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Sleep Training – Cruel or Crucial?

Sleep training is a hot and heavily debated topic and there are so many different ways to approach it.
Some parents feel that its cruel to let a young child cry on their own in the dark, but on the flip side, many parents believe that a sensible method of sleep training is crucial to establish a solid bedtime routine that means everyone gets a proper amount of shut eye!

Our Sleep Training Success Story

Up until Beau was about 3 or 4 months, he really didn’t have much of a bedtime routine. We struggled to pin him down to a real bedtime, and looking back, I don’t know why we even bothered because he was still so small. When he was around 4 months, we decided to introduce one element of consistency at the same time each night, which was a bath. And slowly over time, we managed to nail a pretty decent bedtime routine that coincided with him dropping his night feed and eventually not waking until the morning.

We had a pretty good run of sleeping through the night, until Beau got 2 consecutive chest infections which threw everything out the window. I thought our good sleeper would return once he was fully recovered but we had no such luck, and now simply getting him to nod off to sleep was an absolute battle…2 months later I was at breaking point. I’d had a taste of what it was like to get a full night’s sleep again, and I desperately needed to fix whatever had broken!

One afternoon when Beau was around 7 months, I met up with two of my friends – one who’s baby was 2 weeks younger than Beau, and the other who’s little one was about 3 months older. Both of my friend’s daughters were soundly sleeping through the night, and after hearing about our night time struggles, they were keen to encourage me to try sleep training.

Up until that point, I had always been quite judgey about people who sleep trained their children – I thought they must be missing half a heart to let their children ‘cry it out’, but sitting there listening to my 2 friends say it was the best thing they’d ever done, made me reconsider my initial judgey-ness.

Having been fully briefed by my two sleeping training expert friends, I was ready to give it a go. Actually I wasn’t, but I was so tired that I was willing to try anything.

Having put Beau down in his cot after he’d had his bath, a story and his milk, it wasn’t long before the tears began. I sat on my bed in the room next to Beau’s, timing him before I went in there to soothe him – first waiting for 2 minutes, then 3 minutes…all the while making sure he wasn’t getting overly distressed. I think all parents know their children’s limit and when they need to intervene. Luckily for us, the behaviour that Beau was displaying was more of a protest that he didn’t want to settle, rather than countless tears – which was reassuring as it indicated to me that he knew he was safe and he knew we weren’t far away. However, each time I went in to settle him (by patting his back and shushing him), he kicked up more of a stink when I left, and we were going back to square one each time.

Over an hour later, we weren’t really getting anywhere, and my husband and I decided to see if he could settle on his own. Lo and behold…it only took 8 minutes. We had a mix of shouting, some crying, blowing raspberries and even babbling, and admittedly I did at times feel we were pushing Beau to his limit, but my husband encouraged me to stay strong and have faith that he could do it, and bless his little heart he did it!

As soon as he’d fallen asleep, the Mum guilt kicked in and then it was my turn to cry. I cried my eyes out for the rest of that evening feeling like the most vicious, heartless mother on the planet – kicking myself for being easily swayed by my friends and feeling like a fool to think that I was strong enough for this method of sleep training, regardless of how gently we approached it.

However, those 8 minutes were the turning point for Beau returning to being a good sleeper and one year on, that evening was worth the pain for us all. Beau was a happier baby from being well rested at night, and I was a much happier Mummy from doing the same. It was hard, but it worked for us and the benefit from doing it massively outweighed the short-term pain. Now, Beau is a fantastic sleeper, and outside of him being poorly or teething, he’s well and truly cracked it!

There are so many different methods of sleep training that you’ll find on the internet, and some Mums even go as far as following a sleep program – I’ve never understood how anything like this works but each to their own. No matter what approach you take to getting your little one to sleep through the night, just remember that there will come a day not so far in the future, when they’ll no longer need to wrap their little arms around us for comfort, or have us pat their backs just so they know that we are close by. We will look back on these exhaustive, caffeine fuelled days and I guarantee, we will miss them.

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