Baby sleep training or Crying it Out Methods have become topics of contention in online mommy wars. In my most humble opinion, many in the opposing category tend to take crying it out or sleep training to the extreme. Arguing that it isn’t natural to sleep train. It is just downright cruel to place a baby in their crib and walk away, while baby screams, and expect baby to peacefully go to sleep.
I don’t think any parent literally drops their baby in a crib, places a light kiss on their forehead, and casually walks out waving adios as baby screams with eyes that plead for one last cuddle.
Most parents who try sleep training or cry it out (which are not synonymous, by the way) are constantly rethinking what they are doing, they struggle with the crying, and they are generally fraught with anxiety about every choice they are making in regards to the training.
Sleep training is more along the lines of teaching a baby how to sleep. Just like you teach them to use a toilet and to eat with a spoon. These are just good things in life that come in handy. Learning how to sleep also comes in handy.
Sleep training for both my girls started when they were 8-10 weeks old. And by 14-16 weeks, they were both sleeping through the night. And you know what, both mom and baby were happier for it.
Some would say that sleep training so early is inhumane! Well, listen, I’m not sending them off to bed at 8 weeks old and telling them they can cry it out until they learn to sleep. This is gradual. My sleep training is merely putting them on a schedule, following EAS, and putting them to sleep drowsy but still awake.
And I’ll tell you why you should start training that early:
- Training a baby to fall asleep on their own from an early age is way, way, way easier than training a 25lb, 12 month old who not only has the strength to fairly violently flail their head back in protest, but also generally is not falling asleep at the drop of a hat anymore.
- An 8 week old has virtually no habits formed. You can literally start fresh at teaching them something they will be forced to conform to anyways for the rest of their life: night time is sleep time.
- An 8 week old is not very aware of most things when you compare them to a 6+ month old. An 8 week old can’t see you or doesn’t fully understand you sneaking out of a room. Therefore it is a far more gentle transition into sleeping through.
- Starting early means less crying! When you place a baby in their crib “drowsy but still awake” they will either realize they are in the crib and nod off to sleep by themselves or they will cry bloody murder at you for daring to leave their side. In the second situation, you pick the baby up and only place them back in their crib when calm and nearly asleep. You repeat this step multiple times over a few weeks. Yes, it does take longer than typical sleep training. But in this case you don’t have to leave them to cry it out. The worst thing that can happen is a back ache from reaching in the crib so often. But it’s always worth it. Trust me.
- Your baby is sleeping through the night by 3-4 months old. Which means you can enjoy the day together. Even though I started sleep training both my kids at 8 weeks, I still had this massive, irrational fear that I was never going to sleep through the night again. It literally consumed most of my thoughts until they were sleeping through. Training early means sleep comes early.
- I must admit, when sleep training early, your giving up some pretty precious cuddling time with your baby. And sometimes you don’t want to give up those moments of a baby sleeping on you because they are certainly perfect, peaceful moments. Let me tell you though, you aren’t giving them up completely, you’re just giving them up while you sleep train (and even then, a few cuddle-to-sleeps isn’t going to wreck your training). I cuddle my 11 month old to sleep every night. And every nap time. She already knows how to fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night so I don’t feel any anxiety about whether she is needing some type of prop (ie. rocking, cuddling) to fall asleep.
I felt compelled to write this because I feel like sleep training is getting a bad rep.
More often than not, sleep struggles happen for the entire first year of baby’s life. Sometimes even longer. The parents are usually struggling hard and looking for answers. I suggest sleep training to them but immediately feel as if I just told them to send their baby into a screaming frenzy for the next week of their life.
I just didn’t experience sleep training that way. How did you experience it?