A Quick Guide For Tired Parents Part 2: Answers to All Your Sleep Related Questions.
Welcome back to the blog where we talk about all things practical and evidence based related to parenting, mental health, and behaviour! The past couple weeks things have been quiet on the blog as my family has been moving, and I have been spending most of my time getting things ready for the move. However, now I am back and very excited to share new blog posts with all of you!
If you haven’t already, take a moment to read the last post “A Quick Guide For Tired Parents: What You Need To Know About Sleeping Through The Night” before continuing on here. This will help us all have the same understanding about the topics that will be talked about today.
Have you read the last post? Yes? Great!
After this post I received many comments and private messages from tired parents. As most of these comments were on Facebook groups and not on the post itself, it seemed like a follow-up post answering some frequently asked questions would allow more tired parents to have the answers that they need.
Here are some of the comments and the responses that I gave!
“Thank you so much for posting, did your baby cry for four hours the first night?”
Your welcome! No, the maximum amount of time that my baby cried was 50 minutes on the first night. The reason that we decided not to go in for four hours was to make sure that our baby learned to connect her sleep cycles and have a long chunk of sleep!
What kind of nerd would I be if I did not graph the total crying time per day? Here is the information on our crying times for the first 20 days of sleep training. In this graph you can see the minutes of crying per night decreasing drastically after the first 4 days of sleep training.
This is shared with you so that you can have a realistic understanding of what the first few days of sleep training will look like, and how quickly your child will learn to fall asleep independently!
“Did you nap train at the same time? How are your naps?”
I did not nap train at the same time as sleep training. As talked about in my last post good naps = better nights. So instead of nap training at the same time, which would lead to rough days and rough nights, we started by focussing on nighttime sleep only.
During the day we made sure that we got naps in by any means possible! This meant that she was rocked and nursed to sleep as needed during the day while we sleep trained. We kept a close eye on wake times, and also had a nap routine which included: diaper change, book, song, then nurse/rock to sleep.
It was not until we had been sleep training for 2 weeks did we start working on naps. One day I did her routine and decided to put her in the crib instead of nursing and rocking to sleep. About 2 minutes after laying her down we checked the monitor and much to our surprise she was asleep! Since this time, we have switched up the nap time routine to include nursing at least 30 minutes before the nap.
To learn more about naps read this post by Alexis Dubief (aka the genius behind Precious Little Sleep).
“I tried letting my baby cry but couldn’t handle it after 6 minutes. I feel horrible but the lack of sleep and constant waking up is nearly killing me.”
“Awesome post! My girl is 6 months and is up at least every 2 hours! …. I have looked into extinction but cannot bring myself to do it, I may need to though as I desperately need sleep!”
“Our baby is up at least every 3 hours at night, not sure how much longer I can do this!”
No parent goes into parenthood hoping that they will have to allow their precious child to cry. Some parents have unicorn babies that always sleep well, and never need to use cry-it-out. However, for those of us who did not have that blessing, sleep is a skill that we will need to teach our child. The first night we did sleep training my husband and I sat outside the door basically in tears ourselves waiting for the crying to be over. Even now a few months later, on the off nights where she cries for a couple of minutes, we feel stressed until she falls asleep.
However, from someone who has been extremely sleep deprived, and who has now come out the other side, I can assure you that it is worth it. Not only are you teaching your child a valuable skill, but your mental health as a parent is also extremely important! Sleep training has been shown to reduce the risk of postpartum depression in sleep deprived parents.
If you feel that cry-it-out is the next step in your sleep training process, but are having a difficult time doing it here are a few pieces of advice:
Create a plan. Make a clear plan that you can feel comfortable with, and write this down. Commit to this plan. Show your partner this plan, and make sure they are comfortable with it. This will help you feel in control of the sleep training process, and know exactly what you will do!
Find your support system and tell them your plan. Tell a few trusted people your sleep training plan and let them know how they can support you as you implement this plan.
Finally, remember that it is only a few nights of crying, which will result in MANY nights of great sleep for both baby and you. You are helping your child learn an extremely valuable skill that they will have with them for the rest of their life!
Did your little one use a pacifier? Did you take the pacifier away at the same time?
My little one was never hooked on her pacifier. We occasionally used it to help her sleep, but she hadn’t been using it every night. That being said we did take the pacifier away at night when we sleep trained. We were able to still use it occasionally during the day without it being an issue, and she slowly weaned herself off of using it (she now sees it as a toy).
Many parents that have children who are hooked on the pacifier at night have found that they need to take it away in order to break the sleep association. If you are finding that your baby is waking up every 45 minutes searching for the pacifier it is probably time to remove it as part of your nightly routine.
“How early can you start this type of sleep training? My baby is 10 weeks is that too early?”
The first steps listed in the post such as tracking and following wake times along with having a solid bedtime routine can be used starting at birth! As for starting cry-it-out I would suggest consulting with your doctor first. However, most people would say 10 weeks would be to young to do extinction.
Another thing that my husband and I missed the mark on is that at 10 weeks it is important to use all of the sleep tools that you can! Sleep tools include: swaddle, white noise, dark room, monitoring wake times, bed time routine, and nursing and rocking to sleep as needed. Using these tools will definitely help increase nighttime sleep for a 10 week old baby!
“You are being selfish. As a mother you should be prepared to wake up with your baby as they need during the night. Your baby needs you, and may have attachment issues. If you call yourself a research nerd have you even looked at the research on this?”
I did not get a chance to respond to this comment as it was quickly removed from the thread where it was posted. However, I do think it is important that I share with you that not all the feedback on my last post was positive.
To respond to this: Yes I have looked at the research. There is one article talked about by every source that is against the cry-it-out method. The “Middlemess Study” tested the levels of cortisol in sleep trained babies and found that after sleep training their levels of cortisol had not gone down.
The problem is that this study had many flaws, including a very small sample size (25 mother-baby participants), no control group, was done in a setting outside the home, and had missing data!! If you are interested in more factual information on this study look here.
Also, the individual who wrote this comment to me also attached a link to an article stating that cry-it-out will cause my child to have issues with attachment throughout her life. If you have read this same article (or one like it) I highly recommend you read this. This post clearly outlines everything wrong with this article, and has more factual information on independant sleep.
If you are still concerned about teaching your child to sleep independently using cry-it-out, you may be interested to read the most recent research from the American Academy of Paediatrics. These researchers compared children who cried it out as 8 month old infants to children who did not have any formal sleep training. 6 years after these children had “cried it out” the researchers determined that “Behavioural sleep techniques did not cause long-lasting harms or beneﬁts to child, child-parent, or maternal outcomes.” In summary what these researchers were saying was that if you sleep train your child, or if you don’t sleep train your child, as long as they are in a loving home where their needs are taken care of they will not have any long-lasting harm. If you are interested in more information about this study check out this link!
Side note: I realize there are many attached links to other articles in this post. This is to make sure you are given all of the relevant information on these topics from trusted sources.
When you are doing extinction/cry-it-out it is still so important to make sure that your child’s needs are being met. If my child needs her diaper changed, or gets her leg stuck in the crib – I always go in and help her out. Sleep training never gets in the way of making sure my child is fed, clean, and safe.
Finally, can we please stop shaming other parents?! There are reasons why a child may have issues with attachment, but learning to sleep independently in a safe, loving, and nurturing home is not one of them. It is also not selfish to take care of your own mental health and well-being so that you can be the best version of yourself for your family.
This series on sleep was done so that other sleep deprived parents could know that they are not alone in their journey, and that there is hope! Now that you have read both this post and “A Quick Guide For Tired Parents: What You Need To Know About Sleeping Through The Night” you are well on your way to a good night of sleep!! 🙂
Comment below if you have any other questions related to sleep training, I would love to talk to you more about this!
Looking forward to talking to you soon!