I have never received more messages on Instagram than when I posted about our process with sleep training, so I thought I'd write this post for all the other desperately tired and totally overwhelmed baby wranglers out there. (And now that she's sleeping better I have time to actually do it!). And then, full disclosure, when I went to grab the link to put in this post I saw that I could get an affiliate link, and so I did. So, if you end up buying the program that got Nixie (basically) sleeping through the night in a few days, I'll make a percentage of the sale. I was going to do this post anyway, and I'm not trying to promote this all over the internet to make as many sales as possible- just wanting to share it with my community- so, win/win/win.
I never thought I'd sleep train. I don't wanna say that I judged parents who sleep trained, but I judged parents who sleep trained.
I thought it was mean. I've (naturally) birthed, (breast)fed, and (co)slept with my babies in the way that all mammals do, and I know that bears and elephants and foxes don't sleep train.
Ah, the logical fallacies and intricate defense mechanisms of the human mind.
A month ago I had a full on breakdown. Seven months of shattered sleep. Instead of being replenished each night, I was diminished each night. And all of that diminishment added up. It was rock bottom. I was awful to everyone. I was in physical pain from exhaustion and emotional turmoil from frustration and feeling helpless.
Where we were:
Nixie would only fall asleep nursing. It took an hour and a half to get her to sleep at night, she always woke up screaming 10-30 minutes after I left the room and I'd have to rush back in and nurse again. Then she awoke 5-7 times a night crying for the breast (which I gave her). And during the day she rarely napped for more than 20 minutes.
I was like an evil cracked out zombie wicked witch lady, totally depleted with never more than a few minutes to really focus on anything. My time was fragmented into tiny slices, and my mind was barely functioning.
As I was nursing baby down for yet another tragically short nap I googled something like "my baby is a light sleeper", and ended up at this Free Sleep Assessment page. I liked what was sent to me after answering the six questions regarding my baby, and immediately bought the SleepSense Program (the mid tier price plan- the ebook and the 14 daily videos), offered to me in the email.
Where we are:
The first three nights were rough- there's no way around that adjustment period. But it's SUCH a short time. In this program you stay with your baby- this is not Crying It Out alone, abandoned and confused. See Dana's podcast episode #18 Straight Talk About Crying if you are among the 90% of parents (like me!) who is concerned about letting your baby cry (even when you're right there touching and soothing).
After the first three night Nixie slept 9 hour stretches, woke at about 5am to nurse for a few minutes, and then slept until 7. The whole process was SO MUCH EASIER and quicker than I thought.
She cried for 50 minutes the first night. We were both right there with her. It was hard, but not nearly as hard as I'd imagined it would be.
The second night she cried for 30 minutes and fussed for another 30.
The third night she cried for 15 minutes.
Since that night she's cried for about 5-10 minutes when I'm in the room at bedtime and 5 or less when her dad is there. Or, more and more often, not at all, just some cute cooing and babbling to herself and squirming. She's learned that she likes to fall asleep on her side and that sucking on the tag of her stuffed animal or her own fingers can help.
In this month we've travelled, she's gotten a tooth, had a cold, and transitioned out of my bed and into a crib (another thing I never thought I'd do but which I am LOVING as we are both sleeping better). So we've had a lot of things that could have caused regressions or setbacks, but they hardly did. She still falls asleep on her own (without nursing) for every nap and bedtime, and she still sleeps 6-9 hour stretches a night. We nurse somewhere in the early morning hours. If she wakes up crying at any other time she falls back to sleep on her own within a few minutes.
So there's the actual process, and there's the philosophy.
If you've read this far you're probably as desperate as I was and are really interested in this program, and I'm gonna leave it up to you to let Dana give you the process she's developed, since it's hers to share and not mine. Suffice it so say, I loved the ebook and have referenced it many times, and I thought the 14 days of video training was just brilliant, as each video addressed exactly where we were at that day.
But I want to share the philosophical underpinnings that shifted my thinking from "sleep training is mean" to "sleep training is an act of kindness":
1. Learning to sleep well is a super important life long skill.
You already know that sleep problems plague modern humans and absolutely devastate lives. Sleep is a skill, a learned behavior. Teach your children well.
2. It's important to let a child learn what tired feels like and give them the tools to respond appropriately.
My oldest daughter is 10 and only recently starting admitting to ever being tired. I nursed her to sleep every night for 2.5 years. Which means I basically- as I was doing with Nixie- was tricking her in to falling asleep. She'd nurse because she was hungry, and next thing she knew she was waking up in the dark. She never got to actually feel her tiredness, acknowledge it, and then have the opportunity to choose to fall asleep and get herself to sleep.
3. Setting boundaries and saying "no" are very good things/crying is not bad.
A day before we started the program I read an article (written by the woman who taught the Music Together class I did with Baby #1 back in '07) entitled "A Necessary No". It's about older kids, but man did it hit home and makes so much sense to me. If only I had had that information when my oldest was little. I rushed to shush her every woe. I sacrificed my health and sanity over and over again to make sure she was always happy. BOUNDARIES ARE GOOD.
I also, blessedly, realized through taking this course that Nixie wasn't- as I'd been telling myself- going to outgrow it. Not any time in the next couple years. In fact, 80% of babies who have sleep problems don't outgrow them until they are preschool age. I had taught her that she could only fall asleep with me(/my boobs) present, and she would continue to behave as such until I taught her otherwise. When a child has been taught that sleep only comes when certain "props" are available, they aren't going to grow out of that habit on their own.
One little tip I would give is to not sleep train during a Cognitive Leap. You can know when your baby is undergoing one by getting the Wonder Weeks app (probably the most useful parenting resource I have found. I live by it).
I know how absolutely devastating chronic sleep deficiency is. I srsly thought I might murder some folks if I didn't get help. And then the help I got went beyond my wildest expectations. Click here for your free Sleep Assessment based on where your child is at right now, and start getting some well-deserved rest!