Does sleep training really work?
When I was pregnant, I quizzed my mom on my sleeping habits as a baby. She assured me that I was an awesome sleeper and gave no trouble whatsoever in the sleep department. My mother-in-law validated the same on my hubby's sleep pattern and of course I already knew he could sleep through anything! So I sat back in contentment and assured myself (mostly that our baby would be just like us and love to sleep). If only I knew how silly I was.
Our little trooper (sadly) never inherited our sleep genes. As I held him in my arms, I could almost hear the smirks and echoes of all those voices telling me that "babies never sleep". After an extremely long and tiring first week, I did what I do best, googled new born sleep and what to expect. I think it was at that moment I realised that baby sleep patterns will forever remain unsloved and that they just get into the groove (if that's a nice term) of sleeping when you least expect it (hopefully by the time they're two or wait...longer).
So to get back to my thoughts on sleep training. Everything I read online pointed to setting up a pattern and after a bit more reading and asking around, I was sure that this was the ONLY answer to my situation. Before you nod your head in approval or disapproval, I must say that training (I'm really not a fan of this word for an infant) but anyway, training has been a nightmare. It's not that it hasn't worked. In fact, it's worked really well except that every time we're ready to do the "happy dance of success" something comes along and ruins it. To give you an idea: the first two months are really all over the place, then there's the three month sleep regression (yes, as weird as it sounds), teething will completely spoil the routine, growth spurts will add to some interruptions, it keeps adding up every month. There's also the fact that your little one is just learning to manoeuvre sleep cycles and waking in between (no fun there as my little munchkin woke almost every hour in the night). Whew! it's been a sleep deprived 16 months for us but we're still learning. If sleep training has worked for you, its great but like me if you've had to sometimes just hold your baby and rock him to sleep, it's fine too. Here's what I think is important when trying to establish healthy sleeping habits for your little one.
1. Be consistent with bed time. It's tough for the first year but it sets that foundation (that's so important).
2. Don't set unrealistic expectations like no distractions, no sleep associations( rocking, singing, a binky etc.) Everyone I know said these were bad habits to make things easy. But it's okay if your baby wants to be rocked sometimes, or needs to watch a nursery rhyme before bed. These will disappear as they get better at sleeping.
3. Never allow your baby to miss a nap (I'm guilty of doing that and learning the hard way). This will result in an unhappy day for everyone.
4. Pray, yes pray really hard that you have the patience to get through some or many sleepless nights especially when you might really have no clue if it's the tooth monster or tummy pain or nightmares. You just cuddle, sing and wait...for that moment when you're baby has fallen back to sleep.
If you ask me, I'd say it's really not training but learning. Afterall sleep isn't a job and everyday brings something new and pleasing- like my munchkin sleeping two whole undisturbed hours this afternoon. Sheer bliss.