesome human being, but as a friend. I have watched her put blood, sweat, and tears into this amazing book which I wish was the baby sleep guide that was around when I was a kid. Precious Little Sleep is a resource for you whether or not you want to sleep train, as Alexis has really worked hard to put a lot of research backed solid options into this book and it’s funny. You can’t beat that. So, check it out! I was not paid for that opinion, by the way. Alexis doesn’t even know I’m doing this. I just believe in her and her book so much that I wanted to share it with you.

Anyways, that story was really the beginning of the end to attachment parenting for me. I hope you recognize how hard it is for me to come out and share this story. I think I have two really wonderful and amazing kids. I don’t regret sleep training and I am, in fact, glad to have done it. That’s my sleep training story.

What is one thing you said you would never do when you started parenting that you did and it turned out to be something good for you? 

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