Sleep training is something my husband and I decided on long before we had kids. It's actually something we decided would absolutely have to happen when we became parents after watching a few close family members get zero sleep for years on end. It terrified us. They managed to mostly cope in the day-to-day, but we knew there was no way we'd survive it. Now that we are parents, I'm absolutely positive sleep training saved my marriage time and time again.
In fact, every night I think it saves my marriage. I often think about the alternative: one of us battling with our daughter, pleading with her to go to sleep or lying with her until she won't wake up when we get up, while the other one paces in an adjacent room or waits their turn. I'm grateful that we figured out, and early on, that no matter how much shushing and patting and consoling we did, our daughter would fall asleep better on her own. Not every baby is like that, and perhaps our next baby won't prefer to fall asleep on her own, but for now we're taking it as a total win for our marriage that our daughter responded so well to sleep training.
We worked with our daughter a lot to ensure that crying it out was minimal. We watched for sleep cues and totally played detective, trying to figure out how to help her fall asleep on her own. Before long, we learned that she needed to be swaddled in order to stay asleep at night, but she was super tactile and liked to have something just close enough to rub against her cheek to fall asleep. We made sure she wasn't going to suffocate while simultaneously putting a little blankie next to her, then encouraged her to work it out on her own. A few nights of light whimpering later, she was babbling herself to sleep and, well, we haven't looked back.
I appreciate the fact that our daughter is sleep trained almost every single night. I appreciate that last night, my husband and I sat on the couch and watched several episodes of Shameless together while my daughter slept in the next room. We weren't stressed trying to decide who would get up with her every 20 minutes (like some of our friends) and one of us wasn't lying with her until she fell asleep while the other waited on the couch scrolling through Instagram.
Our lives are busy, yes, but sleep training has allowed my husband and I to spend more time together and that has been the key to our marriage as we navigate the first few years of parenthood.
All Day Long
Neither my husband nor I function particularly well on very little sleep. We realized, after a few months of waking up with my daughter in the middle of the night, that we both had a shorter fuse from the lack of sleep. When we felt ready to sleep train our daughter, we knew it was going to be helpful for reducing stress in our relationship caused simply by a lack of sleep.
Since my daughter was very small (only a few months old, in fact) bedtime has been short and sweet. I honestly can barely remember the days of rocking and shushing her to sleep before we put her down. When she was a few months old, we started putting her in her crib, drowsy but awake, zipping up her sleep sack, praying for her, and saying goodnight as we pulled the string to her musical bunny.
She's had phases where she has fussed a little, and occasional nights where she'd be overtired and cry for a few minutes, but overall she goes to sleep talking or cooing to herself. It's one of the most peaceful ways to wind down the day with my husband, sitting on the couch in our tiny apartment listening to her practice her latest word or sound. Sometimes it only takes five minutes of chatting but, because we sleep trained her, bedtime isn't a terrifying word in our house. It's something we look forward to because it's peaceful for all of us.
When We're Eating Dinner
Our daughter's bedtime is 6:30 p.m., which means my husband and I typically sit down to dinner together shortly thereafter. When she's a little older and can manage to make it past 7 p.m., we both look forward to having her at the dinner table along with us rather than an hour before us. In the meantime, however, we're taking advantage of the opportunity to sit and eat together and catch up on our days.
When We Had To Be A Team
Sleep training is one of the things my husband and I really worked together on. From the day she joined our family, I stayed home and cared for her full-time, which meant I took on the lion's share of feeding and playing and sustaining. By bedtime, though, I was exhausted and desperately needed my husband's reserves of patience and compassion as we worked to figure out the best way to get our daughter to sleep. By working together to sleep train her together, we both felt like a parenting team and, as a result, made our relationship stronger.
When We Travel As A Family
Travel is something my husband and I shared and enjoyed before we became parents, and it's something we wanted to continue to do once our daughter arrived. It's as much a necessity for seeing family (both our parents' live thousands of miles away) as it is just for enjoyment. We have many friends and family members who are afraid to travel because they worry their kids won't sleep and their routines will be messed up.
However, because we sleep trained our daughter we were able to feel confident she'd be able to travel with us and we could still enjoy something we enjoyed together before we had kids. It's not always perfect, but we've tried to create routines that mean she can fall asleep in places other than her crib and under different conditions.
All Night Long
We've had a few nights where our daughter has been sick and just won't settle, no matter what we do. I can count on one hand the number of times we've resorted to bringing her into bed with us. Every single time, we wake up the next day and say to each other, "This is why she sleeps in her own crib."
There's just no way that we'd ever be able to cuddle like we do or chat late into the night about how cute she is and how lucky we are if she was squashed in between us jabbing her little fists into our ribs. Being married to a guy whose love language is physical affection, I know our marriage needs that in a busy life with a toddler.
When We Spend Mornings As A Family
When my daughter was still very young and waking up to feed in the night, whoever had gotten up with her in the night (we usually traded off since she typically only needed one feed each night) could barely drag themselves out of bed. It meant that every morning, my daughter would see either one of us, but not both.
Now that we both get reasonable rest every night (so long as we don't stay up too late getting sucked into Netflix), we all get up as a family and have breakfast together. It makes us both feel like we aren't just surviving, but thriving as a family.
The Sexy Times
This is decidedly more TMI than I usually share, but sleep training has allowed sexy times to be a thing in our marriage. A fussy, crying baby repeatedly all night long created so much anxiety in me for the first few months of her life, because I could predict before I went to sleep that I'd be exhausted the next day. That meant I was going to bed the second she did, so that I could scrape together enough hours to make it through the next day with her.
Meanwhile, my husband can survive on much less sleep and wouldn't crawl into bed until hours after he gave our daughter a dream feed and I'd been asleep for hours. Sleep training meant we could reasonably assume she would sleep through the night and we could actually climb into bed together most nights. That meant more sexy times and, in turn, that meant the survival of my marriage.