Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I Wish I Had Sleep Trained My Baby Much Earlier

One of the first questions people love to ask new moms is, “How is the baby sleeping?” When I had my first baby, it seemed to me like everyone was obsessed with his sleep schedule, and I didn’t see what the big deal was. As a newborn, he slept a lot, like most babies do, so I thought I had it made. We transitioned him into his own bed at six months without too much of a problem.

The same thing happened with my daughter. I let her co-sleep and occasionally share a bed with me, and I enjoyed both the bond and better sleep we both seemed to get from our arrangement. When it was time to transition her into her own bed, she was ready to do so, no questions asked.

When my third baby was born, however, it was an entirely different story. I bed-shared with my son exclusively, and when my mother suggested sleep training him when he was 3 months old, I thought she was crazy. She thought I should put him in his own crib at night and get him on a set schedule, but to be honest, I liked the ebb and flow of not worrying about sticking to a rigid schedule. He was so little and slept so well, so why would I want to mess with a good thing?

Bed-sharing with my son worked quite well for a while. I felt as well-rested as a new mom could possibly feel, and I relished getting the extra snuggles with my baby every night. I figured we would move him into his own bed around six months and everything would be just fine. I figured that extending the co-sleeping honeymoon phase a few more months couldn’t hurt that much. If I had known what was about to come, though, I definitely would have tried sleep training earlier.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

The truth was, I loved co-sleeping in those early months. It gave me way more rest than getting up every few hours to breastfeed. I thought I was making a smart choice that would give me more sleep in the long run. Sure, he would wake up every few hours to breastfeed, but what was the big deal? I could normally just pop him on and off and fall right back to sleep with him by my side.

Eventually, however, we reached the six-month milestone and decided it was time to move my son into his own bed. It was a nightmare, and I had no idea why. I had successfully transitioned two children from my bed to their own beds, so I was taken aback by how difficult it was to get my son to sleep on his own. I couldn’t take the crying or the endless hours of soothing that sleep training required, so he ended up back in the bed with me in no time.

Every month, I resolved to start sleep training again. Every month, I failed.

I tried the cry-it-out method, which involves allowing a baby to cry in his own crib while periodically going back and forth to soothe him. But it made me feel like I was neglecting his needs. Going in to soothe him at five-minute time intervals just seemed to reset his misery. Putting him down in his own bed and rubbing his back until he fell asleep worked, but he would often wake up within a mere half hour or less. Every month, I resolved to start sleep training again. Every month, I failed.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

Fast forward an entire year, and I now have a toddler who refuses to get out of my bed. I find myself gritting my teeth and saying that I wish I had listened to my mother and sleep trained him at 3 months old. It seemed so young at the time, but if I had known about the year and a half of hell (and counting) that lay ahead of me, I would have done it in a heartbeat.

To make matters worse, my son is also teething, which means he is waking every few hours like a newborn and screaming in my face. Although he has his own room where we put him down each night, the process of getting him to sleep takes an hour or more, because he would rather be in our room. Eventually, he gets his way and winds up in our bed by midnight or 1 a.m. We’re way past the point of trying any other sleep training methods because he’s fully capable of getting out of bed and throwing up on the floor if he gets too riled up from crying (I’ve learned this through multiple, painfully messy experiences).

I would give up those few months of extra baby snuggles if it meant I could get a solid night of sleep tonight.

If I could do it again, I would have sleep trained earlier. Maybe it’s just the incredible sleep deprivation of the past year, but I think I would give up those few months of extra baby snuggles if it meant I could get a solid night of sleep. Hell, I’d trade a few months of sweet co-sleeping for 4-6 uninterrupted hours at this point. Not sleep training early enough was one of the biggest parenting mistakes I’ve ever made, and you can be certain I will never make it again.

For now, we are simply going forward with putting him to bed in his own room, and hoping that his stretches of sleep will get longer once the teething ends. To be honest, I still do love snuggling him in my bed occasionally, but is it worth the lack of sleep and exhaustion? Probably not.