Updated: Feb 12, 2021
We started sleep training our little girl when she was 4 months old and let me tell you, it was a hard road ahead. There is so much conflicting information out there and I was completely overwhelmed and riddled with guilt. I was scared to let her cry herself to sleep so was using a very gentle in the-room method.
Too much uncertainty
Unfortunately this didn’t suit her temperament at all and my presence overstimulated her and made her even harder to settle. I was unsure what time to put her down for naps and how long to re-settle when she woke up after too short of a nap. I would sometimes spend 40 minutes settling her to sleep for her to wake up crying just 15 minutes later. Many days I resorted to just holding her to sleep to ensure she would take a decent nap. I was exhausted and at my breaking point mentally. Overnight didn’t go any better and I would often wake up 10 - 20 times to put the dummy back in her mouth, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep before she was due for the next feed.
My decision to become a sleep consultant
This was when I decided to become a baby sleep consultant so I could learn everything there was about baby’s sleep and help my daughter to sleep better. The most important lesson I took away from this journey is that sleep training alone is not always going to solve your little one’s sleep issues . A holistic approach is so important when it comes to sleep and it is important to ensure that all of your little one's needs are met before embarking on the sleep training journey. Once I made a few tweaks to my daughter’s sleep environment, adjusted her awake time, got rid of the dummy, and incorporated a wind down ritual her sleep began to improve and this was before I even attempted any type of sleep training.
Sleep training is not harmful
Through my training I learned that cry-based sleep training methods are not harmful and can be quite effective in teaching little ones to self-settle. When all of their needs are met, crying at bedtime is simply an expression of frustration of not being able to self-settle just yet.
A second try at sleep training
When my daughter was 6.5 months old we decided to give sleep training another go with the help of a sleep consultant as I was only just at the newborn stage with my sleep consulting studies. Our daughter had started sleeping through the night 3 weeks earlier, after we got rid of the dummy but the issue now was that she would only ever nap 30 minutes at a time. She had also started to wake up between 5.30-6 am every morning and would not go back to sleep no matter what we tried. Since we had tried a 'gentle' in the-room method before without success, we decided to use controlled crying this time around.
Everything went great during the night and we didn’t even have to use controlled crying. During the day, however, was a different story. Our daughter would get so riled up every time one of us entered the room during a check-in. Her naps worsened and she cried even more. We made the decision to use cry-it-out instead as she was getting overstimulated by our presence and I was getting increasingly anxious about the crying. This was a difficult decision but we knew that this method was more aligned to our daughter’s temperament. Since we made sure that all of her needs were met and put her down for naps at the right time she did not need to cry for hours on end to learn to lengthen her naps. We haven’t looked back since and our little one is now 20 months old, takes a 2 hour lunch nap everyday and sleeps 12 hours every night.
Worried about being mum-shamed
Even though I knew that using cry-it-out was not harmful, I didn’t tell anyone in my mother’s group how I taught my daughter to self-settle as I was worried about being mum-shamed. My daughter was happy and healthy and sleeping great so I knew with absolute certainty that sleep training her was the right decision but unfortunately sleep training can still be a dirty word sometimes.
I wish that every parent out there struggling with their child’s sleep knew that help is available and that sleep training your little one does not make you a selfish parent. On the contrary teaching our daughter to sleep has had such a positive impact on our whole family. We are all getting the sleep we need and I no longer feel anxious and stressed out at nap and bedtime.
I believe this quote by Molly Ringwald says it all:
"Yes, my kids come first, but as a parent I need to come to them with a fresh mind. I can't be too exhausted or too tired. And I am a better parent when I have more energy."
Ever since becoming certified as a child and infant sleep consultant I have worked with many families using gentle in -the room as well as out -of the room methods with great success. I have learned that taking into consideration the baby’s temperament, the parental philosophy, as well as the child's sleep environment, meal and nap timings, bedtime, and awake windows is vital for success.
Need help with your little one's sleep? Get in touch now. I can provide you and your family with a personalised sleep assessment tailored to your child’s temperament and parenting style and support and guide you through the process of teaching your little one to sleep.
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