When I went through my medical training I thought putting your baby to sleep was as simple as putting your baby in the bassinet or crib. In fact, even when my patients came in complaining of how difficult it was to get their baby to sleep, I just thought to myself: Put them down and that’s that! I had heard about sleep training and contemplated if I should sleep train my baby, but I didn’t know how to sleep train. It was after I had Madi that I realized how challenging baby sleep can be, and I learned how utterly exhausting it can be to get your baby to:
- Sleep In their own crib/bassinet and
- Sleep for several hours in a row.
The first 4-5 months of Madi’s sleep were challenging, but I expected it. Doctors tell patients that most infants do not sleep through the night until 4-6 months. I had to breastfeed Madi to sleep and very gently place her in her bassinet in our room; often this transfer would cause her to wake up and we would do this process all over again. AND she would wake up every 3 to 4 hours. I was tired but didn’t think it was a big deal as after 6 months, infants can sleep through the night and if I could make it til then, I would get my restful sleep.
Six months later and I was still tired. In fact, Madi continued needing to be breastfed to sleep, but now she refused to go into her crib whenever we tried to transfer her. She ended up sleeping with us in our bed until she was 11 months old. And I was now beyond exhausted. (Co-sleeping is controversial and I’ll be writing another post on this!)
So I turned to Sleep Training. I must say the sleep training process was hard! It is especially hard to find resources online for sleep training, so here are some guides I created:
- Baby Sleep: a Step by Step Guide to Sleep Training Baby.
- My Child Won’t Sleep! Why do Children have Insomnia?
- How much sleep does my baby need? How much Sleep do Teens Need?
- How does travelling and time changes affect toddler sleep?
- How to Sleep Better, Avoid Insomnia, and Sleep Deprivation?
I have assured patients that sleep training is safe as long as periodic checks are made. However, as a mother I couldn’t follow my own advice. I read blogs by other mothers saying that their children grew up to have attachment disorders because they were left to cry in their crib and the infant felt alone and unsupported. The thought of Madi feeling alone and unsupported stopped me from “practicing what I preached”.
NOW for the medical evidence…
At 11 months I was on call and beyond exhausted. I was torn, as a mom I couldn’t stand hearing my daughter cry herself to sleep and as a physician I knew it was the safe thing to do and that a well rested baby was a happier baby. What I did that very night after I finished call was look up the medical evidence. Published by the Ontario College of Family Physicians was a summary of sleep training published on October 2, 2017. “Sleep training improves infant sleep problems, with about 1 in 4 to 1 in 10 benefitting over no sleep training, with no adverse effects reported after five years. Maternal mood scales also significantly improve, with patients having worse baseline depression scores benefitting most.” After not sleeping through the night for 11 months, I started the process of sleep training. Madi is now 20 months old and sleeps from 8pm to 7:30am. She is a happier baby when she is rested and I feel like a new person with a full night of sleep.