Want to know why I finally chose to sleep train my third child after not sleep training my first two? Here are 5 reasons why I sleep trained my baby.
Life and the meaning of free will is redefined the moment a new baby is placed in your arms. Everything you ever enjoyed doing alone, such as going to the bathroom, is something you suddenly realize you took for granted. There are plenty of reasons why parents don’t sleep train their babies but few reasons why you shouldn’t actually do it. I know because I was one of those parents!
When I first became a Mom in 2013 I had zero interest in following any type of sleep schedule with Annabelle. The pediatrician told me to nurse her every three hours … and that was enough of a commitment. If I had to follow wake windows or time her naps or God forbid, let her cry it out – well that was just too much to coordinate. I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to meet my own basic needs if I was consumed with sleep training. So I didn’t do it.
5 Reasons Why I Sleep Trained My Baby
Ailey was born in 2015 and Annabelle quit napping the first day we were all home together. It was A LOT going from one to two children, so I did what I could to survive being a stay at home Mom. I let baby Ailey eat, play, and sleep whenever she wanted – and it seemed to work just fine.
If we weren’t home during nap time, the girls would pass out on a shoulder or in the stroller. Since they had a flexible bed time, we were able to stay out past 5pm visiting friends or going to dinner. We could always count on a car nap on our way home! While this all may sound pretty amazing – what flexible babies! – there is a BIG catch. Our babies did not sleep through the night.
The reality is neither Annabelle nor Ailey slept through the night until they were two and a half years old. That means I didn’t sleep for a full uninterrupted 8 hours for almost 5 years. Not only did the girls suffer from night terrors and frequent leg cramps, but they also didn’t know how to put themselves back to sleep after waking up. The only solution seemed to be snuggling with Mom and Dad – and even in our bed they tossed and turned all night long.
I know some babies just do not sleep through the night. However, I never tried to teach my babies the tools they needed for a full night’s sleep in a crib. So, when I was pregnant with Arbor and barely sleeping with a 5 and 8 year old, I promised myself I would try everything to teach her to sleep.
1. Babies and parents need to sleep.
When I was pregnant with my third baby, I knew I was going to have to find a way to sleep if I wanted to be able to take care of myself and my children. Sleep is important at any and every age. For a baby, sleep is crucial for brain development and good health. For a grown-up, sleep is essential for physical functioning, mental well-being, and your immune system.
Now that I have a baby who sleeps so I can wake up well-rested, I look back on and wonder how I functioned. I’m thankful my older daughters’ were developmentally on track despite their poor sleeping habits as babies. However, I was not and did not feel my best on a daily basis for quite some time. I was often sick, cranky, anxious or lacking energy after not sleeping at night.
2. Babies and parents shouldn’t sleep together.
Annabelle and Ailey never enjoyed sleeping in a crib or playpen … or anywhere alone. Nap time and bedtime was done best in the arms of Mommy or Daddy. While contact naps are acceptable from time to time, they do not promote independent sleep. Our babies’ inability to sleep alone was very inconvenient (especially when traveling).
By three months old, Arbor was already napping in her crib. I just put her down for a nap in her crib one day and never turned back. But at night, Arbor slept between me and my husband in an infant lounger. It felt convenient as she was waking crying to nurse every three hours – but I was doing us all a disservice. Brandon and I were often up even if she wasn’t. Not to mention the obvious – a baby in a lounger between her parents is not the safest place to sleep.
3. I want my baby to love her crib.
The crib is the most safe, comfortable place for baby to sleep. However, you can’t just put a baby in a crib and expect her to sleep through the night every night thereafter. I wanted Arbor to love her crib since her big sisters didn’t appreciate it (it’s the same one!). It was also important Arbor had her own space that she felt safe and enjoyed being in.
The problem is I didn’t know how to teach Arbor to sleep in her crib overnight and was afraid to try it on my own. Meg O’Leary, Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, came to my rescue! Meg and I started working together when Arbor was four months old and at the peak of the four month sleep regression. She taught me how to teach Arbor the skills needed to not only fall asleep in her crib, but to also put herself back to sleep.
4. What did I have to lose? I already knew what it’s like to not sleep train babies.
My oldest daughters had a power over me, controlling nap times and night times for years. I was envious of parents who could lay their baby in a crib for a nap and do some chores around the house. I was jealous of babies asleep before 7pm so parents could have a few hours alone. And most of all, I wanted to know what it felt like to sleep a full 7 hours before Arbor was 4 years old.
My motivation to sleep train Arbor grew from years of no sleep. I already knew what it was like to not sleep train my babies – so what did I have to lose if we tried it out? If sleep training didn’t work, then it didn’t work. But I’m so thankful it did!
5. The end result is worth everything.
I knew sleep training Arbor would be difficult, especially since there is a little bit of crying involved. If we are being honest, the first two nights were actually horrible. I cried. Arbor cried. And it took every ounce of my being to not bring her into my bed. But I knew from family and friends that the crying was only temporary. The end result of sleep training would be an independent sleeper – and she is SO good at it now.
Sleep Training Progress at 14 Months Old
During the ten months since we first sleep trained Arbor, she has experienced sleep regressions, teething, and illnesses. This is TOTALLY NORMAL because sleep training doesn’t mean your baby will have perfect nights forever. Sleep training merely teaches your baby good sleep habits – so expect inconsistencies when regressions, teething, and illnesses appear.
At 14 months old, we recently adjusted Arbor’s schedule for the first time since we established her daily routine last year. She still naps two times a day without any issues and sleeps through the night. She can lay down awake and put herself to sleep (sometimes with a cute little song). If she wakes in the middle of the night, she knows how to go back to sleep. The best part of all of this is we are all so happy. Oh… and I SLEEP FOR 7 HOURS alone EVERY NIGHT (unless my older girls wake me up).
Sleep training a baby can seem intimidating. I imagine it isn’t always easy if you try to do it alone. There are books and digital guides for sleep training, but if you can hire a sleep consultant – I highly recommend it. Meg offers one-on-one support and is the accountability partner every parent needs while sleep training.
Want to know everything about baby carrier naps? Check out this blog post!
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