PLEASE COME CLEAN ABOUT SLEEP TRAINING
Lisa Williams begs for an amnesty
The moment I realised I needed to do some sleep training with my son was when I changed his morning nappy feeling not just shattered but also horribly disappointed.
I’d had no more than two hours uninterrupted sleep for seven months and, although I was running at reduced capacity, I had strangely adapted to losing my mind slowly. The feeling of disappointment was harder to digest.
How could I look at my beautiful, smiling baby who was and is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and feel like he had let me down? And why, despite giving my absolute all to this parenthood thing, did I feel like I was doing something wrong?
The answer to both these questions, I have since concluded, is that too few people are honest about their baby’s sleep. In my experience, there are parents who are genuinely lucky, whose babies sleep through the night as soon as is practicable. There are parents who, though they may gripe occasionally, are happy to wait until their babies naturally stop needing to wake in the night.
Then there’s us, the ones who’ve exhausted every trick in the gentle sleep book and are left to choose between controlled crying and their own sanity.
'At this stage, we’re not happy for you, we’re jealous.'
Many of these parents are too scared to admit their tactics, perhaps because it's not a very nice thing to do or to talk about. ‘We’re just lucky,’ they mumble. ‘It just happened,’ they say. ‘But how?’ demand the rest of us, ‘What did you do?’ We’re desperate, exhausted, confused. And, at this stage, we’re not happy for you, we’re jealous.
We devote hours to reading about the topic. We try a strict bedtime routine, more milk throughout the day, more stimulation, less stimulation, more rocking, less rocking, lavender oil massage and switching from night milk feeds to cooled, boiled water. We suspect early teething, and even wean our babies before time in the hope that the oft-repeated, ‘They sleep better when they’ve started solids’ line is true.
But it wasn't true for me and, eventually, I concluded that I needed to try some controlled crying.
What frightened me the most about trying it was the theory that it teaches babies that communication is pointless. This prospect sent shivers down my spine and ran so contrary to everything I stand for that I dismissed the method as not one for me.
But feeling crushing disappointment when (despite the stimulation and the cooled, boiled water, and the bath, and the massage and the solids), my baby still needed me to help him get back to sleep, was contrary to everything I stand for too.
I spoke to some sensible, open parents about it, and witnessed that their children were happy, well-adjusted, and certainly had no problems communicating. I spent my Christmas bonus on a sleep consultant (I wanted to look the person giving me the advice in the eye), and though yes, if the anti-controlled crying research is to be believed, I may come to regret my decision, it does appear to be the best £200 I’ve ever spent.
We had one rough night with two wake-ups and some complaining, but it was not as bad as I had expected. All the gentle sleep methods I had tried had obviously got my baby so far, and this seemed to seal the deal.
We’re still not quite there with nap time. I admit that I bottled it when it came to implementing the suggested methods, and my childminder assured me she would adapt to whatever routine my baby came with.
But the nights are good. It worked. And I'm a much calmer parent as a result. Time spent fretting about sleep and feeling sorry for myself is now spent having fun with my baby, and telling any sleep-deprived parent who asks, that yes, he does sleep through the night, and no, I’m not just lucky.
Did you do any sleep training? Let us know below.