I Let My Toddler Cry. A Sleep Training Story.

I Let My Toddler Cry. A Sleep Training Story.

Sleep (or the lack of sleep) has been the #1 issue in our house for weeks now.

From the very beginning, our Little A has not been the best sleeper. When she was a newborn, she liked to be swaddled and rocked to fall asleep. She used the pacifier as a soother, but it would always fall out, and we would hold the pacifier in her mouth until she finally drifted off. And I nursed her to sleep, every single night. It was such a comfort to our sweet little baby. Even though I knew I shouldn’t nurse her to sleep, I did it anyway. It was only when we stopped breastfeeding, around 8 months old, that she finally would sleep (mostly) through the night. I say mostly, because she would still wake 2 or 3 times each night needing one of us to come into her room and replace the pacifiers that had fallen on the floor. Once she had them back, she would go right back to sleep. Sure, I was still getting up 2 or 3 times a night and it wasn’t ideal, but even then I was sleeping so much better than I had been previously.

I  read up on sleep training back when A was still nursing to sleep. We even tried it one night, but I just couldn’t handle listening to my little baby cry herself to sleep. I wrote what became my most read blog post about the experience and thought I had my mind made up on the topic of sleep training.

But that’s the thing about parenting, isn’t it? As a parent, I am constantly assessing and reassessing the situation. Just when I thought I knew how I was going to handle an issue, something happens to make me change my mind. Or, a technique that did not work before might work now. I think it’s so important to be able to go with the flow while parenting. It’s OK to change your mind.
The last month or so was really difficult. At first A had a cold that seemed like it would never end. Then she started teething again. While she almost always falls asleep when we initially put her down for the night, it’s the middle of the night wakings that have really become a problem. She would wake up screaming and not be soothed when her pacifiers were returned. Out of desperation, I would bring her into our room to co-sleep. Even then, she would lay in our bed and not go back to sleep: playing, or talking, or grabbing at our faces for hours while we tried to sleep. All three of us were waking up so tired and cranky in the mornings. Co-sleeping wasn’t a solution for us.

Sleep deprivation is a real problem.

Something needed to change. And fast. Mr. Musings and I were barely making it through the day. Saying we were all tired and cranky is such an understatement. I was overly emotional all the time and feeling like there was no end in sight. I was losing my patience at work, having difficulty focusing, and feeling way too drowsy while driving. I really didn’t want to sleep train, but it was quickly becoming the only option we had left to try.

I recalled what I had learned about the Ferber method back when I read Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber. I also found this article very helpful in determining which method would work best for our family. I would also recommend checking out this article if you need a little reassurance, like I did. We decided we would let A “cry it out” only we wouldn’t totally leave her on her own. I planned on going in to check on her every 10 minutes while she cried. I’d try my best to comfort her without touching her or picking her up,and replace pacifiers if necessary.

We went to bed one Friday night prepared to sleep train if A woke up in the middle of the night and not expecting any of us to get much sleep. And then…

She slept through the night!

We were amazed. Without any sleep training at all, after weeks of middle of the night wakings, A slept all night long! She slept the following 3 nights too. Around this time we also made some changes to her daytime nap schedule, condensing a morning and afternoon nap into just one nap earlier in the day. I thought maybe, just maybe, we were off the hook and wouldn’t have to sleep train at all!

We weren’t actually off the hook though…

On the fourth night, A woke up around 11:30. The next two hours were terrible. Just terrible. Every 10 minutes, I’d go into A’s room. I’d say, “It’s time to sleep. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.” And walk out. It was heartbreaking. I doubted myself the whole time. How could I be doing this to my baby girl? I felt like crying too. It seemed so unnatural, as her mama, to not pick her up and comfort her when she was crying for me. By 1:30 a.m. she had finally fallen back to sleep. It was so hard, so sad, so miserable for all three of us, but it worked.

That was over two weeks ago now. And it was the only night we needed to sleep train our daughter. Since then, we have had a handful of night time wakings. They have been very brief, and each time A has been able to put herself back to sleep on her own.

I really didn’t want to sleep train our daughter. Only a few months ago, I was completely against the idea of letting my baby cry. The nights kept getting worse and worse though. And the sleep deprivation was really getting to me. Sleep training seemed like our only option.

And it worked.


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