I swore I would never sleep train. The idea of letting Forrest "cry it out" bothered me, in that it felt fundamentally wrong.
However, after 8-and-a-half months of very, very little sleep and highly interrupted sleep, I knew I needed to do something. I wasn't sleeping, I had no time to myself, and my back and hips were starting to ache from acting as a barrier from the edge of the bed.
For about 6 weeks, I read every article I could find on sleep training; I followed sleep training blogs and joined sleep training groups; I asked all my friends about sleep training and fretted to my mom. When Forrest was 6 or 7 weeks old, I'd read an article that sleep training caused emotional trauma and I found myself unable to shake that from my mind. If we sleep trained, would it hurt him?
Here's the conclusion I ultimately came to. (And remember, this is just my conclusion; every parent is free to make their own.) There is an appropriate emotional age to sleep train and it's different for every baby. Some babies will be fine sleep training at 4-6 months. Some babies will be fine sleep training after 6 months. Some babies are capable of sleep training from birth on. It just depends on your baby and your comfort level.
Here's another thing: Sleep training doesn't mean letting your baby scream and cry until they puke and pass out. This horrible article went around a few months ago (it's the one I read when Forrest was tiny) about a person listening to a friend's child scream and scream and scream alone in their room and how awful and terrible it was. It's a bad article. It is. It is completely made up and not indicative of real sleep training.
A blog I read said it best: sleep training is about communicating with your child, teaching a skill, and empowering your child to sleep better.
The truth is, disrupted, poor sleep is bad for both Forrest and me. Both of us were suffering from sleep deprivation. He was cranky all the time, sleeping barely 10 hours a day (at 9 months, most babies still need 13-14 hours of sleep total). I needed to sleep and Forrest needed to sleep.
So we decided to sleep train.
We did a few things first. I ordered a sound machine because Forrest sleeps best with white noise (river and water sounds, typically). I ordered the myBaby SoundSpa Lullaby Sound Machine and Projector on a recommendation from my due date group on Facebook. I put Danny in charge of finding a baby monitor and he picked this one: the Hello Baby Wireless Monitor with Night Vision. We needed a monitor that didn't use WiFi and this one works perfectly for our needs.
We had experimented with a few different sleep training methods before. Here are a few common methods (although this blog doesn't use the appropriate names for them). We noticed something specific with Forrest: if we checked on him or went in to reposition him, it would start his crying all over again. He would return to the intense, angry cry. So we decided to use the extinction method.
Extinction is what people mean with they say "cry it out"; however, "cry it out" isn't the name of any actual method. It also doesn't mean we don't tend to him or ignore him. The first night, Forrest cried for over 90 minutes, which was rough; Danny went in to lie him back down three times (just to avoid him falling over from being so tired). Once he went to sleep, though, he slept for 7 solid hours.
Seven hours!! Forrest has never slept 7 hours straight in his life before that. Before sleep training, he was waking up every 2 hours to eat.
It was revolutionary. We have been sleep training for 10 days now and each day, he gets a little better. He goes to bed at 6pm and usually wakes up to fuss at 10pm. Then he fusses himself back to sleep within 10 minutes. He wakes up at 4:55am for a bottle, then sleeps until 7am most days.
7am. This is the baby that has been getting me up at 4:30am or 5:00am for months. Now he sleeps until 7am! He only eats 1 bottle at night! He falls asleep after 15 minutes of crying!
The best part? He's happier during the day. He naps less frequently, plays more, and has started making more developmental steps. He eats better during the day. He's more fun to play with. Everything is better now that he's sleep.
The best part? After 6pm, I have time to myself. I can vacuum, clean the kitchen, organize my desk area, clean the bedroom, and more. I can write in my journal. I can scrapbook or write! I have time to myself. My house is getting cleaned up. I can watch TV shows at 6pm. Danny and I can watch movies together.
Sleep training isn't for everyone. It's absolutely true. Some parents just can't stand to hear their babies cry for 90 minutes. But now that we've worked through the hardest parts, it's hard to imagine never having done it. I don't regret it one bit. We are a happier family now thanks to sleep training and that's what matters.