Sleep Training: Worst Parenting Job (So Far)

I want my son to be healthy, safe, happy, well-adjusted, and a good human being who is compassionate and respectful other people, species, and the Earth we live on. I want him to be a good sleeper. Not because it’s good for me and my husband (though that is obviously a factor!), but because when we’re well-rested, we’re better able to take on the challenges life throws our way. 

Sleep is important for physical, emotional, and mental health, and it helps us be the best versions of ourselves. It even improves memory, cognition, and learning. This is well-documented science

But sleep training sucks. 

We follow “The Happy Sleeper” method, because it’s well-researched and multidisciplinary, combining neuroscience, sleep research, and infant attachment theory. It’s reasonable, loving, flexible, and gives us enough structure and explanation to adjust it to our family while staying true to our son’s developmental needs. 

We got lax for awhile though and so decided a week ago we needed to get back to our “good” parenting regarding sleep. That meant no more letting him fall asleep in our arms; I love when he does, but then we’re held captive. You can’t do anything else (other than Facebook binge) if you’re holding a 21+ pound kid while he’s sleeping, and our guy used to take up to 3-hour naps. 

A lot of hard-core attachment parents let their kids basically rule the roost (I’ve seen it, and it’s beyond exhausting). To me, this lack of structure stops these kids (in some instances) from developing autonomy and can create co-dependant futures. I studied attachment theory and child counseling in grad school at the University of Edinburgh, and while I’m not an expert, I do have a lot of knowledge and I’ve read a lot of high-quality research on this topic (hence my appreciation of this book). 

One of the big distinctions they make is being (in my words) overly attached to your children (as in a smothering, helicopter-parent sort of way) versus maintaining healthy boundaries and being attuned to your child’s needs. To me, this is about letting your child know he or she is loved and supported unconditionally while giving them the space to explore the world and develop their own ideas, personality, and autonomy. It’s the idea of being a safe “home base” from which they can explore and to which they can always return for love, comfort, affection, and clarification. 

So that’s the basic idea. (Read the book for full techniques and all that- I’m not going to repeat all their hard work!)

Now, I have one child who is almost 10 months old. That is enough for me to recognize that every family is different, has different needs, and will do what they think is best. I don’t know what it’s like to have multiples (those I have twin neice and nephew), or even just more than one kid. Parents, if you’re reading this and I’m offending your sensibilities or saying something that’ll never work in your home, feel free to tell me to fuck off (but please don’t, I’m very sensitive and I mean well!). 

Theory and practice are about as different as night and a volcano. The one constant I’ve found is that parenting is hard. 

Anyway, after a week — A VERG LONG AND EXHAUSTING WEEK — we finally had success tonight. 

SO… for any of you who are working on this, and don’t know how you’ll survive the horrible sleep training phase, here’s our stats for this week. 

If you’re using the book, we were doing “the sleep wave” with the 5-minutes checks and our boy cries before sleeping to let out the day’s frustration. It’s horrible to listen to, but he’s as stubborn as his parents and didn’t like the change. 

Please note: this is NOT a cry-it-out method, so before you tell me how terrible that is, read the damn book. And if you still don’t like it, take it up with the authors. We’ve reviewed the options and as far as we can see this is the best, most loving, well-researched way to help our son develop a lifetime of good sleep habits. If he’s unhappy with transition (and who really likes change anyway?) then we’re willing to suffer our own discomfort and love him through his displeasure and frustration. It’s the same reason we don’t feed him sugary foods and why we introduced him initially to green veggies before fruits. We’re playing the long game here. 

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Restarted on 09/16/16 (Fri)

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Bedtime Sleep Stats (aka how long it took him to go to sleep):

Fri – took 60 min; slept 10 hrs 16 min

Sat – took 35 min; slept 9 hrs 17 min

Sun – took 40 min; slept 11 hrs 49 min

Mon – took 50 min; slept 6 hrs 37 min, fell out of bed, slept another 2 hrs 7 min

Tues – took 26 min!! slept 12 hrs 25 min

Wed – took 38 min; slept 11 hrs 12 min

Thurs – took <5 min (and mommy collapsed in exhaustion- then couldn’t sleep until she wrote all this down….)

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9/16 FRIDAY

     Naps- 80 min; 100 min; 20 min (put down asleep; started sleep wave again at bedtime)

     Bedtime: took 1 hour to lie down/ sleep

9/17 SATURDAY 

     Naps- 30 min; 80 min; (went swimming mid-day)

     Bedtime: took 35 min to lie down/ sleep

9/18 SUNDAY 

     Naps- 30 min; refused (tried for 40 min); 40 min (took 30 min to go to sleep). 

     Bedtime: took 40 min to lie down/ sleep
DECIDED TO SWITCH TO 2 NAPS/ DAY (starting tomorrow)

9/19 MONDAY 

     Naps- refused nap 9:04-9:45; refused nap again 10:42-11:07; slept in car 12:10-25 (15 min); in p&p 2:07 & sleeping at 2:43-4:05 (1 hr 22min) (minimal crying). 

     Bedtime- took 50 min to lie down/ sleep; woke at 10:15pm and after 2 5-min checks brought into bed bc A was going to sleep; fell asleep at 11; Fell out of bed at 5:39am, back to sleep at 5:46(!) until 7:53. 

9/20 TUESDAY 

     Naps- in p&p at 9:41, laying down at 10:05, sleeping 10:07-44 (36 min); in p&p at 2:30, laying down at 2:37, slept 2:42-4:08 (1 hr 25 min). 

     Bedtime- took 26 min to lie down/sleep; in p&p at 6:57, laying down at 7:21, sleeping at 7:23. 

9/21 WEDNESDAY 

     Naps- refused nap 1, 20-min nap in car after kindermusik/ grocery store

     Bedtime- took 38 min; asleep at 7:18.

9/22 THURSDAY 

     Naps- 34 minute nap (9:20-9:55, fell asleep in 2 min!), then a 38 minute nap (2:07-2:45)

     Bedtime- took less than 5 minutes to lay down and go to sleep. (I’m so exhausted I’m delirious, but he did it! I’m very proud of him! And us for surviving such a difficult week!!!)

About the author

America's Mojo Maven, Ariana Ayu, is an entrepreneur, author, interpersonal expert, Registered Nurse, and business and brand strategist, Ariana is the CEO and creatrix of several companies including Ayutopia International, LLC, which develops profitable and collaborative corporate cultures, personal celebrity brands, and custom branded websites. Ariana is the author of the column: Business Mojo on Inc.com.

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