By Vanessa H.
When my daughter Kennedy was 4 months old I decided to “sleep train, ” but with all the literature out there about how to do it I was completely overwhelmed figuring out which method to follow – especially because the information can be contradictory. After a few weeks of trying and failing a lot, we finally decided on something we can agree on. Here’s a short summary of the two most helpful books I found and the way we navigated through the info.
Depending on the mom circles you find yourself in mentioning your thoughts about this book can win or lose you friends. Even though this book came out over 20 years ago, it’s methods are still widely used and still widely controversial. Why? It’s because the book introduced the “cry it out” (CIO) method. You put the child down and if they cry, you go in and comfort them in 10 minute intervals until they are asleep. Easier said than done, but that’s the general idea.
The Baby Whisperer
Okay, so the full title of this book is The Baby Whisperer Solves all Your Problems. Solves all my problems? Um, yes, please! Give me some of that. That title alone was enough for me to pick the book up. This book came out after Baby Wise, and the author juxtaposes her method as the alternative to helping your child sleep without CIO. Sadly, she kind of demonizes the Baby Wise author and everyone who follows his methods – which doesn’t help ease the tension in the mommy circles. The most helpful suggestion offered in this book was the E.A.S.Y. Schedule.
I found a cheat sheet for this schedule based on the child’s age that’s been real helpful for me too.
What worked for me
Before I looked into any of this, Kennedy was sleeping whenever she wanted – and not sleeping whenever she wanted. Her naps were unpredictable and inconsistent and she was waking up around 3 times a night. I needed some sort of schedule to help add a little normalcy to our lives. I felt good about starting at 4 months because she was on track with weight and thriving, according to her pediatrician. She was over 12 pounds (the weight doctors say babies can go for longer stretches without eating) so as long as I knew she was well fed, I could take the possibility of hunger out of the guessing game when she was crying.
I decided to pick and choose from both books and landed somewhere in the middle. I started with the E.A.S.Y. schedule. Kennedy would wake up at 7am. I would breastfeed. Change her diaper. Dress her for the day. Lay her on her activity mat/go for a walk or whatever we were doing that morning. Then, I would place her down for a nap at 8:30 am She would wake up after 45 minutes and we would do the same schedule all over again.
Sounds easy, right? Not. The first couple times I laid Kennedy down for nap time, she didn’t go down easily at all. So, I used a bit of the CIO method while I was instituting the schedule with her. If it was 8:30 am and Kennedy was not quite sleepy or showing signs of being tired for whatever reason, I would just lay her down and walk out of the room. Of course, she would inevitably start crying so, every 10 minutes, I would walk into the room and calm her. Then, out the room I went and the screaming started again. Oh, it was such torture hearing her scream for those 10 minutes but I knew getting her on a schedule would serve her (and me!) better in the long run so I pushed through.
We struggled through those first days. She cried. I cried. Sometimes my husband and I did the walk-in-and-comfort every 10 minutes for over an hour. And then, one day, it happened. I placed her in the crib, walked out the room. She cried for maybe a minute or so and then she fell asleep. It was a miracle!
As far as sleeping through the night is concerned, Kennedy still wakes up once a night around 4 am. This is a major improvement from what it used to be (waking up 3 times a night on average) to feed but other than that, sleep has finally started to feel like smooth sailing.
Vanessa lives in North Carolina and is mom to Kennedy. Check out her Baby Love feature here.
Ladies, share your sleep training experiences below!