I am not a doctor nor a sleep coach. I am simply a mom of two young kids. The training and experience I have is with my own children, and like so many moms out there, I’m just in the thick of trying to do what’s best.
Ok! Now that we’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, I’m excited to share some thoughts I’ve recently had on sleep training. Put simply, sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn how to get to sleep and stay asleep. If the baby happens to wake during the night, which we all do as adults, sleep training helps the baby learn how to get back to sleep.
There are countless methods of sleep training out there. Just type the term “sleep training” into a Google search and over 11 million results appear. I’ve probably read about half of them at 3am as I nursed my daughter back to sleep for the first 6 months of her life. Yet even after pouring over website after website after website util my eyes stung from the smartphone glow combined with weeks of sleep deprivation, I’m learning that the baby can guide the approach you take more effectively than trying to decide on one yourself.
Below is a short list of some sleep training thoughts I’ve had bouncing around in my head over the past few months. And for any tired mom reading this, hang in there!
1. ASK YOUR BABY (and his or her doctor), ‘ARE YOU READY?’
As soon as we got the go ahead from my son’s pediatrician that he no longer needed nighttime feedings for weight gain, we felt pretty confident that he could work to get himself to sleep. He cried, for sure, for about three nights and after that has slept soundly through the night. The crying, although painful while it was happening, never escalated to a level with which I was uncomfortable. He’d cry, but it was more in a ‘Hey MOM! Get in here!’ kind of way. His crying was never uncontrollable. When we attempted to see if my daughter would self-soothe when she turned the same age that my son had been, she’d SOB as fat tears rolled down her cheeks. The crying would absolutely escalate, and to me, that was an indication she wasn’t quite ready. Even though a method you might be following says to do something a certain way, allow yourself to tweak the approach based on how ready your baby is. Your mom-instinct will not steer you wrong.
2. WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, REMIND YOURSELF ‘THIS TOO SHALL PASS.’
Developing some sort of mantra to say to yourself when you’re exhausted and unable to think clearly helps tremendously. For me, this mantra was ‘this too shall pass.’ As soon as I said this phrase to myself, the present situation which moments before seemed brutal and unfair (e.g. waking up six times to nurse between 12am and 3am!) all of a sudden was put into perspective. Find a phrase or mantra that resonates with you and repeat it to yourself when the going gets tough.
3. TAKE THE IMMEDIATE ACTION THAT WILL HELP YOU THE NEXT DAY
We got to a point with my daughter where she would wake once or twice a night, nurse very efficiently (10 minutes max), and then go right back to sleep. I too was able to go right back down after feeding her so even though she wasn’t “sleeping through the night,” we were all functioning remarkably well in the daytime. If something is working for you and you do not feel an immediate need to change it, trust that instinct! Take the action that will help you and your baby be as rested as possible for the day ahead.
4. QUESTION BUT DON’T COMPARE
Who’s guilty of seeing a social media post about a baby who’s significantly younger than your baby, sleeping significantly more than your baby? I know I am. And you know what I do when I see this? I go down a dark rabbit hold of comparisons. Yuck. Instead, if you hear of a baby who’s sleeping in a way that you’d love to experience, ask what their approach has been. Maybe you’ll learn that baby has a much different disposition than yours. Maybe that baby hasn’t begun teething yet while yours has been cutting teeth for a week straight. Maybe that mom has an amazing sleep technique that you could try. Comparing never leads to positive feelings. Question instead. Learn. Explore. And hey, even if you don’t end up using anything new that you’ve learned, a connection between two moms has been made and that’s never a bad thing.
I like the idea that “one size fits all” does not exist when it comes to babies and sleep. How could it? We are all so unique as individuals. That’s what keeps things interesting.