Sleep training... what happens next?
As I did my fair share (and by fair share I mean it consumed my life) of Googling sleep, babies sleeping, sleep regressions and sleep training... but very few explained what happened in the long term once your baby starts sleeping. Does it last? What happens when they’re poorly? What happens when you go to someone else’s house?
The first time I embarked on properly sleep training, it took 22 minutes of Oscar crying and I went in four or five times. He has now been sleeping through the night almost three months and I can honestly say since that first night he has never cried like that, he has never gone longer than 12 minutes on really rough nights, but on average his ‘crying’ was around 5 minutes for a fussy night. Other than that, he has very very few tears. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have the articles of damaging their brain and them feel abandoned stuck in your mind. Every single time he has cried I have wondered if I’m doing the right thing and if I’m screwing him up or if he’s sat in his bedroom thinking I don’t love him anymore. I definitely haven’t been numbed by this whole experience and it does break my heart every single time I have to force myself to just leave him an extra minute to see if he’s close to falling asleep.
The first month of sleep training I was very hard on myself and had to be strong and had to get through the tough part of him learning to be in his crib because I couldn’t bare the thought of co sleeping anymore and worrying about squashing him or him falling out the bed or getting caught under the duvet. The bottom line is, I believe, a crib is the safest place for him. So I knew, for us, this way was working and I needed to stick at it to get him comfortable with his crib. For the first 3 weeks he cried everytime I put him in his crib and walked out. It was horrible and I hated it and tried to stay cheerful as I left him and sat on my bed next door listening to him cry. It only took 30 seconds before he went to sleep but those 30 seconds felt like an eternity.
It was then after three weeks, that for the first time, I led him down in his crib and he did nothing. He didn’t cry, he didn’t grab my arms. He just looked sleepy and his eyes were drifting off as he stared up at me. I couldn’t believe it. I stayed in his room and stroked his hair as he went to sleep. It was the moment I’d been dreaming of this whole time.
Around this time I had been speaking to a friend who talked about routine and how maybe he’d still crying because he doesn’t know when I’m going to put him in his crib so it’s a shock and upsets him. So with this I made sure we had a firm routine. Bath, pjs, playtime, sleeping bag on, teeth brushed and read a few books on my lap. The crucial part of this new routine was that I held him and rocked him with his head on my shoulder and sang/hummed ‘Rock a bye Baby’ twice and on the third time put him in his bed, stroked his head until the third time finished and then walked out.
This helped so much as it made him sleepy before he went in and calmed him down from all the running around and playing with toys. I think it was also a good indication for him that he was about to go into the bed so he knew with that song he was about to go to sleep. Where as previously I had just picked him up, sleeping bag on, white noise on and plonked him in. Which now I think back was pretty cruel and I don’t think I’d like that either!! This way felt much more loving and gentle and made me feel less like a monster!
I quickly realised however that I was becoming softer and softer and as the weeks went by I was singing four, five... six rock a bye baby’s! I was going in every time he woke up within seconds, not waiting it out at all and singing to him and cuddling him and rocking him. I only realised what I was doing when one night he fell asleep on my shoulder because I’d been singing for ten minutes over and over and when I tried to put him in thinking he was ‘drowsy’ but still awake, I woke him up and he screamed bloody murder! I had realised I’d not only undone some/most of the sleep training as he had been getting used to getting so so sleepy on me and not by himself, but I’d also ruined the routine I started of singing! I needed to reign it in because I was only confusing him as there was no structure to bedtime now! I started again with singing it twice and putting him down on the third and he was not happy I walked out but I needed to get him back to being as independent as he was at falling asleep! This lasted only a few days before I realised I wasn’t up for going through it all over again and he was sleeping through so what’s an extra ten minutes at bedtime aslong as there’s no crying. So for the past week I have been putting him in his crib, sitting next to his crib with my arm through the bar and singing to him as I stroke his back and head, waiting until he’s fallen asleep and then walking out.
And you know what, I think we needed that strict month of sleep training as much as we both hated it, to break the habit of being fed/rocked to sleep and we can now enjoy a loving, peaceful bedtime, even if I am rubbing his back and waiting there with him, I feel secure that he’s going to sleep feeling loved, especially since he’s teething and at the end of falling asleep he’s in the safest place for him- a crib. I don’t think it’s essential for a baby to be plonked in their crib and fall asleep by themselves but for us the goal I wanted to reach was that he could stop night feeds and sleep all night in his crib. And we did that! We got there. So what else matters. I can’t wait for one day to sit in a big boy bed with him and read stories and tickle his back so I definitely don’t mind sitting with him until he falls asleep.
I don’t think sleep training is for the faint hearted and you can’t guarantee how long it will take and how long it will last. I’m glad I did it as I don’t think either of us would be getting much sleep if I hadn’t. I would say that anyone considering it but worried about it being cruel or damaging, you can just do what I did and be strict for a month just to set the new ‘ground rules’ of sleeping in the crib all night and then go back to being a complete softy and pandering to their every need. I feel content with having the best of both worlds. I don’t have it in me to keep up sleep training as I can’t and haven’t ever shaken the feeling of him feeling abandoned or unloved, so even during sleep training I’ve always gone in as much as I can to comfort him but still make sure at the end he is back in his crib.
Im still really happy with my decision to sleep train at 11 months as I don’t think I could bring myself to do it any younger and I wouldn’t have been able to go through with it if he could speak and scream and tantrum and/or get out of his bed/crib and bang on doors and beg to come in my bed.
What happens at other locations?
Oscar has slept over at Luke’s parents house twice. The first time I was a wuss and wanted to stay in their spare room incase anything went wrong and the second time he stayed there without us. I was dreading it thinking he would have a complete meltdown because he was in a different place, a different crib, everything was different. I imagined I’d have to sit outside with them and embarrassingly admit ‘okay and now we just wait outside for him to stop crying’ dreading it could be another 20 minute fiasco but he went STRAIGHT TO SLEEP! It was a bloody miracle and I was so relieved, it wasn’t even me that put him to bed either. He even had a nap in his crib at theirs in the morning with no fuss. I couldn’t believe it! He’s since stayed there once more without me there and slept through with no tears!
What happens when they’re poorly?
On days when Oscars been tired or poorly he might have needed an extra few cuddles but I think after our ‘training’ he’s still quite happy to go back in his crib. And that’s the main thing. Before, he would be inconsolable and end up in our bed. But now, if he’s poorly I might end up going in more than often, picking him up, giving him a cuddle but he still goes back in his crib and stays there all night.