Jake has reached the age when I feel like he should be sleeping through the night–at least, according to the books I’ve read, he should be sleeping through the night. However, when I’ve spoken with my new Knoxville mom friends, I’ve found that the age babies start sleeping through the night can vary dramatically, and methods that parents use to help their babies sleep are all over the map. One of my mom friends told me that her son began sleeping through the night at seven weeks (lucky!). Another mom friend has a two-and-a-half year old who is still struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, and he ends up in bed with her most nights. At this point, she feels like he may be potty trained before he learns how to sleep independently. Apparently, there is no hard and fast rule on when babies should begin sleeping through the night.
Honestly, for a long time I was okay with Jake not sleeping through the night. I was tired, but I was fine. I got extra snuggle time with him at night, after all, and I didn’t mind allowing him to stay up “past his bedtime” if he was happier that way. I tried sleep training him once, but it didn’t seem to work and I gave up after a few short days. I hesitate to even mention the term “sleep training” online because it can invite such emotional and divisive opinions in the comments section. For those of you who don’t know what it is, “sleep training” often implies putting a baby into a crib while he is fully awake and letting him cry himself to sleep. Some parents may check on their child a few times and attempt to reassure him verbally, but picking him up out of the crib or even touching him is generally against the rules. According to the books (one of the books I referenced was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child), the baby will generally cry for around 40 minutes the first night before falling asleep, and each subsequent night he will cry less and less until he learns how to gently drift off to sleep when you place him in his crib. Most babies take anywhere from three days to a full week to sleep train. But Jake doesn’t follow the rules of the book.
Back in September, when I was still living with my parents, I tried to sleep train Jake. During the first night, he cried for about 45-50 minutes before falling asleep. I wasn’t prepared for how unnerving it would be to listen to him cry, or how desperate and panicked his crying would become before he finally fell asleep of exhaustion. I think it was even more of a traumatic experience for me than it was for him, because I felt like I was abandoning him and causing him some kind of permanent psychological damage (though scientific research has proven time and time again that babies are not psychologically harmed by sleep training). The following two or three nights, I continued to try to train him, and he cried longer and harder each night. During the final night, he cried for 90 minutes, and he seemed to have no intention of stopping. I couldn’t bear it anymore, and I decided to go pick him up from his crib and forget about the whole thing.
As I said, we’ve been okay for these last few months. But something snapped for him in January, and he began sleeping worse than he ever has in his life–even when he was a newborn. Jake began waking up 5-6 times a night, and sometimes he would stay awake for an hour or an hour and a half before finally falling back asleep. Each time, I would go to his room and pick him up and rock him. Sometimes I sang to him or snuggled next to him on the couch. But nothing was really helping anymore. When I got desperate, I tried to put him in bed with me–which Jake seemed to enjoy, but Justin and I were never able to get a restful night’s sleep sharing the bed with him. We were constantly waking up, worrying that we would roll over onto him or somehow let him roll out of the bed. It became miserable, with Jake often refusing to really go to sleep until 11:30 PM or 12:30 AM, and then waking up at 6:30 or 7 ready to be awake for the day after waking up all through the night. I felt exhausted, and Jake was constantly rubbing his eyes and acting cranky and tired during the day.
But the more I catered to him to help him sleep, the more dependent he became. Mid-February, he absolutely could not sleep unless I was holding him or lying next to him, both during naptime and nighttime. And allowing him to sleep in the bed still did not ensure that he would sleep for more than two hours at a time. I felt like I was getting tangled up in a lose-lose situation, and I began feeling desperate.
So I did the unthinkable, and I decided to try sleep-training again.
There were a few situational changes this time that I hoped would add to my success. For one thing, we’re staying in our own house now, so I don’t have to worry that Jake’s long bouts of crying will disturb my parents. I also (in general) try to keep Jake quiet at night so that Justin can get his sleep (since he has to go to work the next day). This time, we moved one of our couches out to the bonus room (which is on the opposite end of the house and feels nearly soundproof since it is a converted garage) so that Justin can sleep out there at night without hearing Jake. Last time I tried sleep training, I tried while Justin was out of town for business because I thought that if I could really get it to work in three days (like the book promised me), Jake could be trained by the time Justin returned from his trip. What I didn’t count on was how much emotional support I would need from Justin to survive through the process–it was too much to try on my own.
So with iron resolve (or maybe just desperation?) I decided to begin sleep training Jake again. In a few days, I’ll post the play-by-play of what happens for any of you moms out there who are interested in reading it. And I’ll let you know if it was successful–because at this point, I am still really skeptical about whether Jake is sleep-trainable.