Sleep Training

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I was getting to the point where I was beginning to feel insane. I had deep circles under my eyes and I never felt fully awake during the day. I’d go to work in a haze and come home in a haze. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since the night I went into labor, April 19th, 2012. Shepard Blair was born April 21st and never slept more than three hours at a stretch except on a trip to Alabama in September, he miraculously slept six hours straight. He loved the Birmingham Embassy Suites!

By the time he was six months old, around Halloween, we had him sleeping in his crib but he would still wake up at least three times a night, if not more. I would faithfully get up, nurse him back to sleep, place him in his crib where he would sleep two to three hours. Usually by the 4am feed I would give up and bring him into bed with us. This was working okay for me but then he started waking up every hour – sometimes every 45 minutes. Something had to give.

We had started him on solids at six months which promised longer sleep. Nope. Something had to be done. People have very strong opinions on baby sleep and I heard a lot of them. “Letting Shepard cry it out is cruel!” one family friend exclaimed. Another declared “Sleep training is the only way!” I heard and read about Ferber method vs co-sleeping vs nursing on demand vs dream feeding. All I knew was that what we were doing wasn’t working anymore but it was what I knew. I was scared to change.

I read three different sleep books and on January 5th, 2013 we set out a plan for “sleep learning” from The Sleep Easy Solution. We decided to start on a Saturday night so we wouldn’t have to wake up early the next day. The book said it’s very important to have a night time routine and I felt good because we’d already established a solid routine that Shepard loved of dinner, bath time, baby massage, PJs, then nurse to sleep. Or as I now annoyingly say, “din din time and bathy time” even though I swore I would never talk that way. So we did our nite nite routine but this time I nursed him until he was drowsy but not asleep. I placed him in his crib awake at 7:15pm, said I love you and walked out as per the book’s instructions.

One, two, three….WAH WAH WAH!!! Alan and I looked at each other like can we, should we do this? We had never let our baby cry before. As Shepard wailed away we had a quick discussion. We knew this would be hard on us but it’s only supposed to last a couple nights and then we might actually get to sleep! If not now, then when?  “It’s only going to get harder” Alan said. Scream scream scream. Wail, wail, wail. At 7:25 Alan went in for the first check-in since I knew I would crumble at the first sight of my baby boy upset.  He went in and Shepard was standing up in the crib crying in such a pleading tone like, “What did I do?! Why are you leaving me in here?! I want to be out there with you guys!” Alan calmly said, “It’s okay, baby. Just go to sleep. We love you so much” put him back on his back and walked out. You’re not supposed to touch the crying baby but he had just learned how to pull himself up but hadn’t learned how to lower himself back down.

The screaming got louder. Next check-in, ten minutes later – again Alan did it. Same thing. He was standing up, pleading in the crib. Put him on his back, stay calm, murmur loving words, exit. Next one, 7:55pm, same same. For some reason we thought it would be a good idea to watch “Argo” during our first night of sleep training. The crying really added to the tension of the movie. My stomach was in knots both from the movie and me thinking I was abandoning and torturing my baby boy. I was also drinking wine.

The book said babies usually cry about an hour on the first night but some may cry a little longer. By 8:15, the fourth check-in, it had been a solid hour and he was still going strong. Alan was still doing the check-ins as I whimpered on the sofa with my wine glass. He said it was the saddest sight, Shepard was obviously exhausted but was standing up white knuckling it on the bars of the crib. 8:30pm, 1 hour 15 minutes, his crying began to falter and we decided not to check in because it just seemed to aggravate him.

By 8:40 I was losing my resolve. This was taking too long but we were in too deep to turn back now. The book said no matter what follow the rules for one whole night so I knew we couldn’t throw in the towel after one hour twenty five minutes of wailing. Alan did the fifth and final check in. He put him on his back one more time, said the same soothing words and left the room. Shepard was so tired the whimpering was fading. Then at 8:42…quiet. Asleep at last!


To be continued for the “Dream Feed”….The night was far from over.

  • VA


    I feel for you, mama! we waited until Lil’ V was 13 months to sleep train & boy did she have staying power when it came to crying! it took a solid week of bedtime tears (including one night of 2+ hours of wailing), but then it was smooooooth sailing.

    for about 5 years I facilitated new moms groups & the #1 topic was sleep. no cry sleep solution vs healthy sleep habits, healthy child vs Ferber. I think there are nuggets of wisdom in all of the books, but there is obviously not ONE PERFECT SOLUTION, or we’d all be doing it 🙂

    try to keep in mind like most things in babyhood– this too, shall pass. and also (although no one likes to hear this…) there are some people in the world who are just not “good sleepers”– even as adults. so, you just do the best you can with the way someone is “wired”

    • mollynilesrenshaw

      Thanks Virginia! That first night was pretty rough – the first week actually. I agree, all babies are different and there’s no one perfect solution. I’m so glad we stayed the course bc now he’s sleeping great – at least 11 hours!

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