How Sleep Training Saved My Sanity as a Wife & Mother

Image of sleeping baby

This blog needs to start with a warning label: Beware--Sensitive Material Ahead!

It shouldn't be that way, but unfortunately, as moms, I feel like we are hardwired by society to always be on the defense.  I am constantly checking myself with other mamas to make sure what I thought came out as innocent advice didn't actually come on as passive judgment.

Judgment and mom shaming is everywhere these days--something I have only come to realize since I have started staying at home with my little one.  It is there when I am at the grocery store and my kid is crying because I won't let him out of the cart to run around.  It is there at that same grocery store when my kid is happy because I finally gave in and let him watch videos on my iPhone.

I have been scolded by a woman for letting my kid throw his toys on the floor while simultaneously being criticized for picking up those toys, rather than making him do it himself.

I was scared to let people see me nurse my child during his first few months of life for fear it would offend someone.  Then, when my body decided it was done breastfeeding, I was scared to admit that I had to switch to formula because I didn't want to be shamed over that as well.

Needless to say, I know that mom shaming is real. So please, please forgive me if anything I ever say or do comes off as anything other than the sincerest and most heartfelt advice.  I am by no means a perfect mom, I just strive to be a good one.  And some days (most days) I feel like I come up short of that, too.

Please know that what I am about to share with you is not a judgment toward any style of parenting.  It is simply a process that worked so well for me and my husband that I have been asked more times than I can possibly count how we have done it.  I am a firm believer that a loving parent is the best parent.  Do what is best for you and your family.


As with most new moms, my first few weeks at home with my baby are covered in a foggy haze.  A mix of hormone instability and severe lack of sleep have left me fuzzy on many of the details.  But there are some things I remember so vividly it is as if they happened only yesterday.

I remember the fear I had that first night home from the hospital.  I sat at the kitchen table sobbing uncontrollably.  When my husband asked me what was wrong, I simply said, "Nothing will ever be the same again."

No truer statement had ever been uttered--for that I am so thankful.  

I knew I could no longer make a quick run to the grocery store for a last minute meal item.  Long gone were the days my husband and I could decide to go to the movies 15 minutes before showtime.  My body hurt from the delivery and I was anxious about how my recovery would go.  A soft, squishy belly was hidden under my shirt where there had once been abs I had worked so hard to maintain.

But something else was different as well.  I cared for a human being so much it quite literally hurt my body.  This little boy I had known personally for only a few days was someone whom I would give my life for without a second thought.  Who other than a child can worm their way into your heart so deeply and so quickly?

As the old adage goes, the days were long but I knew the years would be short, so I tried my best to relish each moment in those early months.  But it was hard.  

My son was not a naturally good sleeper.  From the day he was born he was up every hour on the hour.  Though my husband and I tried to remain nice to each other, sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your sense of civility in the wee hours of the night.  I admit there were many fights and arguments that could easily have been avoided had we not been so freaking exhausted.

My come to Jesus moment happened when my son was almost four months old.  We had started him sleeping in his own room a few weeks earlier, but of course his sleeping patterns had not changed.  Getting up every hour and grabbing your child from the bassinet next to your bed is one thing.  Having to walk to a different room made things exponentially more difficult.  To top it off, I had gone back to work, meaning my luxury of sleeping in a bit later was no longer an option.

Then it happened.  After a night where I completely surrendered everything and slept weeping on the floor next to my kid's crib, I went to work hell bent on finding a solution to my problem that day

While fighting nodding off at my desk, I opened my phone and logged into the mommy chat room I had been a part of since learning I was pregnant.  Call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it whatever you like, but the first board in the room that morning was from a gal giving everyone a free version of a book called The Sleep Sense Program.

I had no clue if it would work, but sheer desperation told me it was all I had left.  I read the book in one day, thoroughly took notes, and was ready to start what I had learned that night.

It has now been 16 months since I sleep trained my son.   It took us a grand total of 3 nights and he has slept 10-12 hours every single night since.  I am not joking.  Every...single...night.  

My marriage is happier.  Nights after my son goes to sleep are reserved for time alone with my husband.  We still fight as all couples do.  But it is no longer the result of nighttime exhaustion and feelings of resentment.  Simply put, I am a better mom and a better wife.  

This is exactly what I did.

Note: The Sleep Sense Program does implement a certain amount of cry-it-out (CIO), but allows you to tailor your training to what you are most comfortable with handling.  It is hard, but if successful, is so very worth it.

First Things First

The #1 premise that sleep training relies on is that a child must be laid to bed while still fully awake.  (This does not apply to newborns.  Please do not sleep train until your child is at minimum 3 months old.)  As much as we moms love to snuggle and rock our babies to sleep, when it comes time to teaching them to sleep on their own, they have to be given the necessary tools to do so.

Pick a soother.  Though it is not completely necessary, we chose to give our son a rabbit lovey to have in the crib with him to ease in the self-soothing.  You can find the one we used here.

Hugging his lovey.  Isn't this the cutest thing you have every seen!?!

Establish a routine.  It is absolutely key to have a set routine that you do every night and do not stray from while sleep training your baby.  This lets your child know that these are the steps that lead to bedtime.  We do bath time (every other night), PJs, story, prayers.

Early on, your child will probably still need a feeding before bed.  You can implement that here, just make sure they stay awake during it.

Night #1

This night was by far the most difficult for me.  I knew that CIO was going to be a part of the deal, so I came prepared with my iPod and headphones.  

7:30 is bedtime for him.  After going through our nightly routine I laid E in bed, gave him his lovey, turned on his music and nightlight, and sat right next to his crib.  He could see me and hear me if I needed to used my voice to soothe him or reach in to give him a quick pat of reassurance, but I did not pick him up to comfort him.

He cried for a good solid 15-20 minutes.  Yes, it about broke my heart, but I used my music and memories of the past sleepless nights to stay strong.  When he finally fell asleep I myself went and crashed.

You can imagine how surprised I was when he didn't wake up until almost midnight!  I fed him while making sure he stayed awake, then laid him back down and did the same routine.  He only woke up once more around 3 am for another feeding.  

Night #2

With the success of the night before still fresh in my mind, this night was much easier.

Again, 7:30 bedtime--bath, PJs, book, prayers.  This time I sat in the middle of the room.  He could still hear me, but I was not right next to him and not close enough to reach my hand in and pat him reassuringly.

He cried again, but only for about 5 minutes.

Again, two feedings and that was it!

Night #3

Simply put...BEST...NIGHT...EVER!!!

This night after the bedtime routine I sat myself at the furthest part of E's room.  He could not see me and I had only planned on talking to him if it was absolutely necessary.

 No crying.  Out in 5 minutes.

Note: Up until 8 months my son still needed about 1-2 feedings a night.  Once you are ready to night ween, you can simply apply the same concept when they wake up for food.  Again, this took us about 3 days.

E after fully night weening him.  My first full night of sleep in 8 months! He was happy, I was happier.


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