Sleep Training My Children
June 22, 2022
I am a parent just like you. I want to raise healthy, confident children who feel loved and cherished. I want to give them all that they need for appropriate development and growth. I want to maintain a close, connected relationship so that they know I will always be their safe place. Through my personal and professional journeys, I’ve learned there are many “right” ways of doing things, particularly when it comes to parenting. We can have many of the same goals but pursue them in different ways. Sleep training is one of those parenting choices that was part of my family’s story.
When I became a parent with my first child, I thought I had all the tools I needed, with my background as a professional nanny and postpartum doula. I knew all the basics around baby care, feeding, soothing, and newborn sleep. I did well in the first three months with establishing consistent routines and gradually teaching my child to fall asleep independently. At 3.5 months, he started to show signs of rolling and we had to ditch the beloved swaddle; I soon learned how much of a sleep prop that swaddle was. My sweet sleeper had no idea how to sleep with his arms free and he was really unhappy about it. At that point, I was in this weird, gray area where all my gradual “sleep shaping” work seemed to fall away and everything I read told me he was too young for sleep training. I ended up nursing him to sleep at every middle of the night wake up and bringing him into bed with me, which is something we had never really done. I did not enjoy it. I was too tired to function and was really struggling; I knew I needed to make a change, but I wasn’t sure how. I continued with this unhappy arrangement until he was 5 months old and I decided we were both ready for sleep training. It took only a few days for my son to learn that he could happily sleep independently all night long just like he used to (while still offering night feeds, as needed). We had a few nights with some crying where my son shared his frustration about learning new ways of sleeping, but then it was over. He learned that he was capable of falling asleep on his own and he really enjoyed the long, connected sleep he was getting, as did I. Like all families, we had struggles along the way, but it got easier as I learned my child’s personality and sleep needs.
When my second child came along, I vowed it would be different. I used the same tools for gradual sleep shaping in the early months, but when she hit 3 months and putting her down for bed at night became a struggle for both of us, we decided to give sleep training a try. I laid her down awake and decided to just see what she could do, prepared to help her if she needed it. She showed me she was ready and fell asleep with very little crying. The next day, we started tackling independent sleep for naps and never looked back. I knew she could do it, but at the same time I was shocked that it could be so easy with such a little one.
I know what it’s like to be consumed with sleep-deprivation, overwhelmed by the array of sleep philosophies and opinions. I also know what it’s like to do the hard work of making positive changes to your child’s sleep habits. It’s hard work, but it’s good work. As a certified pediatric sleep consultant, it truly is an honor to come alongside other parents as they do the same work with their own children.