When TheLittleMiss was born we were certain we wanted her to be a good sleeper. Having heard stories of children who stayed up all night and slept all day, we were determined that we would try our best to get our kids’ Circadian Rhythm set. Hence, by the time TheLittleMiss was about four weeks old, we had a routine set for her. Lights were switched off at bedtime that stayed off during night-feeds as well. Save for the times TheLittleMiss was unwell, by a certain time every night she would be put to sleep after a proper bedtime routine, and be put into her crib. Night time meant sleep time, and mornings were then as good as they could be with a baby in the house.
A few months on, however, I began to dread bedtime and nap-times. Turns out, while ensuring that TheLittleMiss slept at the right times, we didn’t realise that I had become a sleep crutch for her. Without me nursing her, or lying down next to her, she just wouldn’t sleep. She would cry continuously until I helped her fall asleep. We never realised that children had to be taught to go to sleep on their own. As a result, my sleep now suffered and I was angry, irritable, and cranky almost all the time.
We weren’t exactly sure how to fix this considering TheLittleMiss was already 9 months old and seemed set in her ways, until a friend of my husband’s mentioned how they had sleep trained their son and how well all three of them were now sleeping. We were intrigued and started researching this concept so very alien to us. We had to find out what sleep training was and how it worked.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is basically the process of helping a baby learn how to fall asleep without assistance, and be able to sleep through the night, without sleep props or crutches: baby doesn’t need to be rocked, or held or nursed to sleep, doesn’t need a bottle or pacifier to go back to sleep. Sleep training is not just making sure children sleep at night (that is a basic). It is to make sure they get a good night’s sleep by sleeping on their own and staying asleep all night.
The point is that every single one of us wakes up multiple times in the night. But because we know how to put ourselves back to sleep, we don’t realize it most of the times and are able to go back to sleep without effort.
Now, every child DOES eventually learn to sleep on their own at some point in their lives, which is why it is the parents’ decision to choose to sleep train them or wait till they acquire sleep independence themselves. However, waiting for that to happen means that the parents’ sleep is likely to suffer, and as a result their mental and physical healths. So sleep training kids as early as one can is generally a good idea for parents, but entirely their choice to make. For our household, it was an absolute essential.
How is it done?
When it comes to sleep training, there isn’t one right way. Every family is different, every child is different, every situation is different. There are quite a few sleep training methods. A basic Google search will yield you a lot of results discussing and explaining them. No method is better or more effective than the other. It always depends on what suits you best. You could choose to follow one method entirely, or pick and choose elements from two or more methods to suit your family and child. You could also come up with your own way entirely. We had some trouble with the first system we devised based on reading here and there, so we decided to get assistance from a certified sleep training program. We found quite a few upon searching, and zeroed in on the Sleep Sense Program by Dana Obleman. What sleep training helps at achieving is that the child goes into their crib sleepy but not asleep without being rocked, nursed, or held to sleep. Ideally, the child is put into their crib, and immediately turns or gets comfortable, and closes their eyes to go to sleep.
We started sleep training TheLittleMiss using the program when she was about 10 months old. We diligently followed the daily guidelines from the videos for bedtime and nap-time. It was a bit of a struggle because there was quite a lot of crying happening- which was hard to listen to, but had to be done. It took 5 days for the crying to turn into whimpering, and 2 more days for her to go into her crib, turn onto her side, and go off to sleep. One week of getting her till here, and then two weeks of being absolutely consistent, and we had, by the end of the month, a fully sleep trained child alhamdolillah, and a well sleeping set of parents too!
When sleep training Bubbles at about 4-5 months old, we realized that it is a lot easier to train them when they’re younger (under 6 months). It’s quicker and there’s very minimal crying involved. By the time she was 6 months old, Bubbles was sleeping without assistance as soon as she was put into her crib. She slept for almost 12 hours at night, and at 6 months, her night feeding sessions were not required anymore which, again, meant that I too was sleeping comfortably at night.
Now that our kids are 4 and almost 2, they know very well how bed-time goes- bath, change into pyjamas, story, Quran and duas, kisses, and Mama leaves the room. They then go to sleep on their own, and Akmal and I get some time to ourselves- to relax, talk, watch TV, and then get a good night’s sleep, so that everyone wakes up well-rested the next morning. Also, this helps me be less monster and more human, so it’s a win-win.
Sleep-training our kids was the best decision we took- for the kids, and for ourselves. However, that is not to say that this is what all parents must absolutely do. While I do believe very strongly that good sleep habits are extremely essential to cultivate in children, I also believe that each parent chooses to parent in their own way, and I respect that. What works, and is acceptable for one family may not work or be acceptable for the other, and that is absolutely okay. At the end of the day, all parents are putting in their best efforts in raising their kids and that is all that matters. So if you decide to sleep train your child/children today, or tomorrow, or never at all, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re doing great.
Now tell me- Did you sleep-train your kids or plan to do so? Or are you anti sleep training? I would love to hear your views!