The Sleep Train


Ever wondered how long 15 minutes can feel?

Listen to your kid cry while she “sleep trains” and you’ll find out. Let me begin by saying, I have NEVER been a fan of “cry it out”. I don’t judge. But I have always thought that leaving a child alone in a cage and refusing to acknowledge pleas for help taught them one thing: You’re alone in this world, so Mommy and Daddy are NOT coming to get you.

On one hand, we all learn that lesson eventually, I suppose.

But to watch a helpless small child learn it when you know for a fact it’s your comfort they seek seems like a cruel way of teaching that lesson.

I “get” it. They need to learn to put themselves to sleep. It’s a skill like reading or writing and so on. They also NEED lots of sleep (which is the more compelling of arguments) to develop and learn and grow.

It took 8 months of ME not sleeping through a night for me to agree to sleep training for Ella. Bart would have started at 6 weeks. In fact, when I went to Dallas for work back on March 23 (she was 6 months old), I was sitting at a table with several people from work who were talking about someone whose husband sells high end video equipment. We happen to have 2 Dropcams (which are amazing, by the way), so I decided to show off and pull up the app on my phone.

Guess who appeared on that app when it loaded? Ella. Crying alone in the crib. As the folks around the table asked if that was REAL, and I said YES, I texted Bart to let him know that Ella was crying, alone in the crib. His lack of response should have alerted me that something was amiss… Bart and Holly (Ella’s nanny) were sleep training Ella in my absence, and I had busted them.

I’m going to say for the record that THAT was a poorly hatched plan. First of all, I was only gone for 2 nights, which meant I was sure to return in the middle of sleep training. Second, shock is not the way for your wife to find out that sleep training is underway when she can’t stand to hear your child cry. OH, and third, if you’re not entirely sure what your PLAN is, you’re not going to have a willing participant when she gets home.

So on Day 3 I returned home to “the first night was rough but last night she slept 12 hours!” (and other carefully selected stories). I also returned to some talk about the “No Cry” method where you catch them NOT crying and THAT is when you go in the room! (Sorry, Holly, but I refuse to buy that this works with any kid who doesn’t like their crib) And apparently, ours does not.

Anyway, let’s just say that sleep training round one was not a resounding success. There was a short stint of almost round two (where I agreed to leave the house, as I did when Zoe was being sleep trained), but that didn’t really happen. However, when the only way to get her to sleep at night was for me to be IN THE BED with her, all night long, which involved several wakings to nurse (or not nurse), and I finally got TOO TIRED TO THINK and spent a week so wound up that I’m thankful my husband didn’t leave me, I relented.

In fact, I personally reached out to a sleep consultant, which I viewed as the ONLY way I was going to buy in to trying sleep training (re-read above if you wonder why).  Besides, we had a wedding consultant who was AMAZING. A doula who helped me through 2 natural births. A sleep trainer seemed like a logical step.

After some combative discussions with our trainer (I needed to be convinced), we received our written (and very detailed ) sleep plan, which involved me leaving the house for the “training” part, and Bart being the night-time guardian, should she wake and need to be reminded that it was still night time. Mind you, this lady has successfully helped 650 children find sleep, but as you’d imagine, I remained skeptical.

We’ve made it seven days and seven nights, and I must say, she’s learning to sleep. Though we’ve had some rough “second naps”, on the whole she cries no more than 15 minutes. I just put her down for the first time by myself (imagine my delight), and she cried for 4 whole minutes. FOUR.

So, wish us luck. At this point, we’re committed, and I’m hopeful this really IS a skill that she can take right into the rest of her life. As for Zoe, I looked back at all my blog posts and can’t find exactly WHEN we sleep trained her (though it was after one year of age, for sure). Ironic that I didn’t blog about that, no?

Thankfully, even though she acts like a teenager, she’s turning out AOK. So there’s hope.


2 thoughts on “The Sleep Train

  1. Hahahaha! Poor Bart. I admire him for trying to sneak the sleep training in while you were away. Because guess what? That’s probably how it worked for Zoe, which is why you have no recollection of it! ;)

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