Sleep Training and the Return of the Daddy

We. CAN’T. TAKE. IT. ANYMORE.

9:30 The night began with Eric and me in our bed (unusual…Eric usually just starts sleeping on the couch), Will in the pack’n’play by our bed, Reid in the crib in his own room.  And then:

10:30pm Will woke up, I brought him to bed to nurse.

12:00am Reid woke up, Eric took him downstairs to feed.

1:00 Reid wouldn’t go back to sleep, so he came in my bed.  Eric moved to the couch.

1:30 Will woke up, got brought to my bed, nursed

2:00/3:00/4:00  Reid in pack’n’play…Reid woke up…nursed…Will woke up…nursed…Reid in swing…Will in my bed…Reid in my bed…nurse, nurse, nurse…

5:30 both babies in my bed, both parents on the couches downstairs

6:30 babies wake up for the day

7:30 Mommy goes back to bed upstairs

7:35 Daddy gets fed up and decides, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

When I returned from my morning nap, bleary eyed but at least functional, Eric announced the news.

“We are sleep training the babies!  They are going to sleep in their own room in their own beds.  I am going to sleep in my own bed.  They are going to learn to soothe themselves to sleep.  We can’t keep living like this.”  And with that, he went upstairs and moved the pack’n’play into the babies’ room.

We really can’t keep living this way.  We are so sleep deprived, we are beginning to hate ourselves, each other, and life in general.

Before you judge us as evil cry-it-outers, let me tell you our various processes for Vogan babies sleeping.  When we had Stephen, I NEVER slept with him because

a) I was afraid of killing him

b) I was not good enough at side-lying breast feeding to lay down with him

and

c) the much warned-by-peers: “Don’t sleep with your baby!  It will spoil him!  He’ll never leave your bed!  You will regret it for the rest of your life!”

Thus ensued 6 nightmarish months of severe sleep deprivation, likely worse than that endured by the twins.  I was up ALL THE TIME, trying to rock and rock and rock a reluctant, crying Stephen back to sleep by himself.  I would not let him cry it out, but I also wouldn’t sleep with him.  After being up all night, he never slept past 6am until he was 3.  Let me tell you, I am NOT A NICE Person when I am sleep deprived.  I try (kind of–when I’m not sleeping I don’t care enough to try too hard), but I am NOT NICE.  Eric couldn’t help because I was nursing, and didn’t want Stephen, my first born, to have a bottle (from my dear friends/books, I had also heard the horrors of skipping feedings and formula).

Apparently, 6 months is Eric’s breaking point.

When Stephen turned 6 months, Eric said, “I can’t live with you anymore like this.  I will wake up with him all night long, I don’t care, I’d rather not sleep than live with you anymore when you’re not sleeping.  You sleep through the night in our room, I’ll sleep on the couch and take care of Stephen.  He doesn’t need to eat at night.”

And thus Stephen moved into his own room, and Eric tended him at night for a few weeks until he learned to sleep through the night.

When Adrian was born, I had more confidence in my own skills and instincts.  I decided I was co-sleeping with him.  It worked beautifully–Eric and I both got a lot of sleep, Adrian hardly ever cried, and despite the dire predictions of my friends, Adrian transitioned just fine out of our bed and into a crib in Stephen’s room at 6 months.  At least we got one easy one!

Now, of course, you have read about our various twin sleep challenges.  Let me say right off the bat, I DO NOT like cry it out approaches.  I’ve always felt conflicted about “sleep training,” as it’s usually just a euphemism for “let your baby cry alone for a long time.”  I feel like books/friends/the internet make it seem like there are 2 options:

1) Cry it out–Just put the baby in his crib and let him cry for untold amounts of time until he falls asleep.  Don’t worry about how long he cries, just leave him alone until he figures it out.  If you have problems hearing your baby scream for an hour, stop being a sissy and toughen up, Mom!  Are you gonna be rushing out to coddle him when he gets knocked down on the football field?  Park your helicopter and let the baby cry!  The boy must become a man!

2) Attachment, no-tears method–Sleep with the baby for at least 2 years and nurse him until Kindergarten, and longer if necessary.  Husband who?  Oh riiiight, that dude who sleeps on the couch.

(A side note on this one–“no-tears” for whom?  Sure, the baby doesn’t cry, but I’M CRYING from sleep deprivation.  I may not be a baby, but I’m a person too ya know!  Also, if someone said, “would you rather get your baby to sleep by letting him scream, or with “no tears”?  Um, DUH, you’d go for “no tears.”  What kind of parent would say, “No tears method?  Oh no, that’s ok, it’s cool, we’ll just take the screaming route.”  Clearly, the reason people don’t use that one is it DOESN’T WORK unless you want to wake up every 2 hours and nurse around the clock for an undetermined amount of years.  Undeniably, cry-it-out works, which is why people do it.)

So maybe those are my extreme interpretations, but I am working on option THREE!  My philosophy is that my job as a parent is to TEACH my children skills, one of them being falling asleep and comforting yourself.  The cry-it-out method just throws the baby to the wolves to figure it out on his own; attachment doesn’t help the baby learn to sleep independently.  I want to teach my children to sleep on their own.

I think we are doing that option–basically how Eric taught Stephen to sleep.  We are lying them down awake, letting them cry just a few minutes, then go back in and comfort without nursing.  We’re trying to mostly night wean and not nurse them back to sleep every time they wake up.

For now, I am happy knowing we have an actual plan and aren’t just at the mercy of the babies.  We are being consistent about where they are sleeping, and getting them used to sleeping in their own room and own beds without getting on the mommy-go-round.

Hopefully, more sleep is in everyone’s future!

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About jennyvogan

Author of "Stephen's Mom," a blog documenting the funny, crazy life of raising four boys while keeping my day job as an ultrasound tech.
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