Clearing up the misconception – sleep training

I’ve had a lot if conversations with people about our baby’s sleeping habits. Well of course I have. It’s all I talked about for the first 6 months of Miller’s life. Mainly the lack of it. Anyway, when I talk about how we tackled Miller’s lack of sleep and utter the words ‘…we left him to cry… I then feel obliged to explain.

Why? Because before I did it I had that same ‘how could you leave your baby to cry’ look. And the same ‘I could never leave him to cry’ answer.

Why? Because I automatically presumed that meant sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, tears streaming, pulling out my hair, listening to my baby crying for hours on end. But that’s not the case and I think we all need to take a step back from the judgement and think about it.

First of all let me tell you what my meaning of ‘leaving him to cry’ consisted off.

You can read all about how I tackled Miller’s uncooperative sleeping ‘here‘. I’ve also updated it from the original post. You’ll see that there was no leaving him to cry for hours. Actually, let’s make this clear. There was no leaving him to cry at all. Because that’s not how it works. It’s not the same as leaving your child to cry when they’ve fallen over and hurt themselves. We all know that babies have different cries for different emotions and communication. That’s the ONLY way they have to talk to us and tell us how they feel. It’s so hard to understand that sometimes they’re crying because they’re pissed off or because they’re tired. And that’s the key to making it work. It took me months to work out what cry meant what but when I finally did, that’s when we were able to tackle the sleep routine and nail it.

Next, lets talk about why I did it.

1. Because I could not physically take it any longer. I wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours, he would only sleep on me during the day and I couldn’t handle it any more. As much as I loved the cuddles I couldn’t function physically or mentally on such little sleep. And Miller wasn’t getting any quality time with me because all I wanted to do was to sleep. I was a walking, mumbling, zombie-Mum.
2. Because Miller was tired all the time. Sleep is so important, especially in these early years. Did you know that babies don’t automatically know how to sleep? I didn’t. And, as hard as it is, we have to teach them how to sleep. For their sake. For their health. As well as our own. How can any of us function and enjoy our time together if we’re all waking every few hours throughout the night?

Now, let’s clear up these misconceptions once and for all.

It’s not about cruelty or leaving your child in distress. As I said before, I had to work out what Miller’s cries meant before I could start the whole process (it took time but I got there in the end) and if he was slightly distressed I was straight in with a reassuring cuddle. But the high pitched screams, combined with leg kicking and, literally, throwing his toys out the cot, were simply him being annoyed that I dared to make him sleep on his own. He does the same thing now when I stop him from doing things he wants to do. (like putting his fingers in plug sockets!)

It sounds harsh to say I wanted my baby to sleep on his own. The fact is I didn’t want him to sleep on his own. I tried to get Miller to sleep in our bed with us many times. We would’ve been quite happy to co-sleep for however long he wanted to. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that, if it works for you. But Miller did not want to sleep with us. He never settled and continued to wake and needed rocking back to sleep. That’s why I knew I had to help him work it out for himself.

For those of you that are happy co-sleeping, rocking your babies to sleep, getting up multiple times in the night, great for you. If that works for you and your baby, then carry on. After all, you know what’s best for them and for you. But I am writing this post because I am sick of being judged for helping my baby to sleep on his own. We are all doing what we feel is best for our own children. So don’t judge other parents because they made a different choice to you. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice, because you didn’t do it.

We all need to remember that our children are all different, we are different and what works for you might not be the same for your friend or the person you follow on twitter. But it’s not for you or I to judge. We’re all doing what we think is the best for our own child. That’s all you need to know.

Instead of criticising or saying ‘I couldn’t do that’ (like I have done so many times!) try supporting and praising other parents for trying so hard to do the very best for their children. You’d be amazed how good that feels – for both of you! xx

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4 responses to “Clearing up the misconception – sleep training

  1. We did controlled crying with Max and I don’t feel the need to justify it as I know that it was the right thing to do.
    We started a day and night routine early (a week old early) and at two weeks he started to drop his daytime naps. The only way he would sleep was by rocking but I had an exsisting back problem and got to the point where I physically couldn’t do it anymore. So at 6pm we started the bedtime routine and at 7 we put him to bed with no rocking. Yes he cried, but we left him for short spells (still in the room but out of sight) of say half a minute to begin with before soothing him and letting him fall asleep. This probably took a few weeks before it he got used to it and it was horrid for everyone at the time. But at 3 months we had a baby who went to bed at 7 and could put himself to sleep and that’s gold.
    Teething and illness will still catch you out but for the most part he’s a great sleeper but that meant teaching him to sleep by himself early. They are o pt crying because they are tired and the sooner they can sleep they sooner you’ll all be happier.

  2. Here, here! We did exactly the same with our little one, Tilly, who was born about a month after Miller I think. We were all thoroughly miserable when she was about 4/5 months old and a terrible sleeper, and in the end it took my dad forcing me to sit through a whole episode of Eastenders and letting her finally fall asleep on her own until I finally realised she was just annoyed rather than in pain or truly upset. Since then we have never looked back and she is the happiest little lady in the world after a good night’s sleep!
    Each to their own but it worked for us. I think some of it also depends on the baby’s character and Tilly is definitely strong willed to say the least!
    Thanks for a great post x

    • Mission2Mum

      Thank you so much for your comment Sian. It’s so hard to do isn’t it, but some babies just need it. Definitely the right choice for us too. xx