Let me start off by saying that this blog isn’t about what YOU should or shouldn’t do as a parent! Instead, I’d like to share my experience with you.
Alright, here we go.
When our daughter, Violet, was born we knew we didn’t want to co-sleep. We started with a Halo swivel bassinet and for three months she was the perfect sleeper. She only awoke for feedings and quickly began sleeping through the night. We thought we just lucked out and somehow had a perfect baby. Around three months old we switched to a crib, and it went seamlessly as well.
Around six months we noticed a slight change. Violet would wake up a couple of times throughout the night and we assumed she was in pain. (She had ear infections) We would rock in a chair with her favorite music playing and lay her down in the crib after she fell back asleep.
At seven months things took a real turn. It seemed Violet was awake more than she was sleeping. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong and spent the next two months doing what we knew, rocking her in our lap with her favorite music and singing to her.
Around nine months Kayla and I were both exhausted all the time. I calculated the time we were spending rocking with Violet in our lap and it was sometimes between 4-6 hours a night. She goes to sleep around 6:30 and it seemed like the moment we settled down to rest, we’d hear crying. She was standing by that point, and would pull herself up in the crib and fall down often, so we had to run to her room when she woke up. (I researched how to teach your baby to sit instead of fall and that’s solved now as well.)
On one of the worst nights, I did a search using Violet’s symptoms instead of “how to get your baby to sleep” to see if there was anything we were missing. I came across a website that described her actions perfectly. (I’ve put a link to that site at the bottom of this blog)
Her symptoms were:
- Woke up the moment she touched the crib.
- Stood up the moment she woke up.
- Stayed awake until we completed the 30 minute -1 hour bedtime routine and snuck her back into bed.
While reading, I discovered that Violet had developed object permanence, which happens at around 5-7 months old. Object permanence is when a baby realizes that you aren’t there when you leave. They think about you when you aren’t around. So, essentially, what we were doing was soothing her to sleep then disappearing. The article I read said it was like if we went to sleep and woke up on the front lawn. We’d be pretty confused too!
The website’s solution was to let your baby “cry it out”. Kayla and I had discussed this in the past, but she strongly opposed the idea, so we never tried it. By this point we were both so exhausted that I convinced her to let me try it for one week, and if it didn’t work, we would go back to what we were doing.
There are two primary methods for crying it out:
The Ferber Method (Graduated Extinction)- Essentially, you lay your child down when it’s time for bed and on a timed schedule go in comfort them for a short period, then leave the room again. Continue this until they fall asleep.
The Weissbluth Method (Extinction, no-peak)- Lay your child down, kiss them on the head and walk away.
When we go in to console Violet, it only wakes her up more, so we went with the Weissbluth Method. (We have a video monitor, so she was never actually alone.)
Since Kayla is more prone to run in and pick Violet up, I asked her to stay clear of the area and the first night I put her to bed. Ideally, you want to have a bedtime routine in place before-hand that helps your baby wind down for the night so that the transition is easier. Our bedtime routine involved a bottle, rocking, and music. So, we switched it to a bottle, rocking, and a book. (The music stops at the end of the playlist and it isn’t good for a baby to go to sleep with music and wake up with silence.)
Honestly, the first night was brutal. It was hard to listen to her cry without coming to the rescue. I sat outside her door for an hour until she finally fell asleep.
On the second night, I prepared myself for the same experience. I completed her routine, laid her down, told her I’d be in the other room and walked out. I expected to be sitting there for an hour. Instead, what happened was amazing. She cried for ten minutes, then laid down and went straight to sleep.
On the third night and ever since, she has been falling asleep before I even get in the position to listen.
It’s been about three weeks since we began using this technique and it’s changed our lives tremendously. Our entire household’s mood has improved. Violet is happier because she’s getting more sleep. Kayla and I are finally getting rest and we have time to spend together at night as well. I actually watch her lay down with a proud dad smile on my face, knowing that she’s learning to soothe herself and growing up right in front of me.
In conclusion, I'm sharing this in case someone else is having the same struggle and doesn’t feel like there is hope. I know there are other ways of sleep training and I didn’t bash any of them, so I hope that you’ll at least try this method before you knock it. There have been studies and articles written on both sides of the “cry it out” argument. Some say it’s the worst and some say it’s the only way. I think, like most things in life, being extreme one way or another isn’t going to change people's minds. Instead, we should have grace on others as we all learn and grow together.
Feel free to leave a comment if this was helpful to you or if you’d like to share your own experience.