One mum's struggle with sleep training

by Jo Araminta

As a new mum, I found a lot of new unchartered territories to navigate. Sleep training was one of them, and it was something my husband and I discussed and agreed we would implement before my little one was born. We knew that we would be sleep deprived and that it was crucial our baby would be one of those who can put himself to sleep. But did we achieve this? That’s a different story! I didn’t realise how sleep in early infancy can be so frustrating and confusing because it's constantly evolving, just as you thought you got it, sleep regression comes into play or your child gets sick and everything goes back to square one. 

My husband and I had set our mind to start sleep training at 6 months as we moved house when he was 4 months old. To be honest, I am blessed as my little one is a very good tempered baby. He was very easy to look after, and was initially a very good sleeper and feeder. I was over the moon thinking “Yes, I got this!”. He slept in his bedside crib since birth, and we moved him to his cot in his own bedroom when he was about 6 months. This is probably where it all went wrong. As I had him during lockdown, my husband and I didn’t have much support to help us and I found myself constantly tired. I ended up doing night feeds on our bed and let him sleep through afterwards with us so I didn’t have to keep going back and forth to the nursery. In hindsight, I should have been more disciplined with pumping so my husband could help me with the feeds. Could have, would have, should have.

Baby co-sleeping

Time went on and before we realised it, he was 11 months and we hadn’t successfully implemented the sleep training as we planned. We tried the 'cry it out' method, the Ferber method and changing his bedtime routines to try to remove his sleep association with a feed. It was so hard. By that time he was a bit more mobile and had started cruising, so he would be standing up in his cot crying his eyes out. The longest he cried for was around 1.5 hours. It was totally heart wrenching. It started to work though (YIPEE!!!), he started to cry less and less. And then BOOM! He fell sick with a pretty bad bug, with a 40 degree fever and constant vomiting, and we ended up in A&E. Luckily he didn’t have to be hospitalised, but it meant our sleep training went out the window and we had to start over again!  And we are still on that journey, unfortunately.

I must say, I am overly jealous of my friends and of those parents whose babies can put themselves to sleep. They are able to have more time for themselves and to reconnect with their partner as a couple in the evenings. Do I regret not being very disciplined with it? Maybe a little, but I also think that the baby phase is so short and I want to experience that as long as I can, even though this means both my husband and I are suffering a little. And every parent’s journey is different, so I see this as my challenge, and fortunately my husband has been nothing but supportive (with a few grunts here and there!).

Baby sleep in cot

To finish off, if you do want to do sleep training, I would advise the following:

  • The earlier the better (I have friends who started this as young as 3 months), however this doesn’t mean you can’t start later on. I have read a lot of articles where sleep training has been done with 2 year olds and older - more challenging, yes, but not impossible.
  • Be strict with yourself
  • Make sure you have a good support network
  • Agree on a plan with your partner as this should be done together and not just by you
  • Stick with the plan!

Is sleep training worth it? I believe it is, especially for your and your partner’s mental health, and also for your little one’s.

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