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Adventures in Sleep Training

Some moms are blessed with babies who sleep beautifully right out the gate. These cherubic children are naturally good sleepers, gifting their mothers with long, glorious naps and quiet, restful nights. And some moms give birth to babies like mine... Babies who have never been good nappers a single day in their little lives and who definitely do not sleep through the night - Not even close! My beautiful boy is eight months old now. I love him dearly. I love him so much it hurts me. But he is a terrible sleeper. He is all kinds of other amazing things, but a good sleeper he is NOT. And so, after months and months and MONTHS of struggle, we started sleep training. And.... it's not gone well.

We initially began sleep training just before my son turned six months old. This is a prime age to give sleep training a try because by this point, your baby is capable of going a full night without a feeding. We researched several different methods of sleep training and we settled on the Ferber Method. This method involves allowing your child to cry, but checking in (without taking them out of the crib) at increasing intervals until they fall asleep on their own. This teaches them to self soothe, but it is considered a more gentle approach to a full cry it out method, allowing you to comfort your baby every few minutes. It is also considered one of the quicker methods to sleep train and I was coming off of six months of hefty sleep deprivation. At this point, I was desperate for this child to sleep through the night.

The Ferber Method was MAGIC for my baby! Within just three nights with minimal crying, our little guy was sleeping 10-11 hours overnight. Everything was going great and honestly, so much better than I had anticipated. His terrible nap habits had improved drastically. From having to rock him to sleep for each and every short nap (30 minutes, and that was IF he allowed me to put him down at all), to falling asleep independently and napping for an hour or more. He was falling asleep on his own at bedtime and sleeping through the night without a peep. My life had changed. I had my freedom back.... For two weeks. And then, my baby caught RSV.

We had never dealt with a sickness like RSV before as first time parents. My baby felt terrible and he just wanted his mama. He wouldn't sleep on his own, so I made the only colossal mistake I have made as a parent thus far: I let him sleep in my bed. I let him sleep in my bed the entire time he was sick. And now, I had created a very, very big problem. If you are a family who chooses to co-sleep, I fully support that for you. But this is not a choice I wanted to make for my family. My vision for a good night's sleep includes my child(ren) sleeping independently in their room, in their own bed, all night, every night. So now, I had to figure out how to get this baby out of my bed and back into his own. 

For the next two weeks, I battled this child each and every night to sleep in his own bed. All of our sleep training had gone directly out the window. He would sleep in his crib at the beginning of the night, but overnight, he would wake up and scream, sometimes for 3 or 4 hours on end. Nothing would soothe him except being brought to my bed to sleep. Exhausted, sobbing, I would give in after an hours long, middle of the night battle and bring him to co-sleep, desperate for rest. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I knew we needed help.

So, we hired a sleep consultant. I don't know why, but I'm embarrassed to admit that we paid a stranger to teach us how to teach our baby to sleep. Getting your child to sleep through the night just seems like a thing you're supposed to know how to do. And we had no clue what to do, so yeah. We hired help. We spent $200 for a phone consultation and two weeks of unlimited texting and emailing with a certified sleep consultant. The sleep consultant put my child on a pretty rigid schedule and whipped us parents into shape to get this sweet and stubborn baby back to self soothing and back to sleeping through the night. We learned that we had inadvertently given our baby a strong sleep association with needing to be fed and/or have a full belly to sleep. The consultant followed along with our original sleep training method that was successful from before, but with her own tweaks that fit our family and our specific situation better. It took longer this time around and my baby was much more resistant to our tactics, but one more terrible week later, my baby was finally, blessedly sleeping through the night again.... For four nights. And then, he caught COVID.

Now, at this point, if you want to scream with frustration for me, that is an appropriate response. I was livid. Not only was I terrified that my baby had a terrible illness that is literally killing millions of people across the globe, I selfishly just wanted some dang sleep. But I pulled myself up by these fraying boot straps. We got through COVID, sleep completely derailed again, and now we're starting over.

I stopped counting how many nights it's taken me this time around to get my baby to sleep through the night on his own. I think we're about a week and a half in now and we are getting close to sleeping through the night again. The key to good sleep training is consistency. Babies are adorable, but they are manipulative little humans. If they sense even for a second that you're going to give in to the crying and hold them, rock them, let them sleep in your arms, it's over - At least, with my stubborn boy it is! 

All this to say... Babies are hard. Sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult things I have encountered in my entire life. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. If you're the mom of one of those angel babies who are naturally gifted sleepers, count yourself lucky. If you're like me and you're in the ever-sinking boat of sleep deprivation... solidarity, mama. I've heard that someday, we will indeed sleep again.

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