Tips for New Sleep Training Moms…

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So, I have had at least four new mom friends post sleep training questions on Facebook in the last month.  Most were To Sleep Train or Not To Sleep Train type questions…always leading to many passionate responses.

This is not an argument for sleep training.

That’s your decision to make—I am not here to convince you to do it or woo you to my side.  I could write a thesis on why we did it but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you.  This is specifically meant for new moms who have already decided that they will sleep train that new little baby.  It is a collection of advice that was given to me as a new mom, plus a few more things I wish I’d known as we embarked on this journey…

Educate Yourself
Chances are, if you’ve come to this decision, you’ve done your fair share of reading.  If you think sleep training is synonymous for “ignore your crying baby”—keep reading!  I can't even begin to name all the references available out there.  For us, BabyWise and Happiest Baby on the Block {the cliff notes DVD} worked.  Chronicles of a BabyWise Mom blog was my bible-- I swear I read it for 2 hours everyday the first three months of Charlotte's life.  It's indexed by age and, despite the title, it's full of information and strategies from several different books.  There is a ton of info on problem solving sleep disturbances and the comment sections alone are a treasure trove of insight from other parents.  There are a lot of books, a lot of websites, a lot of friends.  Do your best to implement a mix of it from people/places you trust and are in line with your parenting philosophies.

Start as You Mean to Go

Everyone has a different opinion on when to start scheduling and implementing Cry It Out {CIO}.  From birth…six months…one year…whatever.  I’m not here to tell you when to start CIO.  But start as you mean to go.  It can be hard in the fog of newborn-hood when you’ll do anything to get them to sleep, but be intentional about patterns and practices you put into place early on.  If the baby has spent six month rocked to sleep and snoozing in your arms, you can’t just expect them to start snoozing without you on a random day of your choosing.  For us, it was easier to train Charlotte when she was young and didn’t know any differently, than to suddenly change habits when she was older.

Prepare for Push Back

You could sell tickets and popcorn to the comments sections of these sleep training articles—people are passionate about this and there is a ton of CIO hate out there.  You will get push back…
....from people who are not living in your house, not taking care of your baby, and not up at 3, 4, or 5 am.
...not to your face, but you will read that sleep training, CIO, scheduling etc...is mean, that you're lazy, that your kid will feel abandoned, that you can’t breastfeed, that you will psychologically warp your child...

DON’T feel like you have to prepare a defense because this is your decision to make and no one else's. Just know this is a HOT topic and almost everyone has an opinion.  IF you have chosen to sleep train, stick to your guns and do what works best for your family.

Have a Strategy

As with most other parenting decisions, this takes discipline and intentionality.  There are many books, many strategies, lots of things work for different people.  But make a plan with your spouse and implement it together.  If it doesn't work after a few weeks, change it up, try something new, blend different ideas— there is lots of info out there to learn from!

Be on the same page

On that note, you and your spouse have to be on the same page! If one of you think it's time to cry it out and the other thinks it's too soon or cruel and unusual punishment, someone's going to harbor resentment or place blame.  This creates too many opportunities for blaming, resentment, bullying, and accusations—and you know what new, hormonal, sleep-deprived parents need?

Not that.

This is just the beginning of making hard decisions together for your kiddo.  Whatever you decide, decide together.

Start with Naps

I always introduced sleep transitions at naptime, when she wasn’t expected to sleep as long, when I had a sort-of clear head, and when sleep disruptions wouldn’t have as big an impact on my sleep—better to freak out at 3pm than 3am!  Transitioning to a crib, dropping the swaddle, CIO, dropping the paci… Introduce all that stuff at naptime and transition to night time once they get used to it.

You Won't Get it Right All the Time

I thought all of my sleep training friends had perfect little babies who napped on schedule and cried on cue.  I thought they all knew exactly when a hungry cry was a hungry cry and a sleepy cry was a sleepy cry, and I was the failure who was getting it wrong all the time. 

There WILL be times when you mean to cry it out and the baby will actually have had an explosive diaper.  There are times they will need you and you simply won't get there fast enough.  You will think you did it all perfectly and they will STILL wake up 45 minutes into their nap {and.it.will.drive.you.crazy}.  Thank the Lord, all babies don't have long term memories—it's the grace given to new parents.  You'll mess it up, you won't get it perfectly right, but you WILL both figure it out and everyone will eventually sleep.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  Don’t give up.

Break the Rules!

All that to say, you're the parent and you know your child best!  BabyWise calls swings and pacis sleep props, but darn it if I didn't use to them to abandon.  I took a nap with Charlotte every day I was on maternity leave.  I still sneak in at night and take her out of her crib for a few minutes of snuggles.  The point of sleep training isn't to rid snuggling from the earth, it's to teach self-soothing and independent sleeping.  And if that's the general pattern you're setting in your house, one co-sleeping session isn't going to ruin it.  Everybody has good days and bad, and sometimes you just need to snuggle.

And that’s it!  Power on, mamas.  You can do it.

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