How Sleep Training Made Me a Better Mother

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If you had told me I was going to become a sleep training supporter, I would have said you don’t know my parenting style at all. Yet here we are two years later, and I’m writing about how sleep training made me a better mother.

When I look back to when I first became a mother, it still boggles my mind how unprepared I was. One of the first shocks was the lack of sleep. Everyone tells you about it, but you really don’t understand what it means until you are in the middle of it.

In my ideal world, I wanted to co-sleep until my baby told me he was ready to go to his own bed. I was completely against doing sleep training because I was all about gentle parenting, I had learned about the negative effects on the Instagram and didn’t want to put my baby through that. I wish someone had told me it was okay to do sleep training; for some parents and babies, it could be the way to go.

The first part of my plan that fell through was the co-sleeping part. There were sleep safety guidelines to follow. The AAP says that for safe sleep, infants need to be placed on their backs in their own sleep space with no other people, so I got a bassinet. The baby will sleep with us when he gets older.

Around four months old, our baby started sleeping longer stretches. One of the many mistakes I made was that every time he woke up in the middle of the night, I would get up and give him his pacifier back, so he never really learned how to fall back asleep on his own. Then he got sick and couldn’t breathe through his nose. He didn’t want the pacifier anymore, and this meant he would wake up every hour even after he recovered.

My husband bought a crib, so when the baby started rolling on his own, we tried to move him to his room, but with the night wakings every hour, we would move him to our bed. After that, I learned that I could not sleep with my baby. The anxiety of something happening to him on the bed, the amount that he moved in the bed waking one or both of us up, as well as his night wakings, didn’t let me sleep, so I was miserable. The lack of sleep got to the point where I could not function, me and my husband were fighting every day, and I really didn’t feel like I was being a good mom. It had been over eight months without a decent night of sleep.

My husband started pushing about doing sleep training, and one of the things that helped me be more open to it was the book Cribsheet by Emily Oster. The book is a data-driven guide for new parents, and one of the chapters discusses studies done on sleep training and concludes that, based on the data, sleep training does not negatively affect children in the long run. So, I found a sleep coach that had gentle sleep training advertised and got a two-week plan for us.

Sleep training wasn’t easy. My husband is the real hero of the story. The sleep coach suggested dad should take over the first couple of nights to take the breastfeeding out of the equation. Baby would cry a lot while my husband held him, and I sat in the car crying, too. Naps were harder, baby really didn’t take them the first few days, but that didn’t make the nights easier, he was overtired. I wanted to quit halfway through, but my husband kept us committed.

We took turns every night waking and sometimes I would rock him back to sleep at 4:30 am, but I had to quit that before long because I wasn’t supposed to rock him back to sleep. We started going out for coffee at 6 am and had an early start of the day since we weren’t supposed to put him back to bed after 5:30 am. Gradually, nights got better; he would get up less and cry less to fall asleep until he started teething, and we had to do it all over again. After restarting the process, he finally slept through an entire night after two weeks! It felt amazing to get a full night of sleep. It was all worth it in the end. Now that my baby sleeps through the night in his own room, everyone is happier. Baby gets the sleep he needs, and I feel like a better mother.

Sleep training helped me with my motherhood journey and taught me a lot. It has helped me with my own anxiety. I’ve learned that sometimes it is better to let him cry a little bit before checking on him because it can mean more crying if I do. I’ve learned that during naps, he may go back to sleep if I wait five minutes to get him and that sometimes he is just happy laying on his bed awake. Of course, we still have sicknesses and difficult random nights to deal with from time to time, but there’s the knowledge we will sleep through the night again, and that makes it easier.

Every family is different, and I believe you must do what works for you and your baby. Like I said before, it is okay to do sleep training, as it can make you a better mother.

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