A Study in Sleep Training Part 2

CIO results on day 2

When we last left Penelope Pittstop she was tied to the train tracks while Snidely Whiplash was…wait, wrong damsel in distress.

We were talking about a smart, thoughtful, AP Mom who had reached the end of her tether and turned to sleep training to help get the whole family back on track. Only things went south, everybody cried for hours and felt generally terrible about it until finally at 11:30 PM she pulled baby back into her bed, nursed her to sleep, convinced that she was both a horrible person as well as one doomed to a lifetime of desperate sleep deprivation and misery.

Dudley Do-Right was unavailable for comment. But I was and this is what I had to say….

My Response to the Night Where Everybody Cried

Here’s what I think happened….

Her bedtime started moving back on you – from 9:00 PM till 11:00-12:00AM. Which you’ve already figured out was way too late leaving her way overtired. So you thoughtfully tried to fix it by shuffling it to a more age appropriate 7:30. Which seemed like a grand idea because all the books say she should be going to bed at 7:30.

But here’s the rub – the reason CIO at bedtime works is that there are a whole bunch of biological and chemical things going on in your baby at bedtime that make it almost impossible for them to stay awake. So while they can protest for a while, eventually (often under 1 hour, sometimes even less) they WILL fall asleep. It’s inevitable.

This however assumes that you have a consistent bedtime. You did(ish) only it was 11:30 PM at night. So what happened was she went down at 7:30 and effectively took a nap. Then she woke up and yelled at you for hours until her body-clock ACTUAL bedtime came up and those biological/chemical processes kicked in to make sleep happen. Of course you offered her the boob which also helped but by that time, the tides were with you so to speak.

So at this point you have two issues – the nurse=sleep habit AND the too late bedtime issue. Sadly you can only tackle one at a time. I would start with the nurse=sleep habit but focus on a bedtime of no earlier than maybe 10:30. So CIO at bedtime but bedtime is still late (for now).

Once she is falling asleep solo you gradually start shifting bedtime up. Maybe 15 minutes a day: 10:15, 10:00, 9:45, etc. until you get to that wonderful age appropriate goal of 7:30. Don’t forget loud white noise. Also since she’s a co-sleeper, maybe you stick a lovey in your bra all day and give it to her in her crib. It’ll smell like you. Might help, certainly won’t hurt!

What Happened That Night With the New Plan


Just a quick response (my husband just said leave that poor woman be!), just to say we put her down at 10.30 and its only been 12 minutes so far but its just been intermittent calling out so far. Not crying or screaming like last night, definitely sounds different. Sleepy and hopeful rather than livid! Anyway yes I will go because I need sleep myself but i will give you an update tomorrow. I am so grateful and in such a happier more hopeful position compared to this time last night!

And then…

I wish you could see the grin on my face. I am so happy!!

So last night we did the bedtime routine but in a better order, and in dimmer lighting (boob first, bath, jammies , book, bed)… she started fussing by the jammies stage and I was a bit worried but stayed calm and soothing and told myself that was because she was tired, not scared. I put her in bed at 10:30 PM. She cried off and on for several minutes on, then off, then on…but each time more faintly, and it never sounded like a real distress cry, more like tired and hoping that she could call me back.

She was asleep by 10:53!! No screaming and no guilt on my part.

And then she woke up at 2:20 AM. I felt so happy when she woke up, she had slept for 3 and a half hours! I could cope if she only woke up 3 or 4 times a night. I fed her and she fell asleep in my arms, I put her in the cot… she woke up, scrabbled about and cried out. Normally I would scoop her back up but I held firm to see what would happen and sure enough she settled herself back to sleep in less than ONE MINUTE!!

And then she slept for SEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT!!!!!!

So I may sound totally crazy, and maybe I am going a bit over the top because I am so tired… but I honestly feel like I have experienced a wonderful epiphany and that life for my family has just started to take a much more positive direction. And I thank you so much because it was you that pointed me in that direction. Ok, I did all the hard work – I knew I was on the wrong track and needed to take a different route but I was completely lost and bewildered (am I laboring this whole journey metaphor too much?! ha ha) – it was so intimidating and yet here we are!

What Can We Learn from This?

This was a long story but I hope you all got a lot out of it. I know I did. For example I learned that…
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  • Small mistakes can cause big problems.
  • This is KEY so let me repeat it. Small mistakes can cause big problems.
  • Even really smart well-read people can make small mistakes.
  • Sleep deprivation makes it really hard for us to solve problems.
  • You can be an attachment parent and still sleep train your child. Attachment and sleep are not mutually exclusive goals.
  • If sleep training seems like it’s going terribly wrong, it probably is. Take a step back, look at the big picture (whole day, sleep routines, associations, eating habits, etc.). See if you can’t figure out what small tweak is making things blow up on you.
  • Read everything I’ve put together on sleep training.
  • Have faith in yourself. Billions of people have sorted out sleep stuff and so can you.

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Is there anything you’re taking away from her story?