28 January 2013, by Mandy Loh
Sleep training probably ranks as one of the top items on the list of “Biggest Challenges for New Parents”. Tim and I had a few simple goals when we started out, namely:
1) Cristan would be able to fall asleep independently;
2) He should sleep in his own cot or bed, in his own room;
3) He is able to sleep through the night – settling himself back to sleep on his own if he wakes.
We’ve been failing quite spectacularly with regards to Cristan’s sleep training, but recently, we’ve managed to get on an upswing! We might be celebrating a tad too early as it’s only been happening for the past few days, but I’m so excited I just can’t wait to share it!
Just as a quick recap on our journey: we were thrilled when Cristan started sleeping through the night at 2 months old. Unfortunately, he regressed 2 months later, and started waking in the middle of the night again. Thereafter, it was inconsistent night-time sleep: some days, he would be able to sleep through till morning, and other times, he would wake 2 – 3 times at night.
When he was about 4 months old, I started cuddling him to sleep for naps as well as bedtimes, mainly because I wanted to establish a fixed daily routine for him. He soon got used to falling asleep in my arms, and it became impossible to put him down in his cot any other way, unless he was already fast asleep. We tried several times to train him to fall asleep on his own, with the cry-it-out method as well as a less harsh “Baby Whisperer” approach, but failed miserably each time. (read more about my sleep training attempts here).
Aside from that, we achieved moderate success in the area of getting Cristan to sleep in his cot, in his own room by himself. I was also adamant about not nursing him in the middle of the night, to avoid him getting reliant on the boob. When he woke at night, I would cuddle him until he fell asleep again. And this worked well for us throughout Cristan’s first year.
However, something in me snapped after Cristan turned a year old. Perhaps it was the accumulation of a year’s worth of fractured sleep, or the fact that he weighed 10kg. Whatever it was, within the last few months, I had tumbled down the slippery slope of sleep mistakes, FAST. Desperate to save my aching back and arms, I started nursing Cristan to sleep (bad, bad habit!) which naturally led to nursing him back to sleep when he woke in the middle of the night. This then resulted in me falling asleep on his bed while he nursed in the ungodly hours of the night. And finally, I found myself co-sleeping in his room on a nightly basis!
But last Wednesday, I randomly decided that enough was enough! We HAD to get back on track already! So I nursed him to sleep (okay, this part still needs a little work), then went back to my own room instead of sleeping in his bed. As expected, he woke in the middle of the night and started to cry when he realised I wasn’t there, and I waited for a while to see if he would become frantic. To my surprise and joy, he cried for just a short while, then went back to sleep on his own!
The next morning when he woke, I went into his room with the biggest smile on my face and made a huge deal about how clever he was to have slept on his own through the night. He was absolutely delighted to receive so much positive affirmation and praise, and happily clapped his hands in response. I also took time to speak to him about how big boys sleep on their own without their mommies, and that I was very proud of him for doing so. He must have understood, because the next night, he slept right through without waking!
The third night, he woke again and cried for a longer period of time, but we stood firm and did not go into his room. Unfortunately, last night, his crying escalated, so I went in to nurse him once. However, I’m hoping and praying that this is just a one-off incident and that the wave of success would continue. I might be overly optimistic and a little delusional, but whatever it is, just wish us luck!