Sleep Training

From the first day my first son was born, I’ve asked myself daily If he died tomorrow, would I regret anything I did today?”  Up until he was four months old I couldn’t stand to hear him cry.  I could not “nap train” or let him cry it out – because if he had died I would never have forgiven myself.  I also could never have let someone else care for him.
The Contented Little Baby: The Simple Secrets of Calm, Confident Parenting by Gina Ford was hugely helpful in helping me train my son to sleep through the night at age four months.  Maybe it’s because I’m an older mother, but I cannot effectively function on less than 7 hours of sleep.  I thrive on 9, and try and always get it, and my husband also needs 8-9 hours.  While I am all for co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand if you can do it, I could not.
Our son slept in a cradle where I could hold his hand by our bed, and I fed him during the night until he was four months old.  By then I was desperate for more sleep and bought every sleep book on Amazon that I could find.  This one helped immensely.   He slept through the night by four months, within days of buying this book.  At around 6 months, I was able to easily move him into his crib for a 12-hour sleep.  I also bought black-out curtains like she recommended and they also helped, especially during naps.  Overnight diapers also cut out the need for changing diapers in the middle of the night. 

The negative was that my period resumed after I stopped the 2 a.m. feedings.  I think there are many great reasons to breastfeed at night, again, if you can do it, but I mainly hear mothers complaining about their lack of sleep, and their unhappy husbands who also awaken too often.  I did sleep the first few times with him in my arms, but I was extremely fearful of smothering him or having the covers come up over his head, so co-sleeping did not let me or my husband get into a deep sleep and was detrimental to our health.  The rocking cradle was wonderful. 

Gina Ford gives schedules for when the baby should nap and go to bed, and the schedules change every few weeks!  You really have to follow it closely.  But this is NOT a “forced” schedule, like some other books that I disliked and threw away.  All Gina Ford is laying out is a baby’s natural sleep schedule.  She knows babies – I did not.  I had never cared for an infant.  I didn’t know what was natural.  I had to read about it to learn it.   

Many people buy books and then don’t read them, or just say, “They will fall asleep when they are tired enough.” And go about their day meeting their own needs while expecting the child to pass out in the car.  Then of course, the child can’t sleep unless he is in a car.  Anyways, my point is that many parents just do what they want and expect the child to adapt.  All Gina Ford does is point out to YOU what a baby’s natural sleep schedule is, so that you can help accommodate it.  She didn’t just make up schedules arbitrarily.

Have you ever said, “He only sleeps 10-15 minutes before dad comes home, then someone wakes him up!”  Well, if you read this book, she'll tell you an 8-12 week old baby’s natural sleep schedule for the 3rd nap is only 15 minutes long!  Did we punish an older child for waking up the baby?  Did we yell at daddy to be quiet?  When all we had to do was put that darling child in our arms and rock him from 4:45 to 5:00 basking in the moment!  But most people will refuse to read this “scheduling” book; and most will not get peace.

Now to be honest, I did not follow every single thing she recommended.  I did not bathe him when she said to.  I just followed the sleep schedules and found that they worked.  I was giving my baby the sleep he needed.  That was all!  My life instantly changed to me being a “storybook” mother!  Happy baby, happy mommy!

I do not recall what she says about feeding schedules, so I am not going to go there.  However, I know that some other books advocate no feeding before nap, that your baby will associate food with naps.  That is absolutely ridiculous!  God made us to feed our babies before naps.  He put oxytocin in us to be released to help both baby and mom sleep during naps and at night.   Nancy Campbell of has an incredible mothering book that goes into all of this: The Power of Motherhood: What the Bible Says About Mothers.  Why let your baby cry before naptime and bedtime, when all you have to do is rock and feed him, then gently lie him down and drift into a peaceful sleep?  God designed our bodies to feed our babies and help put them to sleep….

I’ve also had to ask, “If he lived to be 100, would I regret anything I did today?”  In other words, if he didn't die tomorrow, and lived to be 100, would I regret letting him do what he wanted just so he wouldn't cry?  Of course I would...I didn't want to raise a tantrum-throwing, selfish brat.  Sometimes children need to cry.  One of those times might be before nap time or bedtime.

At 15 months of age my son was still only taking a half-hour nap instead of a two-hour one, even though I was following Gina Ford's advice.  He went down at night so easily that I was chagrined at how difficult putting him down for a nap was.  He would only sleep if I laid down next to him, and then, once asleep, I couldn't leave the room because he was on my bed.  I read, decluttered, and cleaned, but I really wanted him to nap in his room in a safe crib so that I could be freed to do other things.
The book that helped me solve my son's nap problem, and one which I highly recommend, was:

I finally re-created the same night-time routine for his nap time and let him cry for a few days.  But I also did really important things that she describes in full detail giving you the reasons behind it:  I stayed in his room for three days during the entire nap until he TRUSTED me to not abandon him.  I had never realized it before, but (either she or Gina Ford mentioned that) after about ten minutes of eyes closed, babies rouse themselves to see if you are still there – they open one eye – and if they don’t see or feel you, it’s WAAAAH time!  Just by waiting and watching by his crib for 10 minutes until that eye opened, and placing my hand on him or smiling, let him go into the next stage of sleep, secure in the knowledge that I was there, even while he slept.  I also chose a lovey for him (and had a back-up look-alike).  

Kim West goes into detail about where and why you should sit in the room, for how many days, etc., and whether or not you should touch him to help him sleep.  She covers newborn to 5 years old sleep strategies, how much sleep a child should get at what age, plus she discusses nightmares, medical problems, routine busters, etc.  She also discusses how to handle early risers, and how to cope with daylight savings time changes.  This is the most thorough sleep book I've read. 


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