Talk to me about sleep training

First, I loved your comments on my last post, where I asked you your thoughts about letting my five- and seven-year-old boys walk around the block together alone. For now, we’ve decided to hold off, and I swear it’s not because my mother called me up the night I posted it and more or less told me I was free to support the idea of free range kids but I was not free to subject her grandsons to the philosophy. Well, not entirely because of that, anyway… (*waves to mom*)

So today, let’s talk about what psychological damage I can wreak on her youngest grandson instead. Yep, I want to talk about sleep training. Ah, the controversy never gets old around here.

Lucas is fifteen months old, and for pretty much each night of those fifteen months, he’s been cuddled to sleep. I think it’s time he learned to start falling asleep on his own in his crib. Can someone please flip a magic switch so I can get him to do it immediately, without any stress to him or extraneous effort on my part? No? I didn’t think so.

I’m not opposed to letting him cry it out, if I must. It worked with both Tristan and Simon, although they were each a little less than a year old when we tried it. It took about five nights of fussing with Tristan (you can read my CIO diaries in the archives) and about twice that long with Simon, but in the end, it was soooooo worth it to just be able to put the baby in his crib, kiss him goodnight and walk away.

It’s not that I begrudge Lucas his nightly cuddle, either. I’d still cuddle him before hand, but I still believe that it’s important that they learn to sooth themselves to sleep. He’s not a bad night-time sleeper overall, but he’s been waking in the night a lot lately, and I think he’d be less fussy when he wakes up if he’d put himself to sleep in the first place. A couple of times in the past week, instead of dropping right back to sleep when I re-insert his soother, he’s been wide awake in the crib. He’ll stay in the crib and eventually drift off again, but only if I’m standing there. While I’m pleased with this development, I’m not overly fond of standing stock-still in his room for fifteen minutes at a time in the middle of the night, pining for my bed the whole time. I’m thinking I can somehow parlay this into sleep training, but not quite sure how to do it or if I want to start down that road.

This is, after all, my last baby and I’m coddling him for all he’s worth. As much as I’m a fan of Ferber’s ideas and I totally agree with the theory — I just don’t want to put either of us through it all and in my experience thus far, there’s been no middle ground. It’s either CIO or cuddle to sleep, and I’m not sure either extreme is where I want to go next.

This is where you come in. I don’t particularly want to debate the merits of CIO, and you should know up front that I am deeply offended by Elizabeth Pantley so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t drag her into the conversation, but other than that — what have you found works or doesn’t work in sleep training? How did you get your kids to start falling asleep on their own? How old were they? As with all things mothering, I know I won’t still be rocking him to sleep when he’s on his honeymoon, but even on the third go-round, I’m still not sure how I want to navigate this one. And you know I get all my best mothering material from the bloggy peeps, right?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

20 thoughts on “Talk to me about sleep training”

  1. When I’m there, Reid requires a cuddle. When it’s Ken or anyone else who is “in charge” of bedtime, she rolls over and goes to sleep. She has been going to sleep solo at daycare for 3 years but with me, she wants a cuddle.

    All this to say, maybe the most important thing to change in the routine is the adult. You lots of snuggling/nursing to sleep history with Lucas. Beloved doesn’t.

    (I don’t talk about sleep issues usually because people are as jugemental about long term cuddling to sleep as they are about CIO, but for you, I tell all).

    Good luck!

  2. I know this link mentions Pantley but for those reading, I did clear it with Dani on twitter before posting it here to be sure she wouldn’t be too offended!

    These are my gentle baby and toddler sleep tips:

    Beyond that, there is something that friends of ours did that worked really well and I have heard of other people doing it too. Instead of lying down with their daughter each night, they started by sitting on her bed with a hand on her back while she went to sleep. Then they transitioned to sitting on a chair next to the bed. Then moving the chair slowly further and further away. Then eventually getting up for little “breaks” as the child was falling asleep (e.g. have to go to the bathroom, have to make a phone call, etc.) but coming back. Then eventually moved to sitting for a while and then leaving her to go to sleep on her own. It was baby steps and took a while, but they were adamant about not using cry it out and also adamant about not lying down with her every night for several more years, so this worked for them.

  3. We did a half Ferber/half Baby Whisperer for our little guy. It worked pretty well. Now we that he is 2 we read some books, sign a song, have a little cuddle and leave. He is in a big bed, so all of this is done laying down with him. He yells at us to come and “nuggle” or “lay on piwwow!!” but it usually doesn’t last for longer than a couple of minutes.

    Don’t know if that is any use to you, but it’s what we did. I do have to admit that when he wakes up in the middle of the night I do end up sleeping with him more often that not, but it’s more and more infrequent these days.

  4. We liked the book “Bed Timing: The “when-to” guide to helping your child to sleep” (Paperback) by Marc Lewis (Author), Isabela Granic (Author)

    It’s about the age of the child and how sleep training works at certain developmental stages. The other thing about the book was that it gave overviews about the different methods. It was a book that I didn’t have to read completely to get the jist of. Which helped my sleep-deprived brain ๐Ÿ™‚

    We did Ferber and it worked in a night and a half–to my huge surprise. He was 13 months at the time and had been waking 1-4 times/night to breastfeed before that.

    He has continued to sleep through the night-even with teething.

    I hope you find what feels good for you!

  5. We’re a CIO family — we did all three around 10 months old or so. But we did loosen up as we went through the kids — with the oldest we were very hardcore, by the third we were gentler, more willing to go in if she was really wailing for a quick word of comfort and a check to make sure she hadn’t pooped or thrown her bear out of the crib.

    I think it’s a great sign that Lucas falls asleep now on his own if you are standing in the room. I’d say, get a nice rocking chair, put it in his room so you can sit instead of stand, and run with that for a while!

  6. I think I just got lucky with my kid.

    I cuddled her to sleep until she was two. On her 2nd birthday we bought her a bed. That first night in the bed I didn’t cuddle her but sat with her in bed to read her book, tucked her in with a kiss, turned out the lights… and that was it. She fell asleep and was never cuddled to sleep again. No crying, no getting out of bed, nothing.

    Occasionally she’ll ask me to lie down with her but it’s so rare (once every couple of months) that I usually do – as a treat for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Oh yeah, I heard the “Bed Timing” authors on CBC radio a while back and meant to pick up the book. I’ve even got an article about it bookmarked on delicious to blog about some day! (So much for long-term memory!)

    Hmmm, 17 requests in the queue at the library… I wonder if we can wait that long? I think I remember that 14 – 20 mos is a good time, but…

    (Ha! Captcha = “banters about” as in, “she banters about sleep training options!”)

  8. Ooooh, I’d love to hear about why Pantley offends you so much! (You’re not shying away from controversy now on us, are you?)

  9. I also got lucky with my son. I nursed him to sleep up to 13 months old, then one night, he didn’t fall asleep while nursing. After about 1h30 of nursing, and being both very frustrated, I put him in his crib and left. He cried for 20 minutes, and then slept through (which he had mostly never done). Then the second night, I nursed him for a while, he didn’t fall asleep, so I put him in his crib and he cried for 10 minutes and slept through the night. Then the third night, he didn’t cry and slept through he night.
    Now I nurse him for ten / twenty minutes and cuddle him while singing a song and that’s it.
    So he may have been giving me clues that he was ready to go to sleep on his own earlier and I hadn’t noticed !

  10. We gave my son a big boy bed around when he turned two, and it was the best thing ever. He was perfectly happy to lie awake with his stuffies after we had a nice cuddle. We used a double bed, because it was available and also because we anticipated needing to cuddle him a lot, and we still do, but we don’t need to cuddle him to sleep. Just enough to reconnect after a long day and relax.

    I’m with Bea on the Pantley subject… do tell!

  11. both of mine were able to sooth themselves to sleep for naps and nighttime by five months

    i’ve always given them a little baby facecloth and they take that and their fingers and roll over to sleep

    i have no idea how to approach this with a toddler, but i agree with you that ferberizing is not th way to go

    i think it’s sweet that he will still cuddle…does he have a fave blanket or stuffed animal he could take with him?

    whatever you do, it will have to be gradual…hopefully no more than three or four nights to establish a new routine…good luck!

  12. Why don’t you have Beloved put Lucas to bed. I gather he doesn’t make a fuss with his Dad.

  13. For what it’s worth, here is my experience with the whole sleep thing …

    With baby number 1, we did the CIO around 7 months. I hated it but I really needed the sleep for my emotional health. It probably only lasted days, but it felt like forever.

    With baby number 2, the sleep deprivation was really turning me into an emotional wreck by 3 months and we consulted with a doctor. She advised a “sleep training” method that we instituted right away. It was 4 days and nights of hard work, but we haven’t looked back since. He is an excellent sleeper and if I had another babe, I’d do the “sleep training” regime again. It does require crying it out, but also involves a pattern of minimum sleep schedules, which included having him in bed by 7pm at the latest. Once we got this down and into a good set routine, we’ve loosened up alot (international travel requires it!) and he’s still a good sleeper (at 11 months).

    This might be harder to do now at the older age of your son, but I think one of your readers hit upon something really good: if you can start the new routine at the same time as the new big-boy bed, then maybe it will make more sense to him and be easier to integrate.

    I know it is so so so tough to tackle! Good luck with it all!

    Sidenote: Okay, I had never heard of Pantley but you made my curious with your comment, so I googled her. I’m with bea in wondering why you are deeply offended by her.

  14. Jake is my first and (so far) only, so I was very hesitate to Ferberize or CIO. A friend raved about the “No-Cry Sleep Solution” so I borrowed the book and started out with that. It quickly became known around our house as the No-Sleep Sleep Solution, primarily because NO ONE was getting any sleep while trying it, let alone Jake.

    Finally at 10 months, when cuddling him to sleep started taking longer and longer every night (we were up to over 2 hours when I broke), I called a friend, (now on her third child) and who had successfully used a very mild CIO method with her children. I was in tears and desperate.

    That very night, I began by doing the bedtime routine we had established (a story, some songs, some prayers) and then put Jake down awake in his crib. I told him I loved him and left the room. I waited 2 agonizing minutes outside his room, listening to him cry. I went back in then, and without picking him up I reassured him and left again.

    Five minutes later this time, I repeated the process. The third time I waited another 5 minutes before responding and never went higher than that. It took about four repeats of that process before he fell asleep.

    We did it again the next night and it took only 2 tries. The third night he went down on his own.

    We backslid during illnesses and teething, but I allowed myself and Jake to be flexible during those periods. Around 18 months of age, he started getting up too early in the morning so I put an alarm clock in his room and told him he had to stay in his crib without crying until the music came on. It took a night or two to get him used to that, but he quickly adapted to that and now sleeps like a champ most nights.

    Jake had a lot of health problems as an infant that prevented him from sleeping more than a couple hours at a time. He never slept at night or napped well (if at all) so the sleeping thing was a huge challenge for us. When we started with the mild CIO method, our primary issue was not only the length of time it took to cuddle him to sleep, but also the fact that he was still waking up to 5 times a night. The CIO not only stopped the need for extensive cuddling, but also immediately “cured” him of his night wakings.

    He was always a pretty happy, laid back guy, but when he finally started sleeping 10-12 consecutive hours at night, you could really see the difference that made on his overall attitude and on his development.

    Lots of luck with whatever you decide. If there’s one thing I learned from speed reading half a dozen books on Children and Sleep at Chapters one afternoon, it’s that no one method works on every child.

  15. Ooooh, I like the new look! Very clean and fun at the same time.

    I have no tips for you, but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this because I thought I should have it figured out by now with number 2. Maybe I’m just normal and not a slacker. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Simon was 20 months old when we moved out here. Up til then he’d still been sleeping in our room/bed. When we bought our house, we took the opportunity to move his crib in with his older brother (this meant there was a single bed in the room that I could climb into when needed). He screamed and SCREAMED, but with me right there in the room with him. I knew he wasn’t crying out of fear or being upset to find himself in a room all alone… he was just mad. Mad I could deal with, but not scared or afraid.

    So I would put him in his crib and I would lay down in the single bed and tell him goodnight. It took about a month, so it wasn’t quick, but it did work.

    Good luck!

  17. Glad to hear you realize there are no guarantees. What ever works, works. With kid one – we got her to put herself to sleep sometime in the first year, finally by means of modified CIO – going back 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10, 20 etc. She got it in about 3 nights, and would go down without a fuss once all the rituals were satisfied. Now at 3 she’w pretty devious about staying up/ getting up again to extend bedtime. Last night it was “Mummy? I’m coming to hug you, cuz I need a hug.” Who can resist?

    Kid two never got snuggled to sleep – she loved her bed, and wouldn’t sleep till she was in it. She would sigh sweetly, grab her blankey and her thumb and close her eyes. Awesome, but not exactly our doing – I was pretty much incapacitated with an eye thing her first 3 months, and she just worked around it.
    Now she’s 22 months and goes down well, but she knows that if she yowls around 8:30 she gets mom time – after sister is finally in bed. She’s pretty sneaky, too.

    Whatever works, I say. And a good night’s sleep is valuable for the whole family. Everyone wins when you are more rested.

  18. I guess I’m the odd one, I still lie down with my 3 year old but I really enjoy the few minutes to study her quiet face and sneak a few cuddles while she’s calm. The 8 month old falls asleep a little better but not on her own in the crib yet. Nursing to sleep works for us.

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