Torture or True Love?

I am not a weak-willed person. I ran three marathons after knee surgery, delivered one of my babies without any drugs and skate outside in subzero temperatures without a hat. But I’ve got to confess. When it comes to listening to Tess, my 4-month old baby, cry, I am a wus. Maybe it’s because she was sick. Or maybe I’m not as tough as I like  to think I am. But when she wakes up three or four times a night, I comfort her. Rub her belly, stroke her cheek. Feed her.

But I’m blind tired and need to start getting some sleep. Last night she was up about 10 times. There are nights when I lose count how many times I’ve been up. I am struggling to string sentences together and this afternoon I found myself in the bathroom wondering what I was doing there. I sleep trained my first baby at 6 months and swore afterward that I would do it sooner. It works and it’s life changing.

Knowing I am prone to cave into her cries,  I’ve come up with a commitment device* to get my dear child to sleep: I’m leaving. Literally. Moving to a friend’s for the night and leaving my husband to the torture of a wailing infant. I got the idea from a woman we met on the road who told me her husband sleep trained her daughter while she was on a business trip. At the time, I thought he was mad. Clearly I wasn’t tired enough to realize the genius, and true love, of his plan.

I can’t live in a fog forever. Wish me luck.

* commitment device: a way to make you do something you don’t want to do, or you want to do but never really get around to doing.

Posted in commitment

18 Responses to Torture or True Love?

  1. Jen says:

    Good luck Jenny! My second son is almost four months and I just started sleep training last week while my husband was away on business. Somehow I think it is easier if I am alone and need to be the strong one and not cave. If the two of us are in bed staring at the ceiling, listening to the crying, it seems twice as hard not to go to him. One week later, the baby is doing great sleeping through the night and is much happier during the day. His Mom is also much happier!

  2. Sharon says:

    Good luck. Getting enough sleep is very critical for everyone’s well being. I like to think that a short term thing – like “sleep training” might be painful but not nearly as bad as long term sleep deprivation. I also think its important to have balance in the family – so if because of one person’s sleep problem (even if this is a baby assuming they are old enough to learn this – eg. after a few months) everyone else is not getting enough sleep – then the family is out of balance.

    • Jenny says:

      No kidding. My husband and I would love a few uninterrupted nights, so step one: Sleep-training. Once she’s sleeping, she’s moving out of our room and in with her sister. I can’t wait.

  3. jane says:

    As someone who has “been there, done that” with the wussing out and the sleep-deprivation, I can’t decide whether your plan is genius or evil genius. But I do wish you success.

    We never managed to sleep train our first child–one of us always caved and picked him up. We never even tried with our second child–he pretty much slept in our bed until he was three, when we relegated him to a sleeping bag on our bedroom floor. That lasted for some time until I told him that the sleeping bag needed washing so he would have to sleep in his own bed all night (he bought it). But they eventually both learned to sleep through the night in their own beds and now that they are grown I think our “surrender” method with the second child was the best.

    • Jenny says:

      I think everyone has to figure out what works for them. I’m a huge fan of them cuddling in our bed in evenings before bed and in mornings after wake-up. But I prefer that they sleep in their room. We’ll see whether that lasts when they are in big-kid beds!

  4. This worked for me, too, although I didn’t get up the courage to let him do it until kid number two. It was golden. That kid is six now and shows no signs of having suffered at all from being treated differently than her older brother. Him, I picked up at every cry, and the result was that he didn’t sleep through the night until he was, oh, three. She did it at 6 months.

    When you’re back home, put a pillow over your head and let him keep going!
    Good luck.

  5. Pingback: Sleep Solutions: Leaving The House In Order To Sleep Train Your Baby? | Babys First Year Blog

  6. Pingback: Sleep Training: Cry-It-Out Vs. Co-sleeping | Strollerderby

  7. Georgia says:

    I think this is a horrible thing you are going to do and you shouldn’t have done it with your 6 month old, either. Disgusting. So, your baby will cry itself to sleep til it learns not to cry anymore because nobody will come. And, you’ll leave the dirty work to your husband. You say you’re tough, what with the marathons and all…can’t you tough out the sleep for a year or so? It’s just wrong to “sleep train” a baby. This makes me wish I didn’t buy your book because I find it hard to take any “wisdom” from someone who would be so cruel. You will find others who will cheer you on and encourage you because they will be absolving themselves of the guilt by more people doing this horrible thing.

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Georgia. I don’t agree with you, but I always appreciate another perspective. The way I see it, there’s no right and wrong when it comes to these kinds of issues, just what works for different parents and their children.

  8. Rimu says:

    When my wife Anna and I had our first daughter, Maple, we thought the idea of letting a baby cry itself to sleep was paramount to neglect. We were willing to try anything to teach her to sleep without letting her cry-out.

    And try we did. Anything and everything we could. Nothing worked. By the time Maple was 9 months, she was still waking every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the night.

    Dejected and beaten, tired and thoroughly confused, we finally tried the Save Our Sleep method. On the first night, within 45 minutes, Maple was asleep – and she slept through, waking only once or twice for a short period to have a whinge. It was the best sleep she had ever had. There were fewer tears that night than any other night in the last 9 months.

    The result – a feeling of ecstasy mixed with shame. She was sleeping, that was wonderful, but because of our preconceived ideas about the types of parent we wanted to be, we caused our daughter and ourselves so much suffering. Effectively, we didn’t let her sleep for 9 months.

    My wonderful wife is now pregnant again with our second child. We will definitely train him/her to sleep much earlier.

    Good luck with Tess. She will thank you for it.

  9. jennifer says:

    Just please take the time to review well-documented research that even a “good” sleeper at this age would only be expected to sleep for a 5 hour stretch at night. Sure you’ve met people with “excellent” sleepers who may go longer than that, but the average is 5 hours. So — you may reduce the frequency, but your baby will still most likely need you during the night, for food, for comfort, etc. The days are long, but the years are short when it comes to raising kids. It’s hard to believe we make it through the zombie phase of being sleep deprived, but we do, and the mere months we spend like this are a drop in the bucket compared to our lives in total. Hang in there!

  10. Abbie says:

    We used the extinction method when my son was 5.5 months old. It was the best decision we ever made. At that point he was only waking once in the night at about 3 a.m. After two nights of crying it out he never woke at that time again. Now he sleeps uninterupted for 12 hours every night. Now he is 8 months old and occasionally has teething pain during the night. When he cries out from pain we immediately hop out of bed and go to him. We pick him up, sooth him, feed him, whatever he needs to feel better. Now that he is officially sleep trained I have found that these occasional night time comfort sessions have no influence on his general ability to sleep through the night. I know that sleep training is controversial but it is far from abusive or neglectful! It is two stinking nights! Now he sleeps soundly and awakens happy and he knows that all his needs are met day and night.

  11. Twin Mom says:

    We have friends who saw a sleep specialist when their kid was 2 and still up 4-5 times/night, crying for an hour or so each time. (with or without comfort) The specialist explained that about 80% of kids will learn to sleep on their own and about 20% don’t. Their child, obviously, fell into the 20%.

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