I Sleep-Trained My Baby – and Our Bond is Just Fine

It goes without saying that sleeplessness is part of the first few years of raising kids. It’s one of the “baptisms by fire” of parenting! Save for a few “unicorn” parents (they’re a rare breed!), most of us experience long stretches of sleep deprivation that mess with our ability to function.

I was one of the moms who were hit hard. Sleep deprivation took a toll both physically and mentally. I found myself neck-deep in crippling anxiety from the countless times my baby frequently woke up during naps and evening sleep – no matter what method I tried.

I started considering sleep training when my baby was three months old. He was at a point developmentally where he could already adapt to a routine, and I was, quite frankly, at my breaking point.

We had so many apprehensions initially as sleep training isn’t really fully embraced by traditional Filipino culture. It entailed a daunting commitment from us as parents to set loving boundaries around sleep and trust that our child is more than capable of adapting.

I Sleep-Trained My Baby - and Our Bond is Just Fine

It was rough at first because our son protested the change. We were warned that there would be crying involved, and that was the hardest part for us. The good news is that we were given plenty of encouragement and advice on how to best respond.

Today, our toddler is amazing with routines and happily participates in implementing them. While sleeping in is not quite yet in sight and we still have the occasional terrible night, he now sleeps through the night in his own bed without needing to be fed or rocked to sleep.

The biggest concern we had about sleep training was our connection with our child. We were afraid that allowing him to cry would ruin our bond. We were nervous about being judged by other parents for our choices and being seen as selfish, rigid, and unfeeling.

But we discovered that when our son slept well, he engaged better with us and the world. His attachment to us is healthy and strong, and we also found ourselves more able to enjoy him because we were also more rested.

That said, sleep training isn’t really for every family. It won’t work for certain lifestyles or preferences. If you’re considering this route and are unsure of what to do, here’s how we arrived at the decision to sleep-train our child and what we’ve learned from the experience.

Consider your circumstances.

We had the “perfect storm” that pointed us toward sleep training. We were isolated due to the pandemic, my husband was working from home, and we both have high sleep needs as adults. The way we were then doing things was just unsustainable for us.

Since staying home at the height of Covid was the rule of thumb and I was on self-imposed maternity leave anyway, it made sense to create a home environment where everyone could thrive. Sleep was our biggest nemesis, and we had the luxury and flexibility of time to figure it out.

That said, I also know of full-time, office-based working parents who were able to sleep-train their children. Their challenges are unique, but they managed to find ways around them.

Do your research.

We took the time to do our own research on sleep training. Apparently, there are several schools of thought (and a lot of studies done!) regarding this, so we went ahead and learned all we could.

Doing so debunked all the preconceived notions we had about sleep training. We discovered so many different approaches, from the gentlest to the most drastic (it’s not all “cry it out”!). It was good to know that we had options.

It’s also great that these days, so many sleep consultants offer their insight to help parents decide. I also found so many helpful online communities for this. Not only did I hear from the experts, but I also learned from the stories of countless Filipino parents who gave this a shot.

Reflect on your values as parents.

When making decisions for the family, my husband and I always make it a point to go back to our values.

As we were considering sleep training, we assessed how important physical rest was to us. We realized that getting a relatively decent amount of sleep was non-negotiable in our personal approach to parenting. It just made us healthier and better in all that we do, especially in looking after our child.

During the difficult parts of training, we would always go back to why we made this decision. It grounded us and kept us going.

Weigh the commitment and count the cost.

One of the things that our sleep trainer repeatedly emphasized when we were just consulting was the importance of consistency. Sleep training needs at least a couple of weeks of unwavering consistency for everyone involved – otherwise, it won’t really work.

That meant that we needed to consider and embrace the costs that came with this choice – at least two weeks of mostly rough days and nights, work interruptions for my husband, and the need to build up our mental and emotional stamina.

We also realized that we were going to be sleepless whether or not we took the next two weeks to sleep-train, so might as well go for it and hope for long-term changes!

Adjust your expectations.

Once we had gotten through the formal sleep training program, we had to reframe our mindset on sleep. Babies, like us, are humans. Just like adults, they’ll continue to have bad sleep days – especially during developmental milestones and growing pains.

While it turns out that sleep training doesn’t guarantee perfect sleep every single day, it does equip you with the tools to address any sleep issues without creating unsustainable habits.

So, do you sleep-train or ride it out? The choice is ultimately yours as parents. But whatever route you decide to take, what matters is that the decision comes from a place of loving your child and doing what you believe is best for him or her.

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