“To sleep like a baby”- To experience a very deep and restful sleep; to sleep soundly. [source: The Free Dictionary]
We’ve all heard that one. It’s funny how once you become a mom it kind of doesn’t have the same meaning anymore. As your arms start to feel numb from rocking, swaying and jiggling your baby at 3am, you can’t help but wonder which moron coined that phrase.
Because babies do anything but sleep. At night anyway.
You see, when I was pregnant with my first, and completely oblivious to what living with a baby was really like, No one ever told me that babies don’t sleep. So on our first night home when my newborn cried and cried, and the second night, and then the third I really began to wonder. If sleeping like a baby meant deep and restful sleep, what was wrong with mine?
Was my baby broken?
After consulting my mother, my midwife, my pediatrician, and my neighbor (I didn’t have any Mom friends at the time, or a Mommy group – more about that later), the reason was obvious- I was holding him too much and he was now spoiled.
My baby was spoiled.
The solution? Sleep training! You know, like dog training but for babies. To sleep. Alone. In a crib. In another room. That’s how I got introduced to the term “Sleep Training”.
Sleep training was a thing too, apparently. I went to our local bookstore and they had at least 3 different titles on the subject. My sister’s friend, and a seasoned mother of two, had suggested one that had worked for her. So I bought it.
The introduction was eye opening to say the least. Babies had sleep patterns! And babies had to be taught the difference between night and day. Mine was confused to say the least. He slept all day and partied all night. Seriously.
I read the book back to back and followed its advice religiously. The calm setting, the routine, the predictability. Even the baby massage, the relaxing bath, the singing and reading, the swaddling (and reswaddling). But he didn’t bite. The sleepless nights went on. He would look at me, and I would look at him, and we would awkwardly stare at each other all night until he either pooped or got hungry again.
Desperate for sleep on our end we did what everyone suggested we do- we let him Cry It Out, commonly known as the CIO method where you do your usual bedtime routine and then place your baby in the crib to fall asleep on their own. And cry he did.
Next we did the Ferber method which is a modified version of CIO, where instead of just letting the baby cry it out until they stop, a parent checks on the baby every set interval of minutes, slowly extending the interval to let the baby self soothe longer. Again he cried. And cried.
One night as our 3 month old cried at 2 am from exhaustion (and I cried with him), being overwhelmed and overstimulated to the point where no amount of singing, shushing, feeding, rocking and bouncing would make him stop we gave up. I put him in his crib and placed a small radio next to him in my last attempt to get him to calm down by listening to some loud music. Or maybe to just get a break from hearing all the crying. 1 minute later he was fast asleep. That little radio saved us! Every night he’d go out in a flash to the tune of Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna.
The combination of CIO, Ferberizing, and whatever was playing on the radio at midnight, got our little one to sleep through the night by the time he was 5 months old. And he’s been a pretty perfect sleeper since.
Our second child was easier to “train”, or maybe I forget because I had two under two at the time. Life was tough. I’ve erased his first year from my memory entirely.
And then there was (and is) our third and most notable crappy sleeper.
The first couple of months we took it easy on her because she was a preemie, and she was allergic to milk protein, and because I had joined a mommy group and was 4 years older since having my first, and presumably wiser. I now knew that babies don’t cry because they’re spoiled or just because. They cry because they need their mom. And every baby has the right to demand their mom’s attention. It’s part of being a Mom. So obvious, yet when I had my first I had no clue!
In my state of exhaustion because I now had two other kids that I had to take care of too, I did the one thing I said I’d never do as a mom- I co-slept. And she breastfed. All night. Sometime around the 5 month mark I decided that enough was enough and pulled out my treasured copy of sleep training methods that I had bought so long ago.
We finally decided to let her cry it out one night. Little did we know that crying, even a little crying, would make her throw up. Ditto for the Ferber method. And by the third night she’d gotten so clever she’d make herself throw up without crying, just at the mere sight of her crib.
Back to co-sleeping.
Then I discovered other crazy stuff I’d never known about- there were sleep doulas, and sleep diaries, and sleep regressions, and wonder weeks. What was all this stuff? Why?! Why was the act sleeping so complicated???
By now my baby was over 8 months old, still nursing like a champ all night long, and still sleeping with me. I was now recommended another book- the one that talks about gentle sleep training methods. The one where you have to log your baby’s sleep patterns, study them, analyze them, and do a whole lot of rocking and shushing. A Lot of shushing. Go on, take a wild guess about how well that method worked.
Fast forward 2 years.
Two nights ago we fell asleep at 4am. We finally removed our almost 3 year old from our bed. There were tears, lots of them. We told her she had to sleep in her own bed just like her brothers and mommy and daddy. We threatened we’d take her lovey away. We threatened we would take her binkie away. There was a lot of escorting her back to her room. Eventually she got it.
She stumbled into our room at 7am that morning and proudly announced she’d slept in her bed all night. And now she deserved a sticker. And a chocolate biscuit. She felt like a big girl who had accomplished something that was beyond her!
And I felt like the most rested Mom in the Universe!
Now a seasoned Mom myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sleep Training is as ridiculous as it sounds. The more I think about it, the stupider it sounds to me. But when you’re sleep deprived and your baby’s crying is keeping the entire neighborhood awake, you’ll do anything and buy into anything to make it stop.
My advice? I have none. What works for some doesn’t work for others and vice versa. Babies are complex beings! You may luck out, or you may get a tough cookie. Either way, every baby will eventually learn to sleep. And as unbelievable as it may sound if you’re in the newborn stage, one day you will sleep too!
Still want to give the whole sleep training thing a try? Enjoy browsing through the Baby Sleep Site and let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your sleep (or lack thereof) stories!