I didn’t sleep train our baby – so here’s how we finally got him to sleep through the night without sleep training
I wanted to hop on here and update you all because this is a BIG week for us …. our baby boy (really almost TODDLER!) Harrison is finally sleeping consistently through the night !!!
You guys know I’ve been open about the fact that For the last 14 months Harrison has been absolutely perfect if every way except he has NEVER been a sleeper. Whoever came up with the phrase “sleep like a baby” has definitely never met MY baby.
Ever since I can remember, he’s woken up a few times a night on a good night, (and more like 10 times on a bad night !!!!!) and he has not been able to soothe himself down without mama or dada helping calm him and get him back to sleep. When he would wake up fussing, it wasn’t just normal fussing, it was night-terror-level screaming and he couldn’t calm down without our help. He’s also still nursing some and he would demand to night nurse in order to get back to zzz. This equaled mom + dad getting very little sleep for the past year.
When we would ask the doctor about it, they would just nod in solidarity, oh yes, “one of my three babies was like that”, they’d say, and they hear the same thing from helpless, hopeless, exhausted parents all the time. They recommended a few things for us, (white noise, blackout curtains, bedtime routine, etc) but the reality is some babies just don’t sleep as well as others. (And let’s be honest some adults are the same way!). The only thing getting us through was that he woke up happy as a clam every day, and would be the happiest little babe, so it wasn’t a concern that he was getting enough sleep – it was just a concern that we weren’t!!
With a baby who never slept through the night, It’s been a rocky road for our own sleep consequentially – add in running 2 businesses, opening a store, and you get two very very tired parents. We made it work, of course, and have had the best year of our lives despite not getting a lot of restful nights, filled with amazing travels with our baby, but a couple weeks ago, we decided enough is enough, and we HAD to find a way to get this family some zzzs. Not only that, we had some big travels coming up with Harrison and we wanted to make sure we were setting H (and ourselves) up for success when it came to adapting time zones, etc.
We didn’t sleep train him. I know that sleep training can be amazing for some families but I also think that every baby is different! With Harrison spending the first part of his life in the NICU, my mama heart really couldn’t handle the idea of him feeling abandoned even for a second from us. Especially when he was just too young to understand. So that was off the table. I know (in the US at least) that sleep training is the norm and it can feel like everyone is doing it, but If you decide that sleep training isn’t for you (or if sleep training isn’t working for your baby and your family!) just know that you’re not alone. I think it’s important to remember that every baby WILL learn to sleep eventually. We put so much pressure on these little babies to sleep well when adults need all kinds of help when it comes to sleep, be it melatonin, CBD, you name it. So why do we put so much pressure on babies to have it all figured out right away? They will be able to figure it out when the time is right!
Sleep training definitely wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I knew we needed to find a way to help H sleep through the night. And I’m happy to report that after nearly 15 months of not a lot of sleep, we WERE able to find some “sleep teaching” vs sleep training ways that worked for us and for Harrison, and he now is sleeping 10-12 hour stretches (and I can’t even believe it).
SO WHAT DID WE DO?
For starters, we did hire a sleep consultant (at 3AM on a particularly rough night, frantically googling “what to do when my 14 month old wakes up screaming and won’t sleep”). I don’t think our consultant did anything revolutionary, but having one did help us get on track and hold us accountable to creating a personalized plan that worked for US and that we could stick to.
A big thing for us that was a part of this plan was being stricter on his wake windows (putting him to bed within 4.5 hours of his wake up from his nap, and not letting that wake window get longer than that). We also started being a little stricter with him and not letting him eat/nurse in the middle of the night or get in our bed with us when he cried (Kenny had to be the strict one, I gave in every time). Being stricter on his waking meant whether during a nap or in the nights – we wouldn’t let him out of his crib!! But we DO go in and are there with him if he cries, and soothe him from outside of his crib (rubbing his back, hugging him etc etc, but not getting him out of the crib or rocking or nursing him back to sleep) this was ROUGH for a few nights, as he learned to put himself back to sleep. He would scream and it was awful for us to hear, but we were there for him, and he learned quickly!!! After a few rough nights, he suddenly was putting himself back to sleep, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on our Nanit monitor.
I know some people will think we’re crazy for not doing this all sooner (read: my husband), but I know that the timing wasn’t right for Harrison sooner! At this age, he can understand so much more and he knew we were there for him, and, even as he tried to fight it, he knew what we were doing. Which made me feel so much better about helping to teach him how to sleep.
Anyway, that’s the quick mom-life update over here! Now the jury’s still out how this new sleeping way of life will work as we travel to Europe this week (pray for us!) but I’m confident that he’ll adapt.