motherhood,  Parenting,  pregnancy,  sleep issues

Sleeptraining and other parenting curse words

Do you sleep train in your house? Would you consider letting your little snowflake cry it out?

My little sister, a freshly minted mom, was asking questions about the trauma that is sleep after baby, and I had to laugh before answering her in all seriousness “do whatever you can handle, you’re the one who’s going to suffer most.”

What I mean by that is if she goes the crying to sleep route, she’s the one, as mom, whose hormones are going to run amok at the sound of her sweet baby’s persistent banshee cries. And if she continues on the path of little rest, she’s the one who’s going to feel the most like the victim of a locomotive hit and run come 6 am.

In short, there are no victors in sleep training. There is only survival.

We’ve had one decent sleeper whose Babywise-reading fresh faced mommy was fanatical about his feeding schedule and had the ideal work-from-home job and a convenient lack of any other pressing small human-sized interruptions to back it up, a sleepless wonder of the colicky variety, and a mysteriously mellow happy napper who willingly does 12 hour stretches when the sun does the same, and has since very early on. What we’ve done differently with each of them: pretty much nothing.

In other words, sleep is a crapshoot, and while I’m always willing to try anything come the 4th trimester, it always seems to shake out during year one (or shortly thereafter. Ahem, John Paul.) at which point life becomes technicolor once again, and the day doesn’t break with such violence.

Is that about how it goes in your house? Or do you have a time-honored and sacred methodology that works on all makes and models of baby? I’m prepared to be wrong, and as I creep ever closer to this latest third trimester, I must confess to feeling the first stirrings of primal fear at the thought of drunken sleepless days of parenting at a 4:1 ratio come August.

Any words of wisdom to pass along? I’m all (plugged) ears.

“I’ll sleep when you’re dead, mom”



  • ashley.elise

    No wisdom or successful methods here. Our first was a horrible sleeper until 15ish months. Poor first time parents, we didn’t know any better–we just prayed for a happy, healthy baby. Well, we learned our lesson after that! Each pregnancy since has included fervent prayers for a happy, healthy baby who sleeps. #2 & #3 were noticeably better, but not great. #3 is nearly 14 months and still not sleeping through the night… just praying he gets there before #4 joins the game in November.

    “In short, there are no victors in sleep training. There is only survival.” Truest words about sleep training EVER! Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂

  • MaryRuth

    Soooo true!!! Sleep is a total crapshoot and it all depends on the kid! My first was horrible and still gets less sleep than I do (he is 12 now). Each of my kids is different and it has very little to do with ME. I would like to see a person with more than just a few kids swear by ANY sleep training method. Parents with lots of kids have a unique gift is seeing the beauty & the diversity in the mix of kids… When we aren’t blinded by sleep deprivation that is…

  • Micaela

    We don’t sleep train here. I tried out of desperation with my oldest and it was an unmitigated disaster. We co-sleep with our babies and that really helps all of us get the rest we need. When baby hits about 14 months, I night wean for my sanity. All of my kids have slept through the night once they were night weaned, and it is infinitely easier to explain to a 14 month old than to an infant why she can’t nurse until the sun comes up.

    I remember (before I’d had any kids) telling my mom (mother of 11) about this AMAZING technique I’d heard of where babies would sleep through the night by 2-4 weeks old. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard my mom laugh so hard in all my life. 🙂 She is a serious disciplinarian in other aspects, so no wimp, either.

    All that said, no judgment on people who do it differently. I sleep well with my babies but I know others don’t.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Ha, I’d like to see someone give a mother of 11 advice on anything…I’d just quietly hand over my checkbook and daily planner and house keys and tell her to do her thing while I took notes.

  • Anna

    I haven’t slept in 4 1/2 years……I tell my kids that when they are teenagers I am going to go in their room while they are fast asleep and scream “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” as loud as I can. That’ll teach ’em.

  • Isabelle

    Have you heard of the book “Bringing up Bébé”? I mention it because my sample study for sleep in babies is one baby so far, so I need back up!
    I am French, living in England, and in England, all I hear is “nothing you can do makes any difference” “you’re not going to sleep until they’re two” or “Your first one slept well? Wait until the second one!” (which is a bit mean if you ask me). But in France, my friends think that my son was a bit late, sleeping 8 hours at night at 2 months. And I am pretty sure French babies don’t come with special sleepiness in their blood. There are many differences in the ways babies are brought up, obviously, co-sleeping is extremely rare in France for example, but the author of the book I mentioned seems to think the clincher is the fact that, from the very beginning, parents wait for a few minutes when the baby starts crying, to make sure they are truly awake. Anyway, sorry for the long comment. I think I’m going to have to write a post on this! 🙂

    • Katie

      I’m so glad someone else mentioned “Bringing up Bébé”! I live in the US & followed most of the advice in this book & my baby slept through the night at three weeks. People are often horrified to hear we are about as anti-attachment parenting people as they come — crying it out, baby sleeps in own room from day one, I try not to nurse on demand, I put the nix on nursing pretty early — but I truly credit this method with saving my sanity & keeping our coffee/tequila bill low(ish) during the baby’s first year.

      I think the French “pause” the author describes is crucial: there are many reasons a baby could be crying during sleep hours, only one of which is hunger. They make noise when they aren’t even truly awake. They cry when they are cold, hot, needing to burp, or needing a diaper change. Babies also wake up a little bit as they are transitioning between sleep cycles. (Incidentally, so do adults. We just rarely remember doing so because we have been trained to go right back to sleep — something that can be taught to babies too!) Sometimes my baby truly was hungry in the middle of the night, but I only offered a feeding once everything else had been ruled out.

      I have one child, & I find it rude when people say, “Well, you got lucky with this one! Wait until #2 comes along!” I absolutely don’t buy that we just got “lucky” or that our baby has some sort of magical sleepy gene. Yes, I understand every child is different, but I truly think we often underestimate how much babies pick up on, and how many behaviors can be taught at a very early age to any baby, regardless of personality or temperament.

  • Gina

    My daughter is 16 months old and we still cosleep. Not necessary my first choice in terms of comfort (and some privacy with my husband would be nice…) but it’s the only thing that makes her sleep well. That said, I’m not actually complaining because she’s been sleeping thorough the night since about 6 weeks old. It just has to happen while attached to my breast. But I’ll take that over sleep deprivation any day.

  • Ellen Johnson

    Ahahaha! You are so right, there are no victors. I’m a sleep trainer, but really my emphasis is more on independent sleep because I get touched out really easily and cosleeping or even having the baby in the same room as me does not work at all. So when the babies are little, I try to swaddle and put them down to sleep alone (with white noise) as often as I can so they get used to it. And it’s worked for us so far. Gus is really attached and a huge nurser (huge meaning, a bigger nurser than his sister was) so still at 10 months, he gets up once a night to nurse. I oblige because I don’t want to deal with the screaming, which at this point goes on forever because he’s a big guy and knows what he wants. But if it gets up more than once, I turn the monitor off and ignore. He’s a huge kid, like has his own curve off the normal curve, so he doesn’t need a middle of the night nursing session. I’m just whipped.

  • Becky

    We only have two, but we are a cry it out family. We tried to be more compassionate with number 2 by rocking to sleep but by 3 months it was a track event with lots of jumping and sweat in the middle of winter. Not to mention the question of “Does this count as shaking?” Cosleeping she thought was more for cat naps and playtime and didn’t really work- she was overtired constantly. I was also overfeeding her-green poo, colic all the time. The lactation consuntaltant said too much foremilk (no one give me there superior elimination diet, or feed more comments, it didn’t work but a loose feeding schedule did). So here we are eat, play, sleep. She really likes to know what’s coming next and any bit of colic disappeared within a week. She doesn’t scream bloody murder upon waking, just sings. For bedtime and naps she usually just smiles, rolls over, hugs her mesh crib bumper, and happily drifts off to sleep (from 3.5 months to now-7 months).

  • Sleep survivor

    Great post. We were about as anti-sleep training as it gets with our first two…and they both became pretty good sleepers by a year old at their own pace. Then we had twins and really, truly tried to be compassionate and live through the sleepless nights until they came around to wanting to sleep. One of the twins was excellent at putting himself back to sleep in the middle of the night by about 6 months. He woke up happy and was cheerful all day. Our other twin woke up screaming every. sleep. cycle. We were worn thin and were not able to parent our four young kids at the low low level of sleep we were getting. We even tried co-sleeping with our sleepless twin, but he continued to wake up all night. At ten months we did a modified form of “sleep training” and within a week he was sleeping all night and waking up HAPPY. He smiles all the time now because he sleeps at night and naps. You are so right–every kid is different and our only job is to figure out their needs and meet them.

  • Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    We co-sleep and that has worked fabulously with all 4 kids. I don’t have to deal with crying and I don’t have to deal with being sleep-deprvied. I enjoy co-sleeping with my babies and toddlers, I don’t mind it, I sleep well and it really is the perfect solution for us. I realize not everyone can or likes or wants to co-sleep but for me, co-sleeping allows me to get enough rest, so I never really felt sleep-deprived, even with a newborn. And I don’t have to deal with crying, because I can’t tolerate crying.

  • Lauren

    I have sleep trained each baby a little younger. With my 1st I coslept til 1 yr then trained her. In two nights she was sleeping all night. My next son was colicky and difficult but I sleep trained him at 9 months. My third I weaned to a bottle (stopped nursing) and sleep trained at 8 months. In Catholic circles there is so much pressure to do ecological nursing/extended nursing and not CIO but it helped me be a better mom. Now I am pregnant with my 4th, the most rested I have been in 5 years, and my kids (4,2,1) sleep from 7:30-6:3o every night. I will probably cosleep with this baby (and try to take naps) until I get so cranky I can’t take it…then CIO. (I will say CIO never gets easier in the moment, it is so hard to hear, so I have to be 100% committed and sleep deprived before I start! ;))

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Haha, I’m a hostage co-sleeper too (though we affectionately refer to it by its more accurate title of “no sleeping”) until around month 4 when my eyes are bleeding from being open for so long and baby gets downgraded to the nursery suite. I definitely see CIO getting easier with each kid because, uh, I guess my brain and heart are a little more damaged with each subsequent season of sleep deprivation.

  • Cami

    From our experience, every baby is different. And even good sleepers go through stages of waking, especially near reaching developmental milestones. Personally, I don’t feel babies should feel punished or any less loved or important for waking. I embrace that we are parents even when the sun goes down and that means sometimes we lose sleep to care for our littles. My first son was a good sleeper. We co sleep and eventually he moved to a crib around 10 mo maybe. The crib was in our room so we still had close proximity. He loved having his space since at that point he moved a lot in his sleep. He got his own big bed in his room at age 2. Now he’s 3 1/2 and still sleeps well. During stressful times he does wake and ask to sleep with us or have one of us sleep with him. We enjoy cuddling our kids so it’s not a big deal. My second son slept with me and nursed often at night for a long time. I night weaned him after 18 mo because he woke me up so frequently just wanting to be latched for comfort. But we still nursed another 8 mo. He never wanted the crib. It was like putting a cat in a bathtub. He also sleeps now at 2 1/2 with his brother in a big bed. We have a 2 mo old now who sleeps next to me. I will play it by ear as to when to change the arrangement. But like all my babies, I love sleeping with her. I’m in no hurry to change that. The bottom line is this… Hubby and I know someday these kids will not want or need so much comfort and cuddles and we’ll miss the nights of snuggles and kisses. It seems long when you’re in these early years but down the line it will be a fleeting moment and we’ll look back fondly on the time we had to love our babies night and day.

  • melissa

    Coffee? But you are already aware of that method of survival. My terrible sleeper is 16 months now. She still night nurses (though not every 1-2 hours like she did for the first year) and needs to be patted back to sleep during naps. She has slept through the night a handful of times, but she is doing much much better than she was. Around months 8 or 9 I just decided to surrender. No more over analyzing, no more agonizing over what went wrong. I just straight up gave up the fight and my husband and I started laughing about it instead of trying not to punch walls. I think what helped me more than anything was having a sense of humor honestly. I’m not gonna lie we are still in survival modern most of the time but I don’t worry about her sleep anymore.

  • Lauren Montgomery

    I’m not sure if I count here because I’ve only had one, but what worked really well for us was using the Arm’s Reach Co Sleeper for the first four months. I wanted to move him to his crib at 4 months, and so about 3 weeks before the big move, I started swaddling him and “putting him to bed” at the same time and on his own (well before we went to bed) every night (around 8 ish). At first he’d cry and I’d go in there every 5-10 minutes and let him know I was there and he wasn’t alone, and after a while he started self-soothing and would fall asleep so fast. That young, he’d still wake up every few hours to eat. He would wake up to night eat until about 6/7 months (every few hours), which was fine, but i’d always put him right back to bed. This made the transition so much easier. He’s been going to bed at 7:30 since then, which works great!

    I am not sure if this will work for our second baby coming this October, but we will definitely try it again.

  • Christy

    There is no “easy” way to “sleep train” anybody. BUT BUT BUT! I feel like I have sorta gotten all my kids to sleep independently without really letting them cry it out. Honestly, sometimes I read attachment parenting posts and I see that as what I did as “sleep training”. They really don’t have to be separate things. You can still love your child and get them to sleep without you physically touching them, which happens to be my personal preference. Haha, I just know that if I didn’t get my kids to sleep somewhat independently that I’d have been put in an institution having 5 kids in 5 years. That’s not to say that they slept through the night…oh no…not till after a year for every one of my babies. And every one of my kids has slept differently, and had different weird things to do with sleep, but with perseverance it really pays off to be able to have them be able to go to sleep by themselves. Also; black out blinds, and a giant rule that they’re not getting out of their beds/rooms until I’m awake and up. Anyway – my baby book is going to be called “Getting Your Child to Sleep and Keeping Them That Way by the nap nazi” . Because look, I’ve written as much as a book.

  • Rachael

    My three were decent sleepers from the start, but I did need to sleep train the older two. My oldest kept waking up just one or two times a night to nurse as it was getting closer to her first birthday, and I was a tired mama in need of sleep. Someone recommended a book, Goodnight, Sleep Tight by Kim West. It’s a gentle form of sleep training that was effective within just three or four nights. My second was an interesting case. She began sleeping 12 hours a night consistently AT TWO WEEKS on her own, and did that until about 4 months. I put up with her nightly wakings until about 8 months, and then implemented the same plan I had with my oldest. And it worked! My youngest was 8 months and still waking up a couple times, and no kidding, I had just decided it was time for him to get the same tough love as the other two, and he spontaneously began STTN 7 to 7. (throwing up arms to ward off dagger looks)

    Maybe I’m just very blessed, or lucky, in that I have not had huge sleep issues with any of the kids. My husband and I have encouraged independent sleep from an early age. Definitely no bedsharing, our queen size bed is barely big enough for us. We do co-sleep the first few months (baby in bassinet next to our bed) for the first few months. I nurse on demand, but as early as I can I start laying the baby down while they’re still drowsy but awake, so they learn to go to sleep on their own. I think it helps. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if my kids were constant night wakers. Sleep is just too important to us all.

    I’m praying baby #4 is as easy as the other three!

  • Kris

    We co-sleep for the first month or two, just to make nursing easier, because our bedroom is on the first floor and the baby is up on the 2nd floor. Then I transition to the bed pretty quickly. We were total parenting wimps with our firstborn, rocking him to sleep, co-sleeping off and on until he was almost two (and baby #2 was imminent). I finally sleep-trained him and withing 3 nights he was sleeping through the night. At TWO!. I became much more regimented and on the sleep-training train after that. I’m not a total “let them cry” mother – I modify based on the personality of the child, but for my own sanity I need people to sleep. I also became the “nap nazi” – all babies nap and all toddler and older children have “quiet time” during nap time. We don’t mess with naps around here.

  • kelsey

    As I’m sitting down to read this article… first time I’ve sat down today since my lovely 2 year old and 8 month old are on opposite nap schedules… baby number 2 starts a screaming. I will never sleep again!

  • Genevieve Rutherford-Hawkins

    Love that there were the mums with *one* kid telling us how it was down to parenting and not temperament.

    By the way – I’m French and my kids are crap sleepers

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