I wanted to write this post to talk about our sleep training journey with Addison, what we did and continue to do, and to share some struggles and triumphs from our journey in case you are going through the same thing we are. I know every approach is different, and I do not judge those who choose the cry it out method. However, this was not a good fit for our family, and not something we chose to do as we favoured a more gentle approach to sleep training. As you probably already know, or will find out soon enough, there is no one size fits all approach to sleep training, or parenting in general for that matter. There is so much advice out there and articles telling you what to do and what not to do, it can all just be so overwhelming. I’m telling you to listen to your own gut instincts; they are there for a reason and no, it’s not just in your head. Every mother has them, a maternal, internal desire to do what is best for their baby regardless of advice thrown at them from the outside world.
I will say this: sleeping training has not been easy with Addison and the ideas in my head that I had about baby sleep all flew out the window after she was born. She did not like her crib, we did not get any sleep, and nobody was happy. So, we moved her into our bed pretty quick. I started researching safe co-sleeping right away and we made the necessary adjustments, added a guard rail to our bed, and away we went. Co-sleeping is certainly not for everybody, but it worked for us. I’m a very light sleeper, and Jesse quickly got used to having Addison in the bed as well. I trusted him and we trusted each other, and we co-slept for the entire first year, and continue to do so on occasion. Initially, I felt guilty, but the more I researched, the more I began to understand the breastfeeding and co-sleeping relationship and that many mothers in other cultures all over the world favour co-sleeping over crib sleeping.
In North America, there can be a stigma surrounding co-sleeping, but there is so much new information now even among doctors and health care professionals like Dr. Sears that showcase the benefits of safe co-sleeping, like a more peaceful sleep, decreased anxiety in babies, and a DECREASED risk of SIDS. With anything, you must do your research and weigh the pros and cons. That’s what we did, and the more I explored different options and realized that crib sleeping is not the only way, then I was free to move on with co-sleeping. I know it is not right for everyone, but it was the right fit for our family, and minimized a lot of stress, anxiety, and night wakings throughout the first year. I also highly highly recommend paying a visit to The Milk Meg. She is an international board certified lactation consultant and advocate for bed sharing and posts so many articles that help to answer your breastfeeding and bedsharing questions. She made me realize that every baby is different and babies breastfeed for so many different reasons and not just hunger; such as comfort, pain relief, closeness, and thirst.
Now that Addison is one, we have continued our gentle approach with sleep training. I breastfeed and rock her to sleep, or almost sleep (awake but drowsy) in the rocking chair and then lay her down in her crib for naps. She still sometimes lets out a couple whimpers, but she now understands that the crib is for sleeping and will generally go down without a fuss. It took several weeks of laying her down, picking her up when she cried, and repeating the process until she learned to nap in her crib. It also started with Jesse having to be the one to lay her down, because she would not go down for me at all. Now that she’s grown accustomed to him laying her down, she goes down a lot more easily for me.
We do the same thing at night, one of us will lay her down after I nurse her to sleep and she will sleep usually the first half of the night in the crib. When she wakes up around 1 or 2 in the morning, I will go in, nurse her back to sleep, and either lay her back down in the crib or bring her back to our bed for the rest of the night depending on that night’s mood and circumstances. So far, she has still woken up every morning in our bed, but we are making progress and we are both so much more comfortable and less anxious with this gentle sleep training approach.
I think it makes the whole process so much easier if you just decide as a couple what approach you would like to use, maybe try a couple methods if you aren’t sure, and give yourself and the baby time. We tried the exact same gentle approach when Addison was 7/8 months, and it did not work at all. No two babies or methods are alike, so just have patience and follow your baby’s cues instead of getting hung up on a certain idea i.e. my baby will sleep in the crib by 6 months. Don’t compare yourself to other moms and do what works best for the both of you. Following our own path rather than conforming to a sleep training book or great aunt so and so’s advice is really what helped take the anxiety and pressure off of us as we followed our own instincts. I know there is a lot of pressure on new mothers especially to raise your baby a certain way, but God gave that baby to you for a reason mama. YOU know your child best.
I hope our story shed some light for you about the various sleep training approaches and if you are in the same boat, your baby is still waking frequently throughout the night, and you are co-sleeping, just know you are not alone and you will get through it. This post from Kelly Mom helped me a lot in the beginning as well: check out her list of advantages to co-sleeping and safe co-sleeping guidelines and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any more questions.
Thank you for sharing in our journey,