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The Sleep Training Debate

04/04/2014

Belle

My sweet sleeping girl.

My sweet sleeping girl.

I was talking to a good friend yesterday and Sabine’s sleep came up. She admitted that she had not phoned recently because the sleep training topic upset her and she did not know if what she had to say about it would offend/upset/hurt me. I asked her to elaborate, assuring her that all Mama’s are entitled to their opinion and that I NEVER judge. She went on to say that sleep training and the desire for a child to sleep through the  night upset her. My friend has chosen to wake several times a night with her 15 month old to nurse and comfort her back to sleep. I am choosing to help my child learn how to stop night wakings and sleep through the night.

Do I think one of us is right and one of us is wrong? NO. I have heard some sleep experts say sleep training is for the parents when they have reached maximum capacity, and that is so very true. Not every woman is able to function for months, and sometimes years (oh shudder) on broken sleep. And that is OK. And those who can… my hat is off to you. I am in awe of your strength and your ability to soldier through.

What about the Mamas who choose the longer sleep training methods where you don’t let your child cry alone. Are they more right? Are they more wrong? Absolutely not. We all know ourselves and our babies best. We all know when we are at our breaking point and/or when our child is clearly under rested and needs intervention. We all know if our child is a good candidate for CIO (cry it out) or if a gentler, longer method is necessary. And not a single one of us is “wrong.”

I hope that the women and men who visit Scrambled Eggs for it’s sleep training posts understand this. I do not judge, and I hope you will not judge me or my readers who leave comments sharing their stories. We are doing the best we can to raise healthy, well adjusted little humans. And that deserves to be celebrated. 

After I shared more of my reasoning behind my choice to sleep train using a CIO method that involves timed checks my friend came around. Once I made it clear that I don’t think what she is doing is wrong, or crazy, or hurting her child she felt better.

At nine-months old sleep training is necessary for my household and this is why:

I have a chronic autoimmune disease called bi-lateral uveitis. It sucks and it threatens my vision. I also have markers for additional disease. Staying rested, living a low stress lifestyle and maintaining regular activity and healthy diet are critical components to my staying healthy and flare-free. Nine months of sleep deprivation is playing Russian roulette with my health. I am also acutely aware that a big part of my heightening anxiety is related to sleep deprivation. My mind and body just can’t process everything fully when I am not rested. As I wrote a few days ago, I see the signs and I know the course of action I need to take.

From Sabine’s standpoint, I know she is capable and ready to sleep through the night. She is a delightful little human on the nights she sleeps through. Our days are a joy as she giggles and plays. I am a better Mama and able to be more interactive and stimulating. When rested, everything in the house runs better. When we have several bad nights of multiple wakings this all goes to pot. She is tired, fussy and not able to achieve the things she wants to. I am a less supportive parent and wife.

For us, sleep training is the right choice. If you are a reader who has chosen another way to sleep train, or not to sleep train, I welcome you to share your comments and stories here. There are so many different ways to go about this and there is NO REASON we can’t have a positive dialogue without hurting or offending. I don’t often edit/delete comments, but I will in this situation. If it is not a productive discussion it will be modified or removed. Otherwise, please discuss. Share your struggles, share your triumphs, share your personal reasoning, share your health and feelings after months of sleep deprivation.

And on that note I am going to sign off for the day and enjoy a long shower while my beautiful girl naps. My armpits need it!

*For those following our sleep training journey, Step 3 “Teaching Sabine to Sleep Through the Night” began last night. I’m a little superstitious about sleep at this point, though, and am holding off on an update till Monday! Your good vibes/prayers/sleep dances are appreciated in the meantime! 

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20 Comments

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  1. April 4, 2014

    Well put, Belle!

    I don’t remember when Paxlet started sleeping through the night (around 7 months things got better, but it was still several months before he started sleeping almost all the way through most nights), but even now when going to bed (and a nap) I have to sit next to him and often times have my hand on him for him to fall asleep. While at times frustrating and I wish he would jsut go to bed on his own, I have created this routine and for the most part, it is easy! On great nights, he’s asleep in under 10 minutes and the not so great it can take up to 30 minutes and sometimes more. In the theme of this, I know this isn’t for everyone, but it works (for the most part) for us. 🙂

  2. April 4, 2014

    Doing sleep dances and thinking positive thoughts for you and Sabine!

  3. April 4, 2014

    Sending you good vibes on Sabine’s sleep journey!
    We chose to sleep train our baby girl not only because our pediatrician recommended it, but because after reading more scientific books on the subject than I would like to admit, I am convinced that it is the best solution for the baby first, then for the parents, in this order. The most often referred to authorities in the field of sleep and children are Dr. Weissbluth and Dr. Ferber. The first chapters of their books explain how important sleep is to babies and adults alike, for health and development reasons, and how learning to sleep through the night is a skill that often has to be learned. Had it not been for their books and countless of other articles and books on the subject that I read and followed, we would all still be sleep-deprived, and our ability to keep full time jobs to support our family would be compromised.
    I understand that sleep training is very hard though, and respect that not everyone can do it. I have learned that it is a controversial topic and am convinced it is too personal an issue and decision for anyone to judge.

  4. April 4, 2014

    I think the most convincing argument for what you’re doing is that Sabine feels better when she is well rested. All humans need rest. She hasn’t been able to get there when left to her own devices, so she needs your help. There is nothing selfish about what you’re doing.

    • ancient but baby loving still #
      April 5, 2014

      I have 50 adult years behind me. I have heard and read over that time MANY opposing ideas about babies and sleep. As Buttermilk says, what you are doing is respecting your daughter’s needs first. Then your health needs because your daughter needs you to be her best beloved mother for years to come. Congratulations to all the responders who are so clearly advocating for child and parent centered child-rearing practices. You are the future of our world and give me hope in my old age.

  5. Amy #
    April 4, 2014

    I haven’t trained, mostly for the purely selfish reason that I could never stand hearing him cry and not try to comfort him. For me it was way less stressful to deal with broken sleep than to steel myself for a training regimen that I’d have to be super consistent about enforcing. I have learned, however, that not every peep is the beginning of fussing or even crying, which I should have realized way sooner. He started sleeping through around 14ish months, I think? But of course it’s still not perfection every night, especially now that he’s old enough to have actual nightmares…so I try to remember that he might just be scared. I really like the theory that Moxie puts forth about tension increasers versus tension releasers…but I’m seriously still not sure which my kid even is! (Here’s that link – http://askmoxie.org/blog/2011/01/tension-increasers.html; there’s a PDF for purchase, too, but I am also incredibly cheap, sadly.) You’re so very right that you just have to do what is best for you and your baby – there’s way more harm done by judging each other and withholding support than by either crying or comforting, I’m quite sure. I hope that you and Sabine are both well on your way to where you need to be!

  6. Nene #
    April 4, 2014

    We flirted with sleep training but never fully committed because my instincts told me that when my son woke up 2-3x a night to eat (even at 7 months old), he really was hungry. As he became more interested in solid food during the day, nighttime sleep periods lengthened. Plus, although we had frequent week-long periods of bad sleep, the overall trajectory was positive over time. The progress was slooooow, but it was happening.

    I think I was scared away from Ferber, also, because my best friend, whose baby was three months older, used it and although they made progress at first, it just seemed to backfire horrendously. Her child is three and still will not go to sleep without an elaborate dog and pony show, and will only sleep on her bedroom floor.

    My son didn’t consistently STTN until he was 1 year old, but when he finally did, it was like someone threw a switch. I don’t think it was anything we did or didn’t do. It was just what he wanted to do. Our sleep story had a happy ending ending, so I can say the sleepless nights that preceded it were worth it. But if he were still, at 2.5, fighting bedtime, constantly in our bed, or crying all night, I’d be singing a different tune.

    Everyone does the best they can with what they have to work with. Nobody knows your baby better than you, and nobody knows better what he/she needs. I really hope you are able to get into a healthy sleep pattern soon.

  7. April 4, 2014

    YES!! You ROCK! Loki & I will *definitely* start doing sleep dances, for your sake and for ours. 🙂

    Thanks for being such a good friend — and a good mom! Once again our friendship has helped me grow as a fellow woman.

  8. April 4, 2014

    Very well put Belle. I never thought I’d sleep train as a parent. Before Zoe was born I found the idea of crying it out awful. But like you I eventually hit my maximum capacity. She was waking every 15-20 minutes and I was so sleep deprived I could barely function. Sleep training was the right choice for us. It was hard as a parent to make that decision but I know in the end, it was the right one for us. I agree that it may not be the right choice for everyone. It is up to each parent to decide how they want to tackle these issues, but the judgement that surrounds sleep training is very unnecessary.

    Lately Zoe has been been waking every 3-4 hours at night to eat. While this is not an awful schedule, it certainly is more frequent than we would like and more tiring than when she was only waking once. Our doctor suggested we do CIO during the night because she is at the weight and age where she is capable to sleep all the way through. At first I was SO on board. The thought of 8 hours of sleep is magical to me after 7 months. But I quickly realized it was much harder to let her CIO at night than it was during bedtime or naptime. So I decided to re-evaluate. Instead I added cereal with fruit to her bedtime routine in addition to a bottle in hopes of keeping her fuller through the night. And so far it has worked. The past 5 nights she has slept 6-7 hours before waking to eat. I know my doctor would encourage me to find a way to drop this feed as well, but for now I’m content. I don’t mind feeding her at night when I feel she is actually hungry. Maybe in a few months I’ll feel differently and we will be trying CIO again. But for now I’m happy with the decision I made.

    Overall people just need to understand that every child and parent are different. They way you parent might not be how someone else decides to parent. And that is okay. As long as our children are happy and healthy we are all doing pretty damn good.

  9. April 4, 2014

    I really appreciate this post. Mainly for that it points out the obvious: what works for some doesn’t work for others. As long as your parent style is not causing your child harm or resulting in long-term problems, I truly believe every person should have the right to raise their chid(ren) in a manner that works best for their family. For some this is co-sleeping while for others it’s cribs and sleeping in separate rooms. Just as for some it’s formula while others breastfeed. Or working vs staying home. Etc, etc.

    Starting around 3 months, the Beats dropped all their night feeds and started sleeping through the night. I still get up for a middle of the night pumping session, but otherwise we all sleep through. For our whole family, this works. But I too have had people try to guilt me into waking them up to feed because of their own beliefs/philosophies. Yet doing so would have actually been harmful as our babies needed that sleep.

    I hope you continue to see positive changes as you progress with sleep training. Change is always hard, but I commend you for doin what is best for your family.

  10. April 4, 2014

    This is a great post and so well said because the problems mother’s really face are other’s telling us we are wrong. You don’t know my child and I don’t know your’s, so why would we put each other through that stress? I think there are right and wrong ways to sleep train and It is not for me or my kids, but I wouldn’t judge a mother like you for doing what you know is the best thing for your child and for yourself. For me an equivalent might be that I am making the choice to send my daughter to preschool instead of keeping her home. Honestly it will be better for our relationship. I wish I was one of those moms who could play with and entertain a four year old all day, but I am just not! I am not just a mom, I have other interests and things I would like to get done for at least a couple hours a day! Other moms who can play with and teach their children things all day everyday are awesome, but I can’t do it EVERY day! Am I a bad mom for not wanting to be with her 24/7? Some moms would say that I am!

  11. jak #
    April 4, 2014

    you cant be the best mom you can be if you dont stay healthy. so do what you need to do!

    in our case, i think cio would work in a day. but, cio is not for ME and i am happy to wake up a few times a night to nurse chupacabra, but you know what… i also work full time, and sleepy night nursing is more time with my kid and i’m happy to have it:)

  12. Rachel #
    April 4, 2014

    There are so many different books and articles on sleep. I’ve read Ferber and Sears plus No Cry Sleeping Solution (? name). I knew before we had the baby who difficult sleep deprivation would be and it is. My husband and I fought for months every night around midnight because we were both exhausted. Our four and a half month old daughter Leni went through a phase of sleeping from 8 to 11, then staying awake until 3 a.m. It was torture. In past month, this has changed to sleeping from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., nurse for 15 minutes, sleep until 8 a.m. It’s a huge change and I love it. We are no longer fighting, my husband can work (he’s a writer), and I get me time. We started about two weeks ago working on a modified CIO (we wait three minutes if she cries or fusses before we go in to help her) in order to encourage her to fall asleep on her own. It is what I am comfortable with and she’s okay. She talks a lot when she is tired and I think our trying to help her to sleep so much may have been too stimulating. Our other challenge is Leni loves to be bounced, moved, and rocked to sleep, and it was way too exhausting for me to do. So this has been changed as well, so we are no longer doing that. I can’t listen to her cry for long periods, so three minutes is what works for me. I nurse her to sleep sometimes, but am gradually phasing this out eventually completely.

    We started co-sleeping in January as the getting up nursing and putting her back down was just too much (if she woke up too much it took hours). She is nursing once typically so its not that bad now. She will be moving back to her crib soon, but it hasn’t been a priority. Leni can sleep for six to seven hours at a stretch so I am not too concerned.

    I started taking a small dose of an anti-depressant. I think some of my post partum issues have to do with sleep deprivation. Its hard to leave the house or get motivated to even clean the house when I am so tired. I can not function in my relationship with our mutual levels of exhaustion. We are working with Leni now as I couldn’t go on without not “doing” anything.

    To each their own. You know your baby and what you need best. I think its easy for moms to judge other moms. I know my mother in law is battling her tongue these days because of how we are parenting (she never co-slept and is all over CIO). Ultimately a well rested baby and parents, make for happier baby and parents at least for us.

    Hope the weekend goes well! Fingers crossed!

  13. April 4, 2014

    Here’s my philosophy (after a whopping five months of parenting!): there is no right or wrong way. I mean, yes, you need to feed them, clothe them, shelter them, and love them — the basics, right? But everything else is what works best for you, your family and your baby. You can find a book, written by a pediatrician full of facts and case studies that say CIO is the only way to go. The next day you can buy a second book by another pediatrician also filled with science and testimonies that the family bed is the best choice. It’s like that with everything. I just try to remember what works for us isn’t for everybody, and we’re all doing the best job we can.

  14. April 4, 2014

    I’ve been reading and rooting for you regarding Sabine’s sleep. Our 9 mo old has been a pretty good sleeper, but I attribute 99% of that to luck. We’ve gone through some rough sleep patches, where I’ve usually followed the advice of troublesometots.com. I support sleep training. I completely agree with the commenter and line of reasoning that sleep/STTN is a skill that needs to be learned. I think of it as one more thing I have to teach her. Like one of the commenters above, I read about the science behind baby sleep and really wanted her to learn how to get a good night of rest. Of course, it always goes back to knowing your baby and what works for each family. I also don’t believe that some CIO at nap/night undoes any of the loving, attentive, sensitive, and nuturing care that she gets all day long. (At least that is my rationale). It is so amazing you’ve been making it through with so little sleep. Please give yourself lots of credit.

  15. jesicabrennan #
    April 4, 2014

    To each his own. As you said sleep training really is for the parents who’ve hit rock bottom, I can fully attest to that. I never would have done it if I didn’t think I was going to lose my mind. Something that some mamas don’t realize also is that you and I and others who end up sleep training often aren’t doing it because we’re up once or twice a night, it’s because we’re up 7 times a night!!! For those who never get there and can function with broken sleep and don’t have kids who wake up so often they’ll never understand. But everyone needs to do what’s right for them.

  16. Romy Yourex #
    April 4, 2014

    What a nice post. I feel like sometimes differing parenting philosophies can seem like the elephant in the room. It’s so nice to be able to simply acknowledge the differences and then move on.
    I did not sleep train my 10 month old, but the situations are too different to compare. We co-sleep, which I think has hugely helped in getting him to sleep well. He’s been sleeping through the night since he was 3 months old. So there was/is no exhaustion and no need to investigate other options. I therefore can’t judge anyone sleep training because I don’t know what I would have done if Sawyer hadn’t been such an awesome sleeper.
    I do know what it feels like to be judged though. I have had quite a few people criticize our co-sleeping habit. I don’t see how it matters to anyone else, it does not affect them at all. Everyone should just do what feels right for their baby 🙂

  17. April 7, 2014

    I could not agree more about choosing what works for your own family and withholding judgement of others. Every family and child is different. This holds true for most every parenting decision. I hope you find what works regarding sleep among other things.

  18. jak #
    April 7, 2014

    looked at your sleep logs again and noticed that bedtime varies quite a bit (not actual fall asleep time, but bedtime). have you tried stabilizing bedtime to make things more predictable? this helped us a ton when i had to go back to work. it made day naps more predictable too. eg, we are always 630 solids, 730 bath, 8 stories, 820 nurse til full, put in bed awake but sleepy. \\anyway, just a thought!

  19. April 7, 2014

    Amen to doing whatever works for your family, and thank you for the honest post. I think people get excited and feel judged when that isn’t the intent (often, usually even). We all do our best and that’s enough.

    We did what I’ll call a hard and fast sleep training with our older daughter with CIO for longer times than 5 minutes and soft CIO (wait 5 minutes, send in the spouse to give a pacifier back, repeat once if not back to sleep) for the younger one but they are also day and night different when it comes to sleep. It’s really interesting that the two of them have pretty similar dispositions at the same age and our older kid is so different now than she was as a smaller kid. They are/were both very chill, relaxed babies and once asleep actually sleep pretty well. The older one is now super anxious and worries and seems to have had a radical personality change. The older one is awful about going to sleep and always has been, the younger one puts herself to sleep. The big differences between them seem to just be the falling asleep thing and nothing has taught our older daughter how to do that in 6 years. It makes it clear that it’s a deal on her end of the “going to bed” relationship and that there’s only so much we can do.

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