My daughter slept well from day 1 (possibly thanks to the Rock and Play), and it was a breeze nursing her to sleep. Some time approaching the 4 month mark, we encountered the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. In her case, the 10 min nursing session became 3 nursing sessions of 20 min, where she would fall asleep each time only to have her wake up and start crying the moment we transfer her to her crib. I thought it would sort itself out after some time but it didn’t, so we had to do sleep training.
CIO (cry it out)?
The most popular methods on the internet are some form of crying it out (CIO). If you’re feeling hesitant, you can use the Ferber method which allows you to check on the baby at several intervals. Or you can just leave baby until she falls asleep. I haven’t read the actual books, and I don’t plan on buying them (the library has them permanently checked out). DH decided that we needed to sleep train our daughter, and he figured I am too soft to do it and decided to take it upon himself to implement it.
The first night, she took 18 min to fall asleep, but the wailing hurt my conscience (I opted to stay for the session, promising not to interfere). The second night, she took the same amount of time, and the wailing got to me. I think it had to do with guilt from the first night, and then going through the same thing again. It just wasn’t right.
Baby is anxious about being left alone
There is one thing I did not mention about our daughter that happened in the last months – she does not like being left alone. If I step into the kitchen to get a drink and leave her in the living room, she starts crying immediately. I don’t know if the sleep training books discuss this, but IMO, it’s a bit too much for my daughter to have to deal with being alone on top of putting herself to sleep. I wanted to deal with only one issue at a time. Even though DH was against stopping the CIO method the second night when I did interfere, he was open to trying something different the next day.
After reading up a little more, we decided that the crucial part of sleep training was putting our daughter into the crib awake. We will then try to teach her to go to sleep on her own slowly. Some people refer to this as Fading Out, and warn that it could take a while. I wanted to let my daughter put herself to sleep knowing that she was not left alone.
Adjusting sleep training for baby’s personality
The 3rd night, we put her into the crib awake after nursing and putting on her sleeping sack. DD was happy and lay there for 30 min smiling at me. Then she started whining, and eventually crying. We tried to implement it like a CIO, refusing to pick her up, and telling her that she needs to go to sleep at intervals. It was a disaster: she cried furiously for 30 min, and was more awake and upset than ever. I think it’s her stubborn personality. This humane version of CIO was way worse than the turn off the lights and leave the room version. She knew we were there and leaving her alone, and she was absolutely furious.
I was at a loss at what to do, and DH stepped in to coo at her to get her to calm down. He was having a throat issue, so I took over and defaulted to singing Rock-a-bye Baby. She instantly calmed down…whew. And after another 20 min of singing, patting her belly and holding her hand, she fell asleep. I kept singing for another 10 min just in case, gradually stopping the patting and hand holding. It was a disaster, but we learned.
Finding a sleep training method that works for you
The 4th night, we went with the routine, then putting her into the crib and then music to soothe her. She started fussing so we started the Rock-a-bye Baby, and she fell asleep after 20 min. Since we bypassed the 30 min of silence and the 30 min of crying, she went to bed an hour earlier.
One thing I didn’t mention before is that letting her fall asleep in the crib had a giant advantage, CIO or the fading method – she didn’t wake after falling asleep, unlike when I nursed her and put her into the crib.
Tonight is the 5th night, and she fell asleep after 10 min of Rock-a-bye Baby. We have definitely made progress, and honestly, I am happy to sing her lullabies for 10 min while she falls asleep feeling secure. But we will keep working at it: the goal is to be able to leave her in the crib and let her fall asleep on her own. I am hoping that we will be able to skip the lullaby at some point, and just sit and smile at her while she puts herself to sleep.
Drawing on my own childhood experience
I feel very strongly about letting children fall asleep feeling safe because of my childhood. My parents went with the bedsharing route when I was 5 months old because I fell asleep instantly that way. I would not sleep well in the crib even when room sharing. All throughout growing up and to this day, I still sleep better when I share a room. I don’t remember my childhood much, but I do remember how my parents tried to get me to sleep independently by the time I was 4 or 5. I was able to put myself to bed sleeping in their bed, and they would transfer me to my own bed in my own room afterwards. But when I woke up in the dark, I was terrified and I would cry outside their bedroom door, unwilling to disturb them. Fortunately for me, my little sister arrived soon after and I had another person to share the room with, even if it was a tinier person than me.
For as long as she needs me, my daughter will always be welcome in my room.