I never knew baby sleep was such a controversial topic until I became a mom. I put it up there with religion and politics. It's best not to bring it up at a family function!
While I was pregnant with Olivia, we had no real plans to sleep train. We really didn't know what it was to be honest. Yes we bought swaddles and a sound machine, but that was the extent of it.
October 21st, 2018 Olivia Marie made her entrance 11 days late....
Fast forward past the horrendous days in the hospital and we made it home. Turns out Liv went against all the odds and slept 7 straight hours her first night home. Seth and I stared at her for a majority of those hours saying "is she alive?" or "she isn't supposed to be sleeping like that." Those nights actually continued for the first 12 weeks or so. She would give us anywhere from 5-8 hours at a time. Naps weren't really a concern of ours, but she was taking some here and there. I'd also like to note she was a very pleasant newborn with very little crying.
When Liv was about 3 and a half months old, we sold our first home in Doylestown before our second house was livable. We stayed with my parents for 4 weeks. You may be thinking, oh man that sucks, I would never want to move back in with my parents. Well, my parents are different. They truly broke the mold, so we weren't worried one bit about spending time there. Until Hurricane Liv struck....
Most will call it the 4 month sleep regression, I called it one step away from HELL. All of a sudden our sleeper decided to scream her head off around 8pm no matter what we did. She then decided to wake up every 90 minutes or so and often stayed wide awake at 3am. This phase for us was way worse than the newborn nights and for me it was harder than the postpartum recovery.
We finally moved into our new home, but the sleep issues were still happening. We continued to walk her around the house for 30-45 minutes until she fell asleep, only for her to wake up about an hour later. During those walks she was a nightmare. And yes she was fed, had a clean diaper, and no tummy issues. Cue sleep training. If you have negative views about the cry it out method, you can stop reading now.
Our backs were up against the wall and we felt we had no choice. Liv was crying in our arms at bedtime anyway so we even felt she was yearning for the independence. Cry it out or any form of it is not for everyone. This blog is also in no way pushing it or shaming any other type of sleep methods that parents choose for their children. My main goal is to share my story in hopes it helps one helpless mother or father who feel they have no way out.
We went the full blown cry it out route because we felt if we are taking the leap we are going all in. Yes there are modified versions out there, but we just felt that would prolong the crying. We started on a Friday night since we had no weekend plans and could catch up on sleep and recover from the emotional stress during the day. The key to cry it out is to cover all the necessities before bedtime and create a very long and comfortable routine. Liv was fed, bathed, and in a comfortable sleep sack. We put her in and said we love her very, very much. She screamed for about 40 minutes and then fell asleep. As Seth sat at her door with the monitor, I went outside with a book. All in all, I am pretty sure more crying was done by me.
The following nights the crying decreased significantly. Liv was only waking up 1-2 times a night. I would breastfeed her and put her right back in. A little crying but she would fall asleep on her own. I wish I could say that after a week she was sleeping 12 hours at night and two long naps during the day. That wasn't the case. Yes the crying at bedtime didn't last more than a week. The whole process definitely took closer to two months to improve her naps and lose the night feedings. At about 7 months Liv was taking two solid naps, going to bed around 6:30 and not waking up until about 7:30 the next morning.
Why did we choose to sleep train? Like I said above we didn't really feel we had a choice. We were all sleep deprived, Boomer included, and we knew we needed a change. Now that we are out of the trenches, I can say it was one of the best parenting decisions we made. It was a decision we made for our family, not anyone else's. Liv now craves her nap time and bedtime. She knows her bedtime routine consists of a bath, story, and maybe a massage with lotion. She wakes up well rested and is pleasant most of the day. Seth and I also have time after she goes to bed to have dinner (if we didn't eat with Liv), watch our favorite shows, tidy up the house, work out, etc. Those hours after Liv goes to sleep are very beneficial to our marriage. Another huge advantage is that anyone can do Liv's bedtime routine. It allows Seth and I to go out and not worry about Liv screaming and taking an hour to fall asleep. If we didn't sleep train I can confidently say that I would never let anyone else put her to sleep. It was that awful before we sleep trained.
Like a lot of phases in parenting, it is easy to talk about this now because it is in the past. If anyone is in the trenches right now, all I will say is that it is temporary and you will make it out. You may just enter another difficult phase, but I promise that is temporary too. Sleep training was a decision we made because it was best for our family. To the parents that co-sleep or don't agree with cry it out, I see you. I understand our methods will not work for everyone. My hope is that one parent may read this and find some hope that it does get better and there are others with similar struggles.
More info about the methods we used can be found at the Peaceful Sleeper