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Sleep training for dummies

Written by: Josh June 29 2011 Step One: Put Junior to bed. Step Two: Leave him there. Step Three: Insert earplugs (optional). Oh, if only it were that simple. Well, the good news is that it almost is that simple. When we took Bub in for his six month checkup, the doctor seemed to imply...

Written by: Josh

Step One: Put Junior to bed.
Step Two: Leave him there.
Step Three: Insert earplugs (optional).

Oh, if only it were that simple. Well, the good news is that it almost is that simple. When we took Bub in for his six month checkup, the doctor seemed to imply that we had done a good job so far, insomuch as the baby was nourished and growing, etc. He then he told us to throw everything we’d been doing right out the window.

Times they were a-changing, and it was time to stop letting Bub ruin our lives. I’m paraphrasing. Basically, he said Bub had firmly entrenched himself as commander-in-chief, and it was high time for a coup. We’d been far too soft on the lad, it seemed. Feeding him every three hours, running in like lap dogs every time he cried. He had us well-trained, programmed, subservient. He had the power. It was time to take it back.

It was time to start wearing the onesie around here.

If a full night’s sleep was the target, then sleep training was a sniper rifle with laser sighting on a windless day with 2 miles visibility and unhindered line of sight. We would have to be bold, we would have to be harsh, but most of all, we would have to have resolve. We would have to pull the trigger.

It’s not easy at first, and nobody said it would be. It is a scientific fact that no human being likes to hear a baby cry, especially their own. But it is “for their own good,” that awful phrase dreaded as a child, now wielded as a parent. And oh my yes, they will cry. But they will also learn, they will adapt, they will sleep.

There are different theories and methods of sleep training, of course. As with most things, experts abound. But the goal is the same: get Baby to sleep (mostly) through the night with a combination of routine, consistency and time.

Now you have to do what’s right for you, but you have basically two choices: go cold turkey (i.e. leave him alone, go in the room under no circumstances) or step-training. We found the former almost impossible, so we went with step-training.

At first, we picked him up, rocked him, sang to him. All the old tricks to get him to calm down. We went down to one overnight feeding. Eventually we got down to simply sneaking in, putting his fikey in his mouth and shuffling ourselves back to bed. And after a couple weeks, he was sleeping from 8 p.m. until about 5 a.m. the next morning. It was a small-baby miracle.

It occurred to me last month that that’s what sleep training is really all about. Bub had a pretty easy time making the transition; it was us that was slowing down the process the whole time. It’s not so much about setting routines or power struggles or the what-have-you. That all comes with it, but what the doc was saying was for us to be the best parents we could be, we needed rest, reprieve. We’d forgotten how to sleep months ago, and now was the time to re-learn. We were the ones being sleep-trained the whole time. And Bub’s been a pretty forgiving teacher.