Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Our Sleep-Training Story

“You said you wanted to do it this way, but every time he cries, you change your mind!” DJ yelled.  “I just want to make sure nothing is wrong with him!” I yelled back. At two months-old, we began sleep-training our little Micah, and it was no easy road.  For those who know DJ and I personally, it’s often said of us that our love and commitment to each other is remarkable and compelling; however, since having a child, in our almost decade-long relationship, I don’t think we have ever disagreed more.  Regarding sleep-training, I had reached a breaking point, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my entire life (that means a lot coming from a physician), yet at the same time we were expected to make important decisions, daily, about how we were going to raise this child.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition life throws at you.

The night of that argument, I don’t think either of us got much sleep, and it wasn’t because of the baby.  He stayed up thinking, as did I.  I couldn’t believe what was happening to us.  It was a nightmare. We had never argued like this before.  Where did the happy, head-over-heels-in-love DJ and Sheree go?   Experts say some of the most common reasons for arguments in a marriage include money, sex, and housework.  That experience taught me that children should be pretty high on the list as well.

I stayed out of the room for much of the night, but at about 2 a.m., after some time in prayer, I headed back to bed, knowing we had a ton to talk about.  Over the course of the next few days, DJ and I prayed and did lots of talking to figure out a sleep-training plan that would work for both of us.  I expressed my emotional need as a mom to nurture and care, and also shared with him how difficult it was for me to hear Micah cry.  He expressed his concern about me returning to work with a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night, and shared his belief in the fact that, as parents, our goal is to raise an independent human being.  We realized that we both wanted what was best for Micah, we just had different ways of acting on said desire.  So, after much prayer, research, and discussion, here’s what we came up with:

Without getting into the nitty, gritty details of the various sleep-training methods, from what we learned, full feedings were key to getting Micah to sleep longer.  So, every time he ate, if he began falling asleep during the feed, we would keep him awake to finish eating by tickling his toes, rubbing his belly, etc. Then, we switched from feeding him on demand, to feeding him after he woke up from every nap, not letting him nap for longer than 2 hours at a time.  Doing this had a twofold solution: it ensured he was eating regularly, and it also kept him from sleeping too long in the day, so that he would sleep longer at night.  Additionally, we set a regular bedtime of 8 o’clock every night.  Now, here comes the hard part.  Whenever he would cry, whether it was during a nap or the middle of the night, if it wasn’t time for him to wake up yet, we would allow him to cry for 10 minutes, giving him the opportunity to put himself back to sleep.  If he didn’t do it by then, one of us would enter the room, pick him up out of the bassinet, hold him and soothe him until he stopped crying, and then put him back down.  We would then repeat the steps: let him cry for 10 minutes, soothe him, and put him back down.  This way, he would learn the skills needed to self-soothe and put himself to sleep.  Thankfully, it hardly ever took more than one cycle before he was asleep.  After the first 10 minutes of crying and being soothed, he would usually fall asleep within the 3-5 minutes following.

By three months, Micah was sleeping through the night.  Success! All the struggles of the month before were worth it. Most importantly, DJ and I came to appreciate more deeply the importance of praying, taking the time to understand where your spouse is coming from, and based on that information, making a plan on which we both agree in order to move forward.  Parenting certainly isn’t easy, and I’m sure there will be many more disagreements to come, but as long as we remember the promise we made to God on our wedding day to stay committed to each other, I know there’ll be many more days of love and happiness to come.


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4 thoughts on “Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Our Sleep-Training Story

  1. Those tips sound amazing. This will come in handy when our baby is born. Thanks for this realistic post.

  2. Wow! I’m impressed. Micah is an angel in my books! No worries though…I learned the hard way the first time around (ultra-difficult to hear her cry, plus she was colicky!) but will definitely be trying these great tips next time. Thanks.

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