*Disclaimer: I am not a sleep expert or affiliated with any sleep programs. These methods are the ones that I used to sleep train my children and are techniques that worked for my family. Sleep training is not for everyone and I encourage you to do your own research before beginning the sleep training process.
By the time my daughter was three months old, I had reached a level of exhaustion that caused me a lot of anxiety. She was waking every two to three hours a night and I’d spend on average 1 to 1.5 hours feeding, changing and rocking her back to sleep. By the time I had fallen back to sleep after successfully putting her back down, I was up to do it all over again. It seriously felt like groundhog day. As the days went on I grew more and more anxious because I knew that bedtime was approaching and that another restless night was upon us. The lack of sleep took a toll over me and I was ready for a change. I needed more sleep for my mental health.
I remember nursing and rocking my daughter, staring at the clock and wondering if I was in the clear to put her down without her stirring and waking up. The fear of spending over an hour rocking her to sleep only for her to wake up as soon as she left my arms, was intense. So, shortly after Baby Girl turned 3 months old, my husband and I made the decision to sleep train. We had briefly heard about it in the past but were unsure on how to approach it and let me just say that we made a lot of errors along the way. But as time went on, we found our groove and things became a lot less stressful and much more restful! It was definitely a learning experience but one that we have never regretted! Baby Girl is a wonderful sleeper and it was important for my husband and I that we (ahem, I mean I) sleep train our son too. My approach to ‘sleep training’ (and I use that term loosely) this time around has been completely different from when I trained our daughter. Overall, it’s been a much more relaxed transition and experience. I’m not a sleep expert, in fact I’m sure many sleep consultants would laugh at my methods… but’s it what works for us and our family right now. I thought about sharing the things I do to get our son down for naps and bedtime but the truth of the matter is, I don’t really follow ONE specific method. I follow the patters of my son as he grows and goes through is own transitions and milestones. Instead, I’ve decided to share four of the biggest mistakes and misconceptions I made when training our daughter in hopes that it will ease your mind and help avoid you from making the same errors.
Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself
Sleep training is not for the faint of heart. It can be an emotionally draining process, so ensuring that you’re prepared is key. When we chose to sleep train our daughter we took on too much too fast. Looking back, I can hardly believe how extreme I was but I was desperate for more sleep! I made the ridiculous decision to transfer our daughter from a bassinet in our room to her crib in her own bedroom, stopped swaddling her and began the sleep training process (cry it out method) all at the same time!! Yup, I made all three of those changes on the same, dang day! I went cold turkey on that poor little girl and I would strongly advice not to do the same. At the time, I thought it was best (rip off the band aid so to speak) but looking back I realise that it made the sleep training process much more difficult and was less effective. We were not prepared to sleep train our daughter. We got ahead of ourselves, did little research, and avoided taking the steps to gradually begin the process of elimination. In an attempt to reduce my anxiety, going about sleep training this way caused me to be even more anxious. There was a point and time where we were all crying and felt completely hopeless. So to avoid all of this, make sure you and your baby are ready. Don’t allow sleep deprivation to get the best of you. Make sure to do your own research, take little steps towards your goal and when you’re ready, go in for it!
Don’t Assume All Sleep Training Methods Will Work For You
We began following a 3-day sleep training program that was given to us by a friend. I hadn’t completed any of my own research prior to beginning and didn’t bother looking at any other options or sleep training methods. I figured that if it worked for them, it’d work for us too, right?? WRONG. Haven’t we learned to never make assumptions? Clearly, I hadn’t, but I’ll just blame it on my desperation for more sleep. We dove right into a sleep training program that didn’t suit our family and was certainly not designed for a mother suffering from postpartum anxiety like myself. Be sure to do your own research and find a method that works for you and your little one. Each baby and family lifestyle is different, so there isn’t one method that will suit everyone. Find a program that you’re comfortable with and go from there.
Setting Routines and Realistic Expectations
After our daughter was successfully sleep trained, you’d think that I’d feel a bit more relaxed and at ease. Nope, not I. Instead, I became obsessed with our routine and worried that if I ever steered away from it that she would revert to her newborn sleeping habits. I refused to adapt our routine. Based on a lot of things that I read when researching about sleep training, everyone spoke spoke about how important it was to be “consistent” but what nobody ever talked about was the importance of being flexible too! I seriously believed that all my hard work would be erased the minute we went off her schedule and the thought of it was overwhelming to say the least! When it comes to sleep training, it is important to stay consistent and set routines that suit your child and family, but it’s also okay and perfectly normal to get off schedule once in a while. Life happens and you can’t and shouldn’t stop living and enjoying your life just because of your child’s sleep schedule. Sleep is important, but don’t let it control your life!
Don’t Expect Perfection Every time
I went into sleep training thinking that it was going to be 100% effective 100% of the time. The truth is that no matter how good of a sleeper your child becomes (and my daughter is a very good sleeper), you’re going to hit bumps along the way. As your child grows older, they will reach new milestones and go through many transitions. It’s during those times that you may notice a change in their sleeping habits, commonly referred to as sleep regressions and these are normal. Aside from these regressions, you may also experience just typical hiccups when it comes to sleep. These stressed me the f*ck out. Again, I thought that my daughter was reverting back to her old sleeping habbits, permanently. Everything that I read said to “be consistent” and girlfriend, I was as consistent as they came! After spending way too much time over-analysing my daughters sleeping habits, I finally decided to screw all the rules and do what I felt was best for me and my daughter. I did what I needed to, to get through those sleep regressions. It sometimes meant that I’d put her in the car and drive around, or that I’d nurse her to sleep and leave her in my arms to rest for an hour or sometimes two. I broke the rules and guess what?! We were fine!! Follow your better judgement and do what you’re comfortable with!
There you have it, four major mistakes I made when it came to sleep training the first time around. It’s an emotional process and although it got the best of me at times, I don’t regret it. In the end, we did what worked for us, we stuck through it and my anxiety over sleep slowly passed and for that, I am forever thankful!