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Update On: Sleep Training & the Struggling Parent

Update On: Sleep Training & the Struggling Parent

By Amalah

Amy!

Thank you so much for answering me! It was the final push I needed!
I talked to my therapist and enlisted my husband and we sleep trained him! He was SO ready.

I modified the checks to what I felt comfortable with 2 min and 5 min depending on how upset he got, and I would go in and pat him and sing the same little song every check.

We did the same bedtime routine that we’ve always done and sang our song and laid him down in his crib.

The first night he was asleep at 31 min! He didn’t even cry that whole time, he mostly babbled!

The second night he was asleep at 11 min!

The third at TWO!

Every naptime or bedtime since then has been the same-fussing or whining for 1-2 min (not crying) or going to sleep with no whining at all. He still wakes once a night to eat, but immediately goes back to sleep with no problem, and we still do the first nursing session of the day in my bed so that we get our snuggle fix:)

It’s nothing like the judgey opinions swirling in my head thought it would be. He cried less during sleep training than he cried on a regular night trying to get him down!

I’m writing to you now, after taking him into his room at naptime. He CRIED AND REACHED TO GO IN HIS CRIB AND THEN PROMPTLY ROLLED OVER AND GRABBED HIS LOVIE AND WENT TO SLEEP!

I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but I’m feeling so much less anxious than before and more capable overall. I have so much energy! My brain feels clear! My sweet little boy is full of smiles and calm and happier than before!

Sleep, it’s a beautiful thing!

Thank you so much for your help and your wonderful blog and sharing your beautiful baby boys lives with us!

FLAILING HAPPY KERMIT ARMS YAAAAYYYYYY

This is probably a Smackdown record for the fastest follow-up update letter, and I promise I’m not just publishing this one because it proved how Righty Right Righterson I was (although…cough), but because I’ve been talking about sleep training via the extinction method (aka Ferberizing, but modified to your personal comfort level) quite a bit lately. And this letter demonstrates exactly how that method can work, and how it’s absolutely NOT the cruel, heartless “you’ll sleep in your crib whether you like it or not because FOREVER ALONE” scenario that some people immediately assume it is. (And why our poor OP was working herself into a exhausted, anxious wreck over even considering it.)

What you said here: He cried less during sleep training than he cried on a regular night trying to get him down! I mean, I KNOW, RIGHT? I had this same realization as well, every time (especially with baby #3, by which point you really think I would’ve know better). All my efforts at a no-cry bedtime resulted in…crying. Lots of it. A rapid-fire escalation from fussing to screaming, either because:

  1. I went in too quickly at the first sound of fussing/crying, instead of waiting to see if my baby was capable of deescalating/self-soothing. Turns out he totally was, and my interruptions were basically setting the fuss-it-out sleep timer over and over again, until he was an overtired wreck and thus incapable of settling himself down.
  2. I was inconsistent with my checks and interventions (waiting too long, picking the baby up one time and then trying to just back-pat the next, etc.). Once again, the crying escalated out of control and everything was just a mess. There really IS a reason…or science…or maybe witchcraft…to the set timing of the checks and repeating the exact same motion/words at each one, over and over.

Now I KNOW that the no-cry solutions work for people. (I mean, they have to, right?) But I get an awful lot of letters from parents who tried them, failed miserably, and now are terrified of trying a different approach because “CIO” gets painted with such an awful, brutal brush. How could you DO that to your BABY? You’ll RUIN your ATTACHMENT and TRUST and EVERYTHING.

This letter describes how it worked for us, three times, almost exactly. Three nights of LESS crying overall than in the months before. (I think we had ONE baby go for an hour ONE night, then like 10 minutes the next.) Not to mention the end result of a happy, well-rested baby who PUTS HIMSELF TO SLEEP LIKE A SENSIBLE PERSON.

Every baby is different. For some babies, this is what they need, and parents who go this route are NOT abusive hell-demons who let their babies scream for hours and hours. This might not be what your baby needs or needed, but I do think we collectively need to lay off with the judgement.

I’m very happy it worked out so well for you, OP (and your baby, who also sounds like he’s pretty satisfied with the results), and I’m doubly glad you were able to push your fears and guilt aside and do what was best for you AND your son. May you both be blessed with many years of predictable, peaceful…and above all COMPLETELY NECESSARY TO FUNCTION…full nights of sleep.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • autumn

    I’m so glad things are working out for you!  Congrats on facing your fears and conquering them, and sleeping in the rewards!

    (Tomorrow is my sleep in day!  Highlight of my week/we trade off who gets to sleep in on Saturdays. .. relaxing sleep, best gift ever!)

  • Traci

    That is so awesome! One misunderstanding is that cio is often used to describe a huge range of training methods. When people cite research saying cio is bad, they don’t realize that the research is often defining it as complete extinction, I.e. you walk away for the entire night and leave the child to cry.  Whereas, most people talking about it are referring to the research-supported and much gentler version of allowing the child the opportunity to work on self-soothing and falling asleep while you check and reassure/comfort every 10 minutes or so (according to Mindell’s research 10 minutes is the most effective wait and check interval).  

    A fair warning with sleep training, if your child has a very spirited/willful temperament you might find it takes much longer than the three days of sleep training that most kids take and may require a full 10 minute wait and check interval. We started on the gentlest methods and worked our way up til we finally realized our son is an all or nothing kind of kid. Once we went up to 10 minute intervals we finally saw progress but it took 3 weeks for him to learn to go to bed on his own without a fuss and another three weeks of wait and checks in the middle of the night to get him self-soothing and sleeping through the night. Don’t give up hope, with consistency all kids can learn to sleep.

  • Sorcha

    Speaking as a cautionary tale, kids will eventually sleep on their  own no matter what you do, but there are easier ways and harder ways. And from my personal experience, wtw, the no-cry method (aka not exactly sure what we were doing, just trying to stop her crying every time) led to lots and lots and lots of looong and intensive sleep routines, restless nights, and broken sleep for everyone in the house.

    I don’t recommend it.

  • SarahB

    Yay!

    Yes, this is the glory of Ferber!

    Sleep for everyone!

  • Amy

    The initial smackdown column is what convinced me to give ferberizing a chance of my 8 month old. In my room, he would wake up every couple of hours, want to eat, etc. I had a 4 day weekend this weekend so I decided to bite the bullet. The first night he was asleep in 15 minutes and slept 10-11 hours. The second night he was asleep in 1 minute, woke up for a quick feeding at 9:30 and slept until 7. Sleeping through the night is glorious. Hopefully it continues!

  • Jeanne

    Is there a way to have an update-palooza? I’d love to hear how things worked out for lots of posters like the new mom whose MIL demanded to be entertained or the in laws who moved in.

  • R

    I was also inspired to do the Ferber method on my 10 month old after reading the original post. My husband and I were pleasantly surprised when it began working after 2 nights. Afternoon naps can still be a challenge, but over all, it has been a success.

    • Jodie

      Just a note of encouragement after doing this with three kids. Successful naps always FOLLOWED successful sleep.  Not sure if it was just that at night the level of tired is so much greater than nap that it works in your favor or what. But, without fail about a week after we were successfully sleeping at night, naptime became easy too.

  • Nicole

    I would also like to post that sometimes CIO works best.  We tried Ferber, but he got all riled up again anytime we went to check on him.  So I stopped checking.  He spent 2 nights where he would whine sporadically and jump up and down at the side of his crib for 20min then lay down and sleep through the night.  He was waking up 6-10 times per night before.  We have had no problems in the 2 months since.  He usually falls asleep immediately now.  And hasn’t needed us in the night at all.

    We actually used the same method at naptime a couple weeks ago. When he learned to cruise around the house he also stopped wanting to nap (even though he really needed it).  2 (1 with mommy and 1 with daddy) days of letting him whine and jump for 15-20min (then sleeping for 1.5 hours) and he no longer fights his naps.

    He is a ridiculously happy 11 month old boy with much happier parents.  It was hard to get over the stigma that we were horrible people to let him cry (though he never really cried hard just whined for “momma”).  I think that you have to do whatever works best for you and your baby and everyone else can take a giant leap!