Here’s the second part to Rachel’s story on how she sleep-trained her daughter. Read the first part here.
To help our daughter become a better sleeper, here’s what we did.
We came up with a new bedtime routine, which looks like this: I breastfeed her 30 minutes before the time she usually starts showing signs of sleepiness, wipe her down, and read a bedtime story. We turn out the lights, kiss her goodnight, tell her we love her and put her down into the cot while she is still awake. This dissociates nursing/rocking/cradling from sleep. It took us a week to identify the right bedtime for her and stuck to it ever since.
We used a controlled-crying method recommended by a friend. Faith was 9 months old when we sleep-trained her, and she could pull herself up to stand. Naturally, she protested by standing up and crying once we put her down into the cot. We reached in to help her lie down, making sure the back of her head landed on the pillow, while patting on her back and telling her to go to sleep in a firm but soothing voice. This associates lying down with bedtime.
We flipped her back down into the cot and told her to go to sleep for the first 20 times she stood up, and left her room for 10-15 minutes. We returned to find her still standing up as often as she could, and this time we flipped her back down into the cot for the next 40 times (capping it at 40 times for subsequent attempts in the same session) before leaving the room for another 10-15 minutes. We noticed that Faith was starting to whine more than cry whenever we left the room, and decided to stay out of sight for a little longer than 10 minutes. To our surprise, she sat back down after a while and fell asleep in 15 minutes!
On the first night of sleep training, Faith woke up 4-5 times, but managed to put herself back to sleep within 5-10 minutes, so we didn’t have to go in at all. The second night we did this, she fell asleep within 15 minutes at bedtime, and only woke up 2-3 times (went back to sleep after 5-10 minutes). By the 6th night, she whined for about 5 minutes before falling asleep at bedtime, and slept through for more or less than 12 hours. It’s been more than two months since we sleep-trained her, and other than the occasional early wakings, we now have a good sleeper (not so for naps but I don’t see the need to nap-train her just yet).
We were surprised how quickly Faith took to sleep-training. After all, she is quite a feisty one and we were mentally prepared to abort the training if she resisted. I think we were very lucky to have hit an optimum sleep-training window for her.
Though the process was short and quite painless, it was rather nerve-wrecking for me to hear her cry, even for 15 minutes. I was wailing as I hunched over the video monitor, and needed my husband to comfort me. I did feel a tinge of regret for putting Faith through this, and it took a few weeks for me to stop feeling guilty.
Eventually, I realised that it was a necessary evil to get things back on track, what with depression looming over our heads, cracks forming in our marriage, and I, morphing into a careless mother. I accepted that I am not a supermum and should not aim to be one, because the truth was I didn’t have the stamina to go on with chronic sleep deprivation. It was hard for me to see this and and even harder to say this out loud because Mummy’s Guilt can have me feeling like I’m not doing enough for my daughter, especially when people tell me babies won’t be babies forever…that I should treasure every second I have with them, even if it means giving up on sleep.
But deep in my heart, I know this…that whatever works, works, and this is something that I’ve tried to practise when parenting Faith. Nursing, rocking, cradling her to sleep worked for a while and it took a long time for me to admit that I wasn’t tough enough to keep on doing that. We pressed ahead with sleep-training, even though it was not part of my plan, and things are working well for us again.
Having had way more sleep than I ever did since becoming a mother, I am alert, energised and happy, and I finally enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, as opposed to feeling like I have lost myself to others. So, yes, I am glad that I tossed the sleep books and ignored the naysayers, because what matters is for us three to be happy…and we are.