the first year

Why Sleep Training Books Are The Worst

I’m sitting at the top of the stairs silently reserving my spot in Hell. My daughter, almost seven months old, is in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs and crying so hard I can actually hear that it hurts. And I’m not doing anything about it. I alternate between watching her writhing body on the video monitor and the timer on my phone. After five minutes, I can go in and comfort her. My eyes fill with tears when I realize it’s only been two minutes since the last time I left her room.

Welcome to sleep training.

Sleep is an important, often divisive, topic among parents. Some parents sleep train their kids, others don’t. Some choose the “cry it out” method, while others opt for a graduated method. And, of course, there are those magical unicorn babies that apparently sleep through the night without any training from their perfectly rested parents.

My husband and I read the sleep books (ugh, the books), spoke with other parents and consulted our daughter’s doctor and decided that sleep training was the right thing to do for our family. Our philosophy is that we all benefit from a good night’s sleep. This all sounds great in theory, but it’s hard not to give in when your child is in the apex of a screaming fit on the fifth night of sleep training, especially when you know that it would all be over, so peacefully, if you just went in and rocked her to sleep.

We stuck with it, and she eventually learned to sleep through the night… most of the time. And when she does wake up, she soothes herself back to sleep. It was a painful, frustrating and emotional process for all of us, and it definitely didn’t happen “overnight.” (I thought they were supposed to sleep for 12 uninterrupted hours by the third night of sleep training?!?). Teething, colds, and travel all caused setbacks in her sleep patterns, and we had to “retrain” her a few times before her first birthday.

Is sleeping training right for you and your family?


“Reading every book on the subject, trying to force situations and schedules on my family, and clocking my baby’s hours of sleep and my minutes of comforting made me feel terrible, unnatural, and like I had really screwed up as a parent. Then, in frustration, I threw all the sleep books in the trash and things have been lovely ever since. I wish I had never felt so insecure about my knowledge of my baby in my situation that I would turn to one-size-fits-all solutions. We lost a lot of sleep over that.” -Alison

“I wish I had stressed less about napping. Babies will sleep when they are tired. I spent so much time trying to put my baby to sleep, it was exhausting. I would spend 40 minutes trying to get him to sleep, and then he would sleep for 20 minutes. Hardly worth the angst.” -Gudrin

“I would have stopped resisting co-sleeping. Every night I felt guilty about it, up to about six months. But he just wanted to hang out with us, and it was winter, and cold. He’s never been a ‘great sleeper,’ but overall he is healthy and happy and a joy. If, for the first six months, I had just said to myself, ‘Ok, let’s all go to bed together,’ I would have saved myself a lot of stress. But it’s a controversial thing, so I don’t know how I would have done this. There’s so much out there to make you feel badly about even considering co-sleeping.” -Denise

“We were adamant about no family bed, and yet sometimes our baby sleeps with us. I thought so differently before having children. You can read and research topics beforehand, but it all goes out the window when your child doesn’t fit the ‘statistics,’ is teething, learning a new skill, or when the dreaded sleep regression hits.” -Julianna

Image(s): CSA-Archive

filed under: