Sleep training is one of those touchy subjects where women have very different opinions, and tend to voice those opinions loudly. But here at e2s, we believe this is only one of many aspects of parenting that falls squarely within the realm of ‘Christian Freedom.’ We thought it would be neat to show you the (very) different ways that we do sleep training at our houses, without allowing our differences here to spoil our friendship. You got a picture of Emily’s sleep habits on Monday, and today you’ll see mine!
I love sleeping with my babies. While I am not a hard-core attachment parenting advocate, there are a lot of things about attachment parenting that I appreciate. Co-sleeping is one of them. One of the things I most look forward to with a newborn is those first few weeks, when I have an excuse to stay in bed all day, snuggling with my sleepy new baby. I love it–I can smell that new-baby-smell right now.
There are two aspects of sleep training at our house: how the baby goes to bed at night, and how the baby is dealt with when he wakes up in the middle of the night. I’ll start with going to bed. One of the key tenets of attachment sleep-parenting is never letting your baby cry himself to sleep. I practiced this with our first two children, and it just about drove me crazy. When our third was born, my husband and I decided that we needed to know the baby would go to bed, without one of us nursing, rocking, singing or bouncing for hours on end. Bedtime was more important to me than nap time: I needed to know that she would go to bed between 7 and 7:30 every night. So when she was about one month old, we started putting her to bed on her own. I would make sure that she had a couple hours of awake time, then nurse her to sleep. I wouldn’t let her fall completely asleep nursing, but instead tried to put her in her bed while she was still a little awake so that she would learn what the bedtime routine looked like. It took a few nights of crying, but never for more than 30 minutes, and then she had it figured out. After a week, she would rouse when I set her down, but not fuss and go straight to sleep. It was beautiful. Once she had learned the bedtime routine, it worked for naptime as well: clean diaper, nurse until drowsy, bed.
The middle of the nights go a little differently. The first time our babies wake up, after being put to sleep in their own beds, I bring them into our bed for the rest of the night. Usually, this is around 11 or 12. I tried the whole sitting-up-with-a-nursing-baby routine, and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t mind sleeping curled around a baby, and I felt less of that new-baby fog when I just brought them to bed with me. Whenever they would wake up the rest of the night, I would just shift them around, let them nurse again, and drift back to sleep.
It’s funny, but what attachment parenting advocates don’t tell you about this system is that it is a habit that will need to be broken at some point. When a baby learns that he can nurse at his convenience all night long, he won’t magically learn to sleep through the night at 4 months. This doesn’t bother me until my babies are about 9 months old. But once my babies start crawling and eating solid food more seriously, I enjoy sleeping with them less.
Our system for this second phase of sleep training has been a little different with each kid. For a most of them, I just decided to quit nursing at night cold turkey. When they woke up to nurse, I would bring them to our bed and hold and comfort them while they cried, but not let them nurse. I would decide what morning hour they were allowed to wake up, and let them nurse then–usually 6 am. It only took a couple nights of crying, and then they figured it out. To me, this just felt better than letting them cry in their own beds.
With our current little guy, things have worked a little differently, and I’m not really sure why. We are right now in the middle of training him, and it has not been as grueling as our other kids. When he wakes up at 10 or 11, instead of bringing him to our bed, I’ve been using some of the ideas in Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution. He quickly got to the point where I could pick him up, comfort him, and put him back in his bed with a little back-rubbing, and he would go back to sleep. He would fuss for a minute or so, but it was never the all-out screaming that I dreaded. When he wakes up again at 3, I do nurse him, but I make sure to get him back into his bed, and then he sleeps until morning. I’m going to give him a few more weeks before I remove that 3 am feeding.
On a practical note–our co-sleeping habits work best in a king bed. My husband has his third, the baby and I have our two-thirds. Because we have enough space, I’m not worried about the baby rolling off the bed, or my husband rolling onto him.
Our naptimes have never been set in stone. I have followed the general schedule that babies need 3 naps until sometime around 6-8 months, then 2 naps, and eventually 1. They have never had set times, though, it has always been when they showed signs of tiredness. As I mentioned earlier, our naptime routine is just like bedtime: I change their diaper, nurse until drowsy, and then put them down.
I want to reiterate that I know this system will not work for everybody. I understand the need to have set naptimes, and to have a baby sleeping through the night much earlier than mine do. This system has just been what worked best with my sleep needs and our family habits. If it works for you, do it! If it doesn’t, try something different.