So you’ve decided to sleep train. Well done! You made a decision! Hooray for you.
I’m guessing you’ve spent about all of your mental energy on this — you’ve read all about cortisol and how French babies just magically learn how to sleep and about baby whispering; you know everything there is to know about Ferber and extinction, no-cry and co-sleep-’til-puberty. You probably own a Merlin Magic Sleepsuit and a Halo and a Zipadee-Zip. You may have even asked Facebook its opinion (that was brave — don’t do that again). You’ve read all this stuff, bought all the “magic solutions,” heard all the opinions, and, at some point, have realized you’re so freakin’ tired you’re either going to crash the car on the way to swim class or sleep train. And here you are.
It’s OK. You’ll be OK, they’ll be OK. I was sleep trained and I am a well-attached balanced human who loves her momma. My son was sleep trained and he’s showing all the signs of not being a psychopath. It’s OK.
But let me tell you a few things the books won’t:
It’s not a one-time thing.
The books make it sound like you do this tough week once and then you’ll be blessed with sleep forever more.
You’ll end up needing to do some form of sleep training after every sickness bug or cold or long-distance journey. Basically every time you or illness or time difference messes with your child’s routine, you’re going to need to coax him back into it. This first time will probably be the most difficult phase, but it’s not one-and-done. Sorry.
You don’t have to do it all in one go.
So basically, you sleep train at the beginning of the night and it’s hell and you drink all the wine and sit crying on the hallway floor but then they fall asleep and you think it’s over. Except it’s not. You have to do it again on the next wake up. And the one after that.
Except, really, you don’t.
If (like me) you can only handle one gut-punch at a time, you might want to do this thing in stages. Stage one: Baby learns to fall asleep by herself and you get your evenings back, but when she wakes at midnight you nurse or rock or co-sleep or whatever your normal thing is. Stage two: Sleep train through the midnight thing (feel free to wake up your partner just to cry at them) and do your normal thing at 2 a.m. Stage three: Make it through to 5 a.m. and then drink all the coffee and accept that 5 a.m. is the new 9 a.m.
Dream feeds don’t work for everyone.
I tried dream feeding a few times. Each time, I woke my son up and could not get him back to sleep. I’m sure they work for some kids, but mine is just too light of a sleeper.
It doesn’t matter if you just can’t do it.
If you try sleep training and it’s worse than hell and you just can’t do it, don’t panic. You can try again later. Or not. It’s really up to you — you’re the tired person, you get to call the shots.
Which brings me to…
Your partner may have an opinion, but you get the final say.
Assuming you’re the one bearing the brunt of the wake-ups and your partner is snoring away through the whole thing, they don’t get to say what you should do. Sure, they may have an opinion, but they don’t have the hormones and they’re not the exhausted one, so the choice is yours. If you need to tell them to pipe down, you’re just not ready yet, go right ahead.
At some point, you won’t need the books anymore.
The books will never tell you that you don’t need them, but I will. At some point, you will know your child well enough to know that dream feeds are a joke or that you need to go back into baby’s room one time before he settles for the night. The books will never know your particular family dynamic or your child’s personality. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll never know what you need or how you’re feeling. No matter when you sleep train, or if you never do, YOU know your kid and you know what you need. Trust yourself. You got this.