In an effort to not write an essay, I have made this post in to a two-part series. Part 1 will outline the more research-based elements of sleep training, whereas part 2 will focus on our personal experience with using a gentle sleep training method.
Continuing from where I left off in part 1, here I want to talk about our personal experience in undertaking sleep training for Baby Mermy. Although the research indicated to us the importance of sleep and guiding our little ones to sleep better through the night on their own, actually implementing the sleep training strategies necessary to do so was an extremely difficult decision to make. It is one thing to read and research and it is another to actually carry it out. Research, books, sleep experts on social media, bloggers, they can all speak to this topic with as much knowledge and conviction as they want, but how these strategies will actually play out in your own home with your own little one is a whole different ball game. And it’s a scary game at that.
Our preferred sleep training method
After doing copious research, and freaking out about stressing out my baby through this whole process, we decided to go with The Sleep Lady Shuffle method created by Kim West, the Sleep Lady herself. Her website makes the following claim, “Don’t cry it out! There is a gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child…” Obviously, this appealed to us and so we purchased her book and picked a day to start the training that would ensure a few days with Papa Mermy at home (sometimes, he can work later into the evening, past Baby Mermy’s bedtime).
In preparing for what was to come, we attempted to be more aware of Baby Mermy’s natural sleep time and realized that we had been putting him to sleep a little later than when he was naturally inclined to go to sleep. We also firmed up his bedtime routine and included a little bit more time for his nighttime nursing session as we had made the decision to night wean him at the same time (as that was his biggest crutch).
We started the process by staying in Baby Mermy’s room at night to help him acclimatize to the new nighttime routine. This meant going into a dark room at 6:30 PM(!) and staying there until the morning (I couldn’t leave the room or him; in so many ways, this was a weaning and sleep training process for me too). Suffice to say, we watched a lot of Netflix hiding under the blankets.
After a few nights, we moved out and stayed in the study next door in between the checks and other processes outlined in the Sleep Lady Shuffle method. Was the process easy? Nope! Baby Mermy resisted rather strongly but we followed the process, with a few tweaks here and there, and ensured we were there to help him through it all.
We were changing his habits, his neurological patterns as it were, with regards to sleep and we knew that such a mammoth activity could not be accomplished so quickly for our high-spirited little guy. So, we ensured that we were extremely sensitive to his needs and put our own feelings of sadness, worry, and just sheer ickiness to the back burner to be dealt with when Baby Mermy was soundly asleep. Then, the tears would flow and the stress would be felt, and boy did that happen in spades, but while we were there for him, we made sure to exude as much love as we could so that he knew that even though something he didn’t really want was happening, Mama and Papa were there to help him through it.
As we went through the nights, we quickly learned that going in too quickly was actually stimulating him further and preventing him from falling asleep. We also realized that his word for wanting to nurse had also become his word to self-soothe. He was not only finding ways to adapt, but was happier for it. He slept better, longer, and woke up far more refreshed than I thought possible. That alone made it worth it.
Baby Mermy’s reaction
Did he cry through all of this? Absolutely, but he was slightly hysterical only the first night and only for 15 minutes (I made copious notes) and we were there with him, soothing him and letting him know that we were there for him. Written down, it seems like this was easy for us to manage when the opposite is true. I sat there gripping Papa Mermy’s hand while we listened to our little baby cry and tried our best to console him without giving him what he had become attached to. We eventually started singing to him, and patting him, and rubbing his back until he fell asleep. Sure, we weren’t meant to do that as per the plan, but we modified the plan without compromising the bigger principles to suit the needs of our family, as every family should do. There’s no rule that says we must STRICTLY abide by whatever is written; no one is an expert on our families except us, and even that is debatable.
Within a few nights, he started falling asleep quicker and staying asleep longer. We did have setbacks: teething, a fever and ear ache, and just general disgruntlement, which affected his ability to fall asleep on his own. But after comforting him, and knowing what he could do, what he was capable of doing, we helped him to help himself without crying (perhaps a little fussing, perhaps a little whining, but never out-and-out crying). The Sleep Lady Shuffle helped us to gently teach our baby to fall asleep. It’s been 32 days and we now have a little guy who can fall asleep on his own and stay asleep.
So, should you sleep train?
My purpose in writing this is not to persuade you to take any action regarding your child’s sleep that you don’t want to. Rather, I chose to write about sleep training here as someone who started out as being someone very against it and transformed to someone who gave it a shot. I can see that my son is sleeping better now and is a lot more engaged during the day. He has always been a happy baby, but I can see that his concentration has improved and he engages much better with his environment.
This wasn’t visible right from the start of sleep training. In the beginning he was tired, a little more clingy, nursed much more during the day, and did not want to play on his own. That’s of course to be expected: he couldn’t make up for his sleep deficit in just a few days nor could we expect him to wake up happy and adjusted to the changes he was experiencing in his life. It wasn’t easy on him but he smiled through it and, once he adjusted to these changes, he accepted them and tried his best to acclimatize.
Will we try the same method with our (God-willing) second child? Or will we follow different rules and methods? As parents, we have to invest the time in thinking our choices through and recognizing that there will be moments we will have to modify our course, and then feeling empowered and confident enough to do so.
Our children are strong with great resilience and Baby Mermy proved it to us by growing, accepting, and adapting. We truly believe that he’s better for the decisions we took on his behalf and hope that we have given him a skill that will aid him through his life: the ability to sleep.
Have any of you had to modify your course of action with your baby’s sleep? What were some of the issues you faced? Let’s inspire each other to be confident parents.
United in diapering,