I have always been a person that needed a solid 9-10 hours of sleep at night to feel my best. So when I became a mom, I was very worried about the sleep deprivation. I started researching and asking around and decided that the best thing I could do for my baby and for myself would be to teach him to fall asleep on his own. There was a LOT of information to sort through and it was confusing and time consuming to say the least. What made it even harder were all the different opinions surrounding the whole topic. However, I had made the decision that sleep was crucial and I was able to chose a method that I felt comfortable with. There was definite protest from my baby as he was used to being rocked to sleep, but I was able to comfort him as needed until he learned to drift off to sleep on his own. There were moments when I felt I would abandon ship and just go rock him to sleep. I kept telling myself that his protests would not last long and he was learning a new skill, which would benefit him every day and night for the rest of his life. That mantra got me through the first few days and I was surprised with how quickly the crying stopped. Within a week I could place him in his bed awake, leave the room and he would quietly drift off to sleep. He even consolidated his night sleep on his own with almost no crying. I was ecstatic that the whole family was sleeping well and waking up happy and refreshed in the morning.
My baby girl came along 21 months later. I found the first few months very difficult trying to get a newborn to fall asleep in my arms multiple times a day with a toddler also hanging off me and making a lot of noise. After almost 3 months I was ready to get her falling asleep on her own as well. I knew the crying on the first couple days would be hard but I had had so much success with my son that the light at the end of the tunnel made things easier this time around. I got lucky with her and she started sucking her thumb and sleeping 12 hours at night at around this same time.
When I talked to other moms, I heard so many stories of babies waking up 4-10 times at night and how exhausted everyone in the house was. I felt compassion but could not imagine how that would actually feel. I could not imagine it, that is, until my third baby came along. My baby boy was born 2 years after my daughter and I knew I would sleep train him the same way I did with the first two. I had high expectations. The week of teaching him to fall asleep went about the same as the other two and everything seemed to be right on track. Unfortunately there was a big difference this time around that was beyond my control. We had a LOT of stress in our lives as we were undergoing major home renovations. We then decided to move across the city, which we had not planned to do. In the new house there were plumbing issues which meant three times the poor little guy was pulled out of his crib in the middle of the night and taken to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to sleep. We also went camping a few times that summer. Needless to say, my little one’s sleep environment was VERY inconsistent and his sleep started to pay the price. He began waking up almost every hour throughout the night. I had not had a solid chunk of sleep for months on end and with all the stress I don’t even know how I was functioning. Talk about mom guilt! I felt like I was yelling at my older kids all day long. I could hardly have a conversation with my husband without getting into some kind of argument. I would be nearly falling asleep at the wheel. Looking back it was very dangerous and I’m beyond grateful that nothing serious happened. He was 9 months old when life finally settled down. We got back to the basics of his sleep plan and cut out the night feeds. After two nights he was sleeping 11-12 hours and I felt like a new person.
If you have ever been sleep deprived (or are right now), you will know what I’m talking about when I say it affects every part of your life. I know there are conflicting views on “sleep training” and letting babies cry, but there is no question that we all need sleep to function! In my own experience, the first few days of sleep training were difficult. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive husband and other mom friends who encouraged me to stick with it. I also knew in my heart of hearts that my baby and I needed sleep. I wanted my babies to have the best chance to learn and grow and thrive in their new world. As moms, we have to trust our instincts and do what we believe is best for our kids. I feel confident that I have given my kids a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.