Parenting,  Sleep Training

Why I Am Not Sleep Training

Last night was a rough night. Benji woke up at 2:30 instead of 12:30 like he usually does. Typically, his schedule goes something like this: 6:30 he is asleep, 9:30 or 10 he wakes up to eat and goes back to sleep, 12:30 he wakes up, gets a diaper change, eats and sleeps again. 3:30 he wakes up again to eat. Yes, he’s 8 months old and wakes up three times a night to eat. Sometimes it’s less. I think it’s because he saves up his eating for when I come home from work. Apparently it’s called reverse cycling. He is also one of the rare babies who sleeps worse after starting solid foods. Our pediatrician told us it is uncommon but happens.

Last night, Benji slept through his 12:30 wake up and so at 2:30 when he woke up we changed his diaper because otherwise it leaks all over him by morning. (He’s allergic to the overnight diapers. Trust me, we’ve tried everything. He needs the diaper change.) Unfortunately, he completely woke up after getting his diaper changed and was full of energy. I fed him and then spent an hour rocking him trying to get him to go back to sleep. Finally, when I thought he was good and sleepy, I laid him down in his crib where he spent two minutes sleeping before he started to cry.

To my husband’s credit, he offered to take Benji and get him back to sleep but at this point I was already wide awake so I said I would handle it. I tried three more times to put him in his crib and he would just wake up immediately and cry. I decided to see if he would work it out on his own and go back to sleep even though I am not a fan of crying it out. I gave him four five-minute tries to do so and it did not work. He stood in his crib for the full five minutes every time and screamed. Poor little guy. Eventually, I gave up, fed him again, and got him to go to sleep at 5:00.

So why don’t I sleep train? Last night was an anomaly and I know that. My son will be a baby only once in his life and I want him to know I will be there for him every opportunity I have. While in a parent teacher conference this year, one of my student’s mothers told me a story about a time she took her child to the doctor and the child was upset about a shot. The doctor told her not to comfort her them because she would not always be there to do so. Her response to the doctor was that she was there at that moment. So she comforted her little one and then promptly found a new doctor. Good for her.

I am here for Benji now. I will not always be here for him as he grows because I cannot follow him like his shadow. He needs to be independent and have his own experiences. However, he’s a baby, my baby, and I am going to comfort him. I love my little boy and the moments we have together are more precious to me than any thing else in the world. I know he will learn to sleep on his own in due time. I know he will not always need to eat during the night but while he does I will be there for him. There will come a day when I drop him off at a diner to eat with his friends and he is embarrassed to be seen with me. That day will be here in the blink of an eye so before it comes, I will cherish every moment.

My son will not be less independent as a result of my choice not to sleep train. Studies have not proven sleep training or not sleep training to be positive or negative for children. There is no evidence showing that children are more or less independent as a result of either decision. There is, however, evidence that too much crying it out is detrimental to children because they simply stop crying because no one comes to help them. I don’t want to wonder if Benji stopped crying because he really can self soothe or if he just knows he’s alone and no one will come get him.

I am reminded of my anthropology classes where we discussed how humans are born much earlier than most animals and how we are so much more helpless at birth because otherwise our brains would be too large for mothers to safely deliver us. If my son were an ape, he would not be born yet. He would still be snuggling safe in my womb; being fed, rocked, and kept warm. I see no problem in giving him little ways to still experience that connection to me. He is not alone and I will come to get him.

So thank you, but no thank you. I will teach my son to sleep on his own slowly and gently in his own time and on his own terms. And now, to bed. I was up from 2:30 to 5 this morning but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


    • Deborah Reeves

      Thank you! My husband did take the baby this morning so I could get a little extra sleep. I never would have thought I would define sleeping in as sleeping until 7 am! Totally worth it but definitely better with coffee.