All Aboard the Sleep Train…I Mean, Roller Coaster

Our little munchkin is ready for another ride on the sleep roller coaster.

Sleep training my five-month-old daughter has been daunting, more so than I expected. At six weeks, she started sleeping through the night. My husband and I felt like rock-star parents. We knew we were lucky, and we savored our sleep. Then, inexplicably, she began waking up every 2-3 hours.

My husband and I had several ideas about why she was waking up, such as growth spurts, teething, white noise levels, new nap schedules, etc. In the middle of the night, I was mainly practicing triage to help us both get back to sleep quickly — I would pop her into bed with us and nurse her until we both fell back asleep. But the more research I did, the more I realized that my methods (although common) were fostering bad habits that could have negative consequences for a healthy, well-rested future.

Thus, we recently began the “crying-it-out” phase of sleep training. A necessary evil, I told myself. For a week, my husband and I decided to leave her alone (i.e., I would stop nursing her back to sleep) when she woke herself up, hoping that she would eventually learn how to fall back asleep for herself. But after one night of letting her cry-it-out for hours, we caved in for the night (which I’m sure the neighbors appreciated). The following evening, we tried again with similar results.

I reached out to other parents, read articles and books, and kept telling myself that it would take a while…stay strong. But for every hour gained one night, we would have setbacks the next. I began logging our activity each night to see if a pattern emerged. A sense of utter failure was creeping in, which was starting to affect my outlook on everything. I dreaded each evening, knowing the type of gauntlet my daughter was going to throw down. With all of our collective years of experience and schooling, I was amazed at how difficult it was for my husband and I to figure this out.

Finally, a breakthrough. We got her to bed late last night, partly because I wanted to watch my beloved San Francisco Giants play the final innings of Game 4 in the World Series. We put her in her crib around 9pm. She woke up every 30 minutes until 11 pm (standard for the past few weeks). Despite feeling the joy from the Giants’ World Series victory, I felt defeated and depressed after hearing her wake up a fourth time. My husband volunteered to check on her. After a couple of minutes, he emerged from the bedroom and declared, “I cracked the code!”

Our daughter loved being swaddled, but we stopped after she learned to roll over in her crib and I found her face down and crying. Since then, she’s been in PJs. We hadn’t considered swaddling again because her wakeful tendencies started when she was still being swaddled. Searching for anything to help soothe her last night, my husband held down her arms as she lay in her crib and she instantly fell asleep. To confirm his findings, I got a light swaddle blanket and tucked it tightly around her in a way that kept her wrapped up, but allowed her to break free if she needed. We went to bed, and I dreamed about buying a Buster Posey Christmas ornament for the tree (no joke…). Before I knew it, it was 6am, and she was still wrapped up and sleeping soundly. Success! The swaddle worked. After all this time, the potential solution was simple.

I’m cautiously optimistic about tonight. We’ll try the swaddle again, and I’m mentally prepared to have her wake up at least once during the night. It’s hard to count on anything when it comes to sleep training.

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