To Sleep Train or Not: Regaining My Sanity

How many hours of sleep do you need every night? Are you someone who can get by on seven, six, or even five hours of sleep? I envy you if you can! I’m not functional without a solid eight hours of sleep. An early bedtime is key for me, I usually pass out on the couch by 9pm! 

You can imagine my exhaustion when my first was born. Insert wide-eyed emoji here. My daughter did NOT inherit my need for sleep. She hated sleep! She was the first to drop her nap in our playgroup, shortly after turning two. She’s been bouncing off the walls ever since. 

I’ll never forget that first night in the hospital. She was awake for most of the night and after being up the night before at 3am when labor started, my husband and I were exhausted. Throw in learning how to breastfeed and change diapers, that was a real introduction to parenthood.  

baby, newborn, sleep training

We went home the next day eager to start our new life. I barely remember the first few weeks. Her sleep didn’t get any better, it got worse. Some nights she was up every hour. Her naps were 30 minutes, never a minute more. We dreaded night time as we juggled getting out of bed to soothe her, change her, and nurse her. We figured one day she would discover the glory of a full nights sleep, she was a newborn after all!  

At her well check visits I asked our pediatrician for advice. She suggested pacifiers, an early bedtime, and a good swaddle in the early months. Family and friends assured me she’d sleep better once she started solids. Unfortunately, nothing changed! If we were out and about and I met someone with a baby, I’d blurt out, “how does he/she sleep?” I was obsessed, all I could think about was sleep. 

Seven months later she was still waking up every two hours. I would go and nurse her since that was the only way she would go back to sleep. Now I see what a huge mistake that was! After ruling out food allergies, acid reflux, and other health problems that could affect sleep, our pediatrician suggested we try sleep training. 

I know this is a touchy subject for many and it definitely is not for everyone. I’m not going to lie- I felt guilty for even considering sleep training, but I was an emotional wreck. Driving was out of the question most days. I couldn’t think straight and could feel myself falling into a depression. Leaving my baby to cry was not something I wanted to do. Her doctor recommended the Ferber method. We briefly tried it but it was pretty horrible sitting outside her room listening to her cry. So I went back to the drawing board, researching other methods and found the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.  

After I read that book I realized my daughter had developed a sleep crutch- she needed me to nurse her back to sleep. The first thing I had to do was night wean. Gradually I was able to reduce the number of feedings until we were down to two. She always cried when we put her down, so I sat outside the bedroom door with a timer. I started at two minutes the first night and after two minutes I would go in and pat her, then leave the room. If she woke in the middle of the night at a non-feeding time, I repeated the process. I added a minute every night and by the fourth night she was asleep within five minutes!

Some babies are born good sleepers. I’m a firm believer of that. I was pleasantly surprised when my son was born, because he was a great sleeper, right from the start. You bet I thanked my lucky stars because I could not imagine going through that again! If you’re considering sleep training, do your research, talk to your pediatrician and I promise one day, you WILL sleep again.  

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