DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to shame or disrespect any parent who practices the ‘cry-it-out’ method for sleep training. I have nothing but respect for anyone who simply does what is best for you and your family.
Sleep training is a hump I believe any parent will confess is difficult to conquer. It’s also a topic among mothers that either carries heavy opinion or is avoided altogether. We wrestled with the notion of whether or not to sleep train Leo. For the most part, he’s been an excellent sleeper.
- He cut out his night feeds around 4.5 months.
- He didn’t go through any sort of regression at 4 months.
- He started sleeping through the night around 4.5 months only waking when a pacifier fell out.
- He doesn’t usually require any rocking or bouncing to fall asleep.
- He successfully transitioned out of a swaddle around 5.5 months.
- He typically naps for at least 1 hour with a maximum nap of 2.5 hours.
I’m sure you’re wondering: with an A+ report card, why on earth would we want or need to sleep train?
Well… I thought we were supposed to.
If you read my last post on “How To Cope With A Crying Baby” – you’ll note that I’ve been struggling for the past couple of weeks as Leo goes through one of his developmental leaps. (Let’s also throw teething in there – because, that will be part of our daily struggle until he’s at least two.) We are finally at the end of the leap – but, during those weeks, we were missing naps, crying harder or longer, whining even though we weren’t tired, and just overall in an unhappy place. Honestly, I thought to myself – so, this must be when we are supposed to start sleep training. This 6-month milestone must be the moment when we are supposed to take measures into our own hands to re-teach Leo how to fall asleep on his own. This must be that thing everybody has either talked to me or warned me about.
So, we abandoned every gentle method we’ve done in the past and resorted to “crying-it-out.” Now, if you’re familiar with the Internet – you’re probably aware of or have read about the several methods of “crying-it-out”. For the unfamiliar, let me enlighten you: “crying-it-out” is essentially allowing your child to cry for periods of time during naps or bedtime with a goal of teaching them how to learn to fall asleep on their own or soothe themselves.
There’s the “extinction” method where you apparently leave the room once you put your baby down and don’t return until he/she should wake. There’s also the “Ferber” method (named after some guy) where you allow your child to cry while periodically ‘checking-in’ on them until they eventually fall asleep.
The “Ferber” method seemed much more gentle than the former – so, we tried it…
…and, here’s what happened:
Night 1: Our bedtime routine was business as usual – bath, bottle, bed. Leo began to cry as I walked out of the room – but, I assured him I was coming right back and that he is okay. I set a timer for 10-minutes – and, he cried for 8-minutes before finally falling asleep. Meanwhile, you would have found me hiding in our laundry room crying as well with my bag of guilt-free trail mix.
Night 2: Repeat the above. Leo cried for 12-minutes. I came in the room after 10-minutes, picked him up to pat his back, set him back down, and walked out of the room again. My husband wanted to intervene – but, I assured him Leo was fine and if we just stick to this magical plan, he will learn to soothe himself.
Night 3: Perhaps I can extend this timer a bit, huh? Well, 15-minutes passed… and, Leo was still crying. So, I went into the room, picked him up to pat his back, set him back down, and walked out of the room again. Each time I walked out of the room, he started to cry a little bit louder and a little bit harder…
…for a little bit longer.
Night 4: Repeat the above.
After practicing ‘cry-it-out’ for four nights, I found myself feeling worse than I did before I started… and, unfortunately, Leo was sleeping worse than he ever has. We experienced some random night waking and some sort of strange night-terror-type-foolishness. Oh, and our once happy and smiling baby would greet us with a frown in the mornings. Something about our entire sleep training experience just didn’t sit well with me or my husband.
Maybe you’re thinking that I shouldn’t have started sleep training during a leap or that I should have stuck to the plan for a little bit longer to see results. Perhaps, I didn’t do it correctly. However the cookie crumbles, we went back to our old ways.
Night 5: Our bedtime routine was business as usual – bath, bottle, bed. We had a few snuggles, sang a lullaby, and bounced for a moment before putting Leo down for the night. He fussed a bit. We weren’t timing at this point – but, if I had to guess, it probably went off-and-on for 1-3 minutes. When it started to escalate to crying, I went back into the room, picked Leo up to pat his back, put him back down…
…and, he fell asleep.
Now, whether or not the above was a result of the ‘cry-it-out’ method for a few nights is up to your own interpretation.
As I said at the beginning of this post – it isn’t my intention to shame or disrespect any parent who practices the ‘cry-it-out’ method. I have nothing but respect for anyone who simply does what is best for you and your family. However, I conclude that it just didn’t work for us – and, we will likely not be trying it ever again.
As with any hurdle you leap over (no pun intended) in life – you always become a little bit stronger. I feel as though this experience made me more confident in my ability to choose what is best for our child and to go with my gut when things do or do not feel right.
Oh, and I can proudly say that we’ve got our happy sleeper back and I’m no longer hiding in the laundry room crying with my guilt-free trail mix.