We are among the lucky few who had a baby that slept through the night from a pretty early age. We didn’t really do anything to make it happen – but around 4 months old, our son just stopped waking up at 2 AM and started sleeping for a good 10-hour stretch almost every night. If he did wake in the night, we would leave him to cry in his crib and he would very quickly get himself back to sleep. I probably don’t have to tell you that this kind of thing can really lull you into a false sense of sleep security. There you are, getting used to finally waking up all rested and refreshed, thinking you have made it through the hard part.
Ha! It turns out we had merely passed Level 1 of this multi-player game we call sleep training.
Fast forward to 9 months old, and our son had proudly learned to grab onto those crib rungs and get himself to a standing position. He had also, seemingly overnight, developed a hyper-acute Spidey-sense to detect the very moment that one tiny part of his deep-sleeping, limp body hit the crib mattress, which would jolt him awake and set him into a screaming, crying fit. Unlike the sweet little baby of just a few months prior, who would quickly roll over and settle in the crib and get back to sleep, we found that our kid was now standing up in the crib, hanging on to the edge, to continue his tantrum from a fully upright position.
The problem? Once he was standing up, he couldn’t figure out how to get down again. So he would cry standing up, until he fell asleep standing up, at which point the fact that he was standing up would jolt him back awake. And the cycle would start all over again, ad nauseum. We had a few nights of feeling exhausted, frustrated, and powerless before we found a way to wrest back control. Of course, we didn’t know if it would work – but we felt relieved to have something to try.
The plan: to “emotionlessly” and silently lay him down over and over until he went to sleep. The first night it took about 50 times of laying him down before he finally got to sleep, sniffling and sobbing. I don’t have to tell you that it was a super hard night. But the next night, it only took 30 times. And the night after that – 10 times. The fourth night, after laying him down just three times he figured the jig was up, and passed out.
What this experience taught me is that my husband and I can handle these parenting hurdles so much better if we work together on a plan that involves specific actions we can take. We both took so much solace in the idea that we were trying something consistent to solve the problem, even though there were really challenging moments (OK, hours.) Luckily, in this case, it worked out. But if it hadn’t, I now know that the right thing for us would have been to make a new plan and try it until we got it right.
It’s been about a month since all this happened, and it’s still working great. If he needs to be laid down at all, it generally takes fewer than 5 times before he gives up and remains lying down. Last night he was acting up at bedtime and standing sentinel at the edge of the crib, whimpering. I went to lay him down and something fabulous happened – he laid himself down and went to sleep.
Related — Yawn! — sleep posts:
- OK to Wake! Children’s Alarm Clock and Nightlight, our readers love it for slightly older babies and toddlers!
- That time when our friend Olivia tried really hard to stop talking about sleep!
- Why we totally think you need to give your baby a lovey
- Hypnotic magical book to put your child to sleep