Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lessons from Sleep Training

When I had a brand new tiny human placed in my arms at the hospital, I vowed NEVER to sleep train via the Cry It Out (CIO) method. What cruel mother would do that to her perfect little bundle of love and neediness?

I stood by that statement until 2 weeks ago, when Zoe turned 5 months and we had been dealing with the 4 month sleep regression for 6 weeks with no signs of changing. I would rock and nurse Zoe to sleep at bedtime, and then do the dance of put her in her bassinet, she wakes up and cries, so I rock her some more. We would do this about 5 times before she would stay asleep in the bassinet. Then she would wake up screaming every 1-2 hours all through the night. Early in the night, I would repeat the rock and nurse to sleep routine, but in the wee hours of the morning, in my delirium, I would give up and just put her in bed with me. This didn't fix anything because she'd still wake up every 1-2 hours, I'd nurse her next to me, but she would have a hard time falling back asleep, so I'd hold her really tightly to keep her from flailing herself awake. I would wake up the next morning more exhausted than before, feeling like I'd wrestled a baby alligator all night long. And Zoe would wake up cranky for the day too. Fun.

Naptimes were equally fun. Because Zoe had never self-soothed, she didn't know how to nap and she was growing and learning so much that nursing to sleep didn't happen during the day because she wanted to look at EVERYTHING around her. "Oh, look, a stuffed animal over there!" "Oh look, your bra strap is interesting?" "Oh look, the sunbeam on the wall is so cool." Seriously? I would usually give up and strap her in my Ergo, cover her head so she couldn't see anything and do chores or something to rock her to sleep. So yah, my days were super relaxing. Lots of moms recommended just taking a nap with Zoe, but that didn't work because I couldn't actually get her to sleep on the bed with me- she was too distracted.

One morning after wrestling my baby alligator all night long, I turned to Taylor and confessed the secret resentment that was beginning to grow towards my perfect little baby. That little fleck of resentment was my red flag that something wasn't working and that maybe I did need to consider letting Zoe learn to self-soothe.

I began thinking about Zoe as a toddler and how this waking all night thing would NOT fly as she got older, especially once she learns how to climb out of her crib and once we have other babies to tend to.

So, I called and texted some of my most trusted mama friends- you know, the ones who mother the way you want to mother. They gave me their pep talks, their instructions and trouble shooting details, and as soon as I shared them with Taylor, he was on board 100%- what a man!

We started last night. It was so rough.

The only other times I've heard my baby scream and shriek like that is when she's in her carseat and is sleepy and there's nowhere for mommy to exit to help her. Terrible.

So we laid in bed next to her bassinet (she couldn't see us), listening to her scream, comforting her every couple of minutes. She would stop and pause, start again, make little protesting sounds, then resume shrieking. I'd pick her up to comfort her, tell her that I love her and want to teach her how to sleep and sooth herself, that I didn't leave and I'm right here. It was hard. So glad to have my man supporting me and Zoe in this new, difficult thing.

As I lay there wrestling with dualing thoughts, "this is good for her, I'm being a good mama teaching her how to sleep" vs "she is so mad, I hope she doesn't think I've left her," I started seeing the parallels with God's training in my life.

God often times allows me to go through really really awful, painful seasons for my own good. Of course, I don't know they're for my own good when they're happening. In the moment, I think bad things are just happening to me. I get mad and throw fits at God, demanding He show me where He is, that He fix this, that I really really can't take it anymore. But just like I am with Zoe, God is right there IN my struggle, not fixing it because the training is good for me, and He knows I really can take it. He trains me because He loves me, just like I am doing with Zoe.

He isn't selfish, just wanting more time to himself to watch TV or have a break (which is what I wrongly assumed most mothers wanted when they "subjected" their babies to CIO sleep training). He is tenderly, lovingly watching me and training me, doing what is best for me. Just like I am doing for Zoe.

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].- Hebrews 12:5-11

The moment she gave in and fell asleep after 30 minutes of intermittant (and comforted) crying, I was relieved and hopeful that it wouldn't be this bad next time. And you know what? The next time, she cried less and surrendered to sleep more quickly.

When she woke up the next morning her cheery, loving, precious self, I couldn't wait to bring her into my bed for some morning cuddles and ten thousand kisses on her sweet chubby cheeks. I felt so proud of her.

I think and hope that God must be watching us from the metophorical bedside, cheering for us when we struggle with new and difficult things, and that He is so excited to celebrate with us in the morning.




  1. You go girl! Mothering is hard, but worth it. Sometimes the things that are the best for our children are the hardest on us. So glad you and your hubby are a team on this.
    Cindy King

  2. Hi Stephanie! I'll be sure to have you in my thoughts during this time! My name is Heather and I was wondering if you could answer a quick question I have about your blog :-) My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)

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