I knew that having a baby would change our sleep habits.  I knew I wouldn’t be staying in bed until 9:00 on Saturday mornings.  And my 2-hour Sunday afternoon snoozes?  Sayonara to those.  But I wasn’t prepared for how completely consumed I would become by sleep.  I didn’t know about the anxiety that comes with going to bed at night and not knowing if I’d be woken up in thirty minutes or five hours.  I didn’t know how quickly my day would come to revolve around naptime, how intensely my mood (and the baby’s mood, more importantly) would be affected by how much she slept.  I shared in her four-month update that I wasn’t loving the whole go-to-sleep song and dance.  I was so tired of the bouncing, so tired of the too-short naps, so tired of feeling like I was spending just as much time trying to get her to sleep as she was actually sleeping.  And so we decided it was time for…dum dum dum dum…sleep training.

There are few issues more hotly debated in the parenting community than the question of how to teach your baby to sleep well.  There are the fervent no-cryers, the cry-it-out evangelists, the co-sleepers and anti-co-sleepers, and the scores of moms and dads that are simply exhausted and overwhelmed.  After reading a couple of books, talking with several of our parent friends and consulting our doctor, we decided on the method outlined in The Sleepeasy Solution – establish a quiet, calming pre-bedtime routine, put the baby in her crib while she’s awake, and let her cry, checking in every five to ten minutes to verbally soothe her as needed.  We settled on Saturday night as our sleep training kick-off and I wrote out our plan, reviewing it with Shane in great detail.  And then, as Saturday drew closer, I started to falter.  I flipped back through The No-Cry Sleep Solution, in which Pantley states that, “To allow a baby to suffer through pain and fear until she resigns herself to sleep is heartless, and, for me, unthinkable.”  Yikes.  I started researching the pick-up/put-down method, in which you pick your baby up to soothe her if she’s crying and put her back in her crib once she’s calm, repeating the process until she drifts off to sleep, going dozens of rounds if necessary.  I got lost in the tangled web of online sleep training forums, seeking advice and encouragement but finding more judgement than anything else.  I waffled and wavered and finally ended up reverting back to our original plan, believing it was the best option for Jules and for us.

At 7:00, we carried Juliette up to her room, zipped her into her sleepsack (good-bye, swaddle blanket!), and I rocked her and read to her, all the while crying my eyes out.  I turned on her white noise machine and laid her gently in her crib and kissed her little forehead, explaining to her through my tears that it was time for her to learn how to put herself to sleep, that mama couldn’t bounce her anymore.  She looked at me with her eyebrows raised, probably more perplexed by my meltdown than she was by the change in routine.  And then Shane and I went downstairs, turned on the baby monitor, and waited, sitting on the edge of the couch as if we’d need to spring into action at any moment.  Juliette started crying after a minute or two, clearly wondering why she was being asked to go to sleep without someone’s arms wrapped tight around her.  Shane went up five minutes later and leaned into her crib to tell her that we love her and assure her we weren’t far away.  Ten minutes after that, she was still wailing and Shane was telling me that he would take over all the put-downs and night wakings from now on, that he would do anything to be allowed to just go pick her up.  I asked him to give her just a little longer, and then, just a minute later, she stopped.  She sucked her fingers a bit, she rolled her head from side to side, and then, she slept.  Praise Jesus, she slept!  It took eighteen minutes of crying, but she figured it out.  She woke and fussed a couple of times throughout the night, and I got up around 2 am to feed her, but she’s a fast learner, that Juliette.  Naptime went great on Sunday, as she went down each time with no more than a few minutes of whining, and that night she fell asleep five minutes after we put her in her crib!  We’re still working on stretching out the length of her naps, and I still get a pang of anxiety each time I say goodnight, but it seems that we’re on the right track.

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Our sleep training success doesn’t change the fact that walking out of her room on Saturday night was one of the toughest moments I’ve experienced as a mom.  Partly because I didn’t want my baby to feel confused or lonely, but also because I felt like I was saying good-bye to the newborn that would crash out on my chest after each nursing session.  Juliette is growing up so fast, becoming more independent with each new milestone.  And while these changes are wonderful and freeing, and while I’m pretty stoked about deflating that exercise ball, I still look back on those first months with our needy little girl with plenty of fondness.  So I’ll be sneaking into her room for a couple of extra kisses when I head to bed in a bit.  Sweet, sweet dreams, baby…

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One Comment

  1. Donna J. says:

    I am so very proud of you and Shane for making this plan and for following through. Way to go!😄 I admit to be rather skeptical when you first told me about sleep training.