The early days of parenthood are often so exhausting and so confusing, that it’s a wonder any of us are able to make coherent decisions about sleep. Perhaps this is why sleep-training sparks so many discussions, evokes so many opinions, and has so many different prescribed options available to parents; what sounds good and what works for one family may or may not work for another. When it came to my own son, I’m so glad there were certain pieces of sleep training and cry it out advice that we ignored, since my partner and I ended up using a hybrid of methods that suited our family.
That's usually one resounding aspect of getting your kid to sleep through the night, that so many people ignore. Rarely is one "option" every used in it's totality. Usually, a parent or parents will mix and match, adding one aspect of one sleep training method with another, until they find the combo that works best for them and their baby. Our combination was basically one part snuggling, one part back-rubbing, one part creeping-slowly-out-of-the-room, and then one part cringing as our son started crying whenever our hand reached the doorknob.
Seriously though, there were elements of cry it out that we adopted, and some we didn’t. Our son is now two and a pretty good sleeper (knock on wood), so at some point something clicked. If we had to do it again, I probably would have spent less time focusing on what I’d heard about each particular method, and more time trusting my instincts (and my partner, who was much better about managing our son’s middle of the night tears than I was). I also would have let go of these ideas about "cry it out" much, much sooner:
That We Absolutely Had To Do It
Spoiler alert: we didn’t have to do it. We could adapt the parts of the method that suited us and let go of the rest.
That We Absolutely Had To Read Certain Books
I know that everyone who recommended sleep-training books to us did so with the best of intentions. I have very distinct memories of smiling and nodding in my third trimester, while a colleague’s wife tried to recite the name of the book she and her husband had used.
I hate to say it, but I never did read that book.
That We Had To Follow A Subscribed Routine
We took the books to be guidelines and suggestions more than prescriptions. Especially because we had a trip to see family scheduled right when we were in the throes of sleep-training, which, as you can imagine, the books didn’t really address.
That We Had To Wait A Certain Number Of Minutes Before Comforting Our Son, And Every Time
Yes, I understand that giving the baby a chance to soothe themselves is one of the main tenants of the method. However, in my opinion, one of the main tenants of parenthood is responding to my son’s needs. So there were plenty of times when something we’d read or heard went out the window, and my husband and I listened to our instincts instead.
That Each Parent Should Handle Certain Parts Of The Process
Confession: my son’s dad steered way more of the sleep-training process than I did. It all goes back to that thing I said about him being better at handling the late-night tears. I was much more likely to crack under pressure (I’m sure the fact that I’m a deeper sleeper also clouded my wake-ups, too) than he was, so we did what was best for the two of us, not necessarily what the books suggested.
That We Should Try Sitting In The Chair And Moving It Further And Further Out Of The Room While Our Son Fell Asleep
We had an extra couch in my son’s nursery, which, now that I think about it, probably has a lot to do with our skewed version of sleep training. Still, I wasn’t about to move the couch further and further away from the crib, so that piece of advice went out the window, too.
That We Aren’t Supposed To Snuggle Our Baby To Sleep
Yeah, no. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, I’m not going to listen to you if you’re telling me not to snuggle my son. Snuggles are pretty much the number one reason I became a parent in the first place, so until it’s my son telling me to stop, they will be a mainstay in our household.