No one ever tells you before you have a baby just how very little sleep you’re going to get. In the first few weeks after “A” was born, she woke every couple of hours to nurse, like all babies, but new love and excitement kept us going through the exhaustion. Instead of becoming a better sleeper as she got older though, she actually got worse. At some points over the course of the last year, she was waking as many as eight times in a 12-hour stretch. And when you’re sleeping in half-hour intervals—a torture technique used on terrorists, my husband likes to remind me—you’re desperate for something to change, and FAST!
At our four-month appointment, our pediatrician told us that we could begin sleep training. From there, my life has been a blur of sleepless nights, and days spent researching any and every sleep training technique known to man. I have probably read more than a dozen books on getting your baby to sleep, but there were five main techniques and titles I would recommend:
Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake up Happy, by Kim West: West’s “Sleep Lady Shuffle” technique advises you to put your baby in their crib drowsy but awake and stay by them, offering mostly verbal encouragement as they learn to go to sleep on their own. She has parents place a chair at the side of the crib for the first few nights, then gradually move the chair further and further away as the baby learns that physical proximity is not necessary to fall asleep.
The Baby Sleep Book: The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Rest for the Whole Family, by William Sears: Sears’ “Attachment Parenting” philosophy emphasizes that sleep should be a pleasant experience in which your baby understands your availability and affection. He advises that many babies sleep best with their parents, in an arrangement called “co-sleeping.” He also offers lots of information on how babies sleep and what we can do to meet their physical and emotional needs at night.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep through the Night, by Elizabeth Pantley: Pantley’s approach guides you to slowly break your baby’s dependence on you to put them to sleep (starting with something as simple as not allowing them to fall into a deep sleep while still latched on). Her “no-cry” solution lets the baby take the lead: if the baby is not yet ready for the next step on Pantley’s road to sleep independence, Pantley says it’s okay to give in and try again later.
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (by Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions), by Tracy Hogg: Hogg’s “Pick-Up, Put-Down” method instructs parents to respond to their baby’s cries by picking them up long enough to calm them and then placing them back into their crib to settle back to sleep on their own. She warns that this method takes intense dedication in order to be successful, as you may have to pick up and put down your baby as many as fifty to one hundred times in a single waking before they go back to sleep.
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber: Ferber’s controversial “cry-it-out” method is based on the logic that babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own, in their cribs, without any assistance from their parents, and this can only be accomplished by giving them the autonomy to do so. He allows for controlled crying, during which parents leave the room for specified intervals, starting with just 3 minutes and building up to as much as 30 minutes, if necessary, over several nights.
For us, none of these techniques was a panacea. Instead, we made small gains using each of these methods, to get us to where we are now: A sleeps in her crib and goes to sleep on her own. She still wakes once a night a few times a week, but we like to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come.
What has worked for your family? Did you find a particular book or piece of advice helpful?