A friend of mine was mentioning sleep-training her baby, and another sister was asking me for advice when I mentioned I did sleep training with my youngest baby, so I thought I’d share with everyone what I did.
First of all, let me say I have four children, alhamdulillah, and the only one I really did sleep training with was the youngest, Mervat. I guess I was so worn out and desperate by this time I was willing to do anything to get some sleep. My oldest, Abdel Hamid, had colic from the age of 5 weeks until about 5 months, and even after that he was not a great sleeper for a long time. I really don’t think sleep training would have worked with him and whoever tries it has to do so with the understanding that what works for one child may not work for another.
I decide to do the cry-it-out method. I figured that I was giving Mervat plenty of loving attention during the day, and she would not suffer any long-term mental harm from me letting her cry in her bassinet for a while. One night, when she was about four months old I think, I braced myself. I put everyone to bed except the baby, closed everyone’s doors, and told them just to ignore the baby crying. This included my husband, who is a REAL softie and cannot stand to hear a baby crying. Be warned – you may have to fight with relatives over this, either your husband or if you have other family staying with you.
I nursed the baby, made sure she had on a fresh diaper and clothing, and let her fall asleep in my arms. Then I gently laid her down in her bassinet. Did she sleep? Of course not! She woke up immediately and started crying. She cried piteously for forty-five minutes. Yes, forty-five minutes, and I counted each one. I distracted myself by watching TV, occasionally went over to pat her back or talk softly to her, but I did not pick her up. Eventually, she wore out and went to sleep. She slept for six hours, which was four hours longer than she usually slept.
The next night she cried for about twenty-five minutes. The next night, fifteen. Since then, with some fits and starts as she grows and changes, she has been pretty much sleeping about four to eight hours. Now, she’s a breastfed baby, and they usually wake up more often than bottle-fed babies, so four hours is a good stretch and eight is a small miracle. I started her on cereal at five months because she was advancing well and ready to eat – with my colicky baby I couldn’t start cereal til six months so don’t try to rush your baby if she is not ready. Typically nowadays I put her down around ten pm and then she’ll sleep until five or six. I give her two cereal feedings a day, one at midday and one in the evening before bedtime. That really helps her sleep all the way through the night now.
As the bags under my eyes recede and my disposition improves, I know that the crying was worth it. Right now, we’re not sleeping well because she has cold, poor thing, and she wakes up every hour or two because she’s stuffy. She’s cranky because she has a hard time nursing with a stuffy nose. I’ve been sleeping – catnapping, really – with her on my chest for the last three nights, so probably when she’s better I’ll have to retrain her a bit, but I’m ready for that. Having tasted the luxury of unbroken sleep, I know it’s worth it.