Earlier this year, I wrote about why I refused to sleep train my babies. Now that my daughter is 1, I still refuse to sleep train her.
My Journey to My Decision
When my son was a baby, I read a lot about sleep and babies. He was waking every 2 hours every single night. On the rare nights that he slept 3 hours, I woke up after 2 and freaked out, rushing to make sure he was still breathing. He was born at 34 weeks and the risk of SIDS was slightly higher for him, so I didn’t complain about how often he was waking. It meant he was still alive.
But he hit 6 months and was still waking every 2 hours. Even though my body was starting to adjust to this new sleep schedule, I was still tired. So, I read. And read. And kept reading. Everything I found was about sleep training and every method under the sun. Not once did I read about moms who chose not to sleep train or even that sleep training wasn’t a requirement.
So, I tried sleep training. It didn’t go well. My son wailing for comfort and mommy broke my heart. I decided it wasn’t worth all the tears. If he needed me, I was going to take care of him, no matter how exhausted it made me. It took 19 months, but he finally slept through the night, and is almost 4 and still sleeping like a champ. Though we did recently take him to a museum exhibit that I wanted to see and thoroughly freaked him out, so sometimes he will wake at night and scream. Our fault, though.
When it came to my daughter, I made the early decision to just not sleep train. She has been a more varied sleeper, with good nights and bad nights. But sometimes she just wants to be held. So, I hold her. I hold her and snuggle with her, fully knowing this is the last time I will ever do this. She is my last baby, so I will take any extra baby snuggles I can, even when I’m 3/4 asleep.
Babies Wake for Many Reasons
Recently, after reading numerous mom bloggers write about sleep training and the tricks that got their babies to sleep, I asked my mom if she ever sleep trained me and my siblings.
“No. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Babies wake for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they want a new diaper. Sometimes they want to eat. Sometimes they’re hot or cold. Sometimes something is scratching them. Sometimes they’re just uncomfortable. Sometimes they just want to snuggle. Sometimes they want their pacifier and can’t find it.
Making babies cry and try to learn to self soothe feels mean in light of these many reasons. They can’t change their diaper. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t snuggle themselves. They might not even be able to figure out what’s making them uncomfortable. They can’t change the temperature in the room.
Besides, every human, child and adult, wakes at night. Sometimes even adults have a hard time getting back to sleep and need something to lull them back into dreamland. Babies are no different!
Perhaps it’s the way I approach parenting. I think of children not as children, but as little people. There isn’t a real difference, other than age, maturity, and number of experiences, between children and adults. Both have problems sleeping. Both have temper tantrums. Both can have a hard time sharing. Both want independence. The manner in which these behaviors are dealt with, of course, is different. I’m not going to place my husband in time out because he’s upset about something. I’m not going to expect my baby to calm herself down. So if I, as an adult, sometimes need to get up in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep and need to read a book, then I’m going to take my baby’s waking seriously and see what I can provide to help her go back to sleep.
Babies will sleep through the night in their own time. Yes, it’s exhausting. But I’d rather be tired and know my kids are happy than cry my eyes out while my baby is crying it out. Or spend 2 hours tenderly teaching her to go back to sleep on her own while I become more awake every minute and then spend the next hour after she falls asleep trying to fall back asleep myself. Before getting up an hour later to start things all over again. Seriously, how does that even make sense?
Sleep Training is an Option
Okay, so sleep training will be tough a few days or a week or so and then everyone will get some sleep. I get it. It’s probably a perfect solution for parents who work. They need sleep! Of course, I get it. Spend a few days suffering and zombieing through the day. Baby will eventually sleep and you’ll get sleep, too.
And then the sleep regressions happen (4 months, 6 months, 8-9 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years). And teething occurs off and on until those 2 year molars pop out and all the teeth are finally accounted for. So, sure, baby can be sleep trained, and then go through teething and/or a sleep regression a month later. And then it all has to start over again. But at least there are a few weeks of sleep to be had! Followed by a week or so of teaching baby to sleep all over again.
No thanks! That’s not for me. I’ll stick it out. I’ll comfort my child. I’ll realize this won’t last forever. I’ll adjust. And so will my baby. My baby will sleep and my baby will wake and I will be there for every waking.
Besides, what do I do about my daughter who chooses to go down drowsy, but awake and still sometimes wakes every hour? Before she turned 1, she decided she really wanted to go down in her crib awake so she could move around and settle herself while I sang her to sleep. This is a key part of sleep training and she was choosing to do it on her own? Was she sleep training herself? No. She still woke at night, still wakes at night at 13 months. So I’m suspicious of the idea that a baby who goes down drowsy, but awake will sleep through the night. It’s been at least 3 months and I’m still waiting.
Sleep training is an option. Many parents think it’s the logical step and must be done since everyone is doing it and recommending it. That’s not true! It doesn’t have to be done. It’s a choice. Parent after parent will swear by it. But this mom will swear by not sleep training. My toddler is a champion sleeper. My daughter is only 1 and teething, but will get there. Her sleep stretches on good nights is often about 1.5-2 times longer that her brother’s were, so I’m not complaining.
Besides, babies grow so fast and will start to push mom and dad away. Take those snuggles as often as you can!