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Sleep Training Your Baby

Why I Failed at Sleep Training

Our editorial team is the first to fess up about the inconsistencies in the parenting rules we write about and those we actually follow in our own homes, and for me, perhaps nowhere was this more true than in my doomed (and admittedly half-hearted) attempts to sleep train my son.

Let's begin from the beginning. Flashback about two and a half years. My husband and I (about seven months pregnant) were lounging on the beach, alternating between leisure reading and a few parenting books in an attempt to prepare ourselves for the road ahead. I recall, in no uncertain terms, his passing one such book to me, opened to a page about sleep training — why you should let your baby cry for a few minutes after he woke up at night, and how he'd eventually learn to soothe himself to sleep. "We should totally do that," I said, turning back to Vogue, as he nodded in agreement. There, we could check that decision made off our lists. Or so we thought.

Once the baby arrived (happy, healthy, and even a few days early), we fell into a steady(ish) routine that worked well for us. I more or less followed his lead and trusted my instincts. Brooks was super-alert, a great eater, and an OK-enough sleeper. For the first several weeks, I'd nurse him when he woke up (once or twice a night), and he'd fall back asleep soon after. Easy enough. Then we got the go-ahead from the pediatrician that he could skip his middle-of-the-night feeding and sleep (or at least try to sleep) straight through the night. And that's where it all went to hell.

From day one, our little boy was, and still is, full of curiosity, amusement, and an exceptional commitment to getting what he wants. His mom, on the other hand, has a willpower that can easily be broken with news of a great sample sale, a bag of cookies, or an invitation to do just about anything that sounds better than a trip to the gym. This made for a winning combination at 2 am, when he decided he wanted to be held, and I (obviously) gave right in.

Night in and night out, my husband or I would put Brooks to bed, and I'd wait with dread for those first whimpers to echo throughout the apartment. And when they did, I'd find projects for myself in the kitchen (the furthest room from the nursery), chat on the phone out on the patio, or turn up the TV. It didn't work.

Listening to my sweet boy cry was literally the only thing I'd been challenged with in the first months of parenthood that went against every instinct I had as a mother. Was it really so wrong of him to want to be held or rocked? Throughout the rest of the day, I fed him when he was hungry, walked with him when he needed some stimulation, put him in his sling when he needed to be close to me. I just couldn't handle the seemingly (and sometimes actually) endless sobbing. And so I didn't.

Brooks will be two next week, and for the most part, he now sleeps through the night in his own crib (though in his perfect world, he'd probably be in his parents' bed). I still cave every now and then if he gets up and seems especially out of whack, but for the most part, he's come to terms with what bedtime means. The moral of the story? Trust your instincts. Do what feels right for your baby, because if you're happy, they'll be happy too. I'd love to hear your adventures (in the form of success stories, or sympathy) in the sleep-training department, so share away!

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Join The Conversation
Amissa Amissa 1 year

My daughter has been sleeping through the night since age 5 weeks (almost 11 months old now) and recently, a bout of separation anxiety has her clinging to me - I'm the only one she wants at night - but then she has a hard time getting to sleep with me there. She wakes up & checks to see that I'm still there or she wants to play! I'm resisting sleep training because I cannot abide her crying. I know she'll need to learn how to go to sleep on her own eventually, but not now, while she's anxious about my absence. Admittedly, it feels good when she reaches for me, she immediately calms down once she's in my arms, and once she's asleep in my arms, I could just stare at her all night. Poor Dad gets rejected, though.

If Dad can sneak her off without seeing me for the bedtime routine, she'll cry a little, but he'll have her in her crib within 20 minutes. Sometimes I have to do that so I can have enough sleep to be human the next day.

KatieRauch48222 KatieRauch48222 1 year

My son is just turning 6 months old. He still wakes up at least once a night. I tried sleep training, after having the dr tell us month after month to put him to sleep awake and to get him yo sleep through night, and it just doesn't work for us. I love rocking my son to sleep and we tried letting him cry it out but it was too heart breaking for me. He didn't understand why I wasn't rocking him to sleep. It ended with both of us in tears and me picking him up and rocking him to sleep. Yes I would like a full nights sleep but when he does sleep longer some nights I wake up to check if he's ok. I also rocked my older son, who is now 5 1/2 years old, to sleep for maybe a year and he eventually went to sleep on his own. Maybe sleep training works for some parents and babies, but every parent and baby is different. What works for some, doesn't always work for another.

delphinearnault delphinearnault 1 year

I personally think that these sleep training have done a lot of damage,it s the mainstream way,a baby needs physical contact during the day so why wouldn t he need it at night too.The child who is let to cry for hours on develops all sorts of psychological problems as an adult and as you say in your article if baby s happy so is mummy.
Let s trust our mother instincts.Who likes to go to sleep after crying for hours,i know i don t.I m totally against sleeping training.
My little has been in our bed and breastfed since she was born,she is very happy, smily and independant and i rarely have to deal with tantrums.So to sum up i agree with you,we should trust our instinct not magazines with quick fixes or supernanny!

Davidreyes1403808718 Davidreyes1403808718 1 year

Also can anyone tell me if im in the right place? I never see dads post. I know its called circle of moms but I dont know of any dad circles. I hope its not odd I am a member. I am new at all this so its nice to get advice and hear stories from all you great mothers. Thanks

Davidreyes1403808718 Davidreyes1403808718 1 year

Lisa Horton: I am a single f.t. dad and I experienced this with my daughter. She is 20 months and just started sleeping in her crib about 3-4 months ago. It took every ounce of strength for me not to go in the room and bring her to bed with me lol. She now also sleeps 9pm-8am w a 2 hour nap at noon. Thank you for sharing this I now know I am not the only one

ReneeLeo1384395849 ReneeLeo1384395849 1 year

She's 16 months now

ReneeLeo1384395849 ReneeLeo1384395849 1 year

I agree, follow their lead. Worked great for us!! Our L has slept 12 hours through the night since 7 months old.

HeatherStep1383715322 HeatherStep1383715322 1 year

My son has also turned two. I don't believe in sleep training and believe in feeding on demand. Listening to a baby crying is terrible, even now.

nancyeinhart nancyeinhart 1 year

Aww. I think Brooks turned out ADORABLY.

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