I Regret Not Sleep Training My Baby

Last night was the 7th.. 8th?? night in a row that Lowell has slept at least a solid 8 hour stretch. He’s a year old.

I am a new person. I am more sane. That’s not an exaggeration. The difference in the way I feel and my ability to function this week versus 2 weeks ago is like the difference between a drunk and sober person.

My anxiety is at nearly nonexistent levels, with the help of the sleep and my continued meds. I made the mistake of thinking I could stop the anxiety meds when I started sleeping and feeling so much better last week, but no. I soon learned that was a bad idea when by Saturday I wanted to rip my own skin off at the sound of my kids screaming.

So, back to the meds, which is FINE. Because, truly, the meds and the sleep have put me in a happy place that I haven’t been in in a lonnnnnnng time.

And because I can so clearly attribute this level of clarity and calm to my sudden ability to sleep for 8 hours without waking to a baby’s cries, I am feeling a deep regret for not working to attain this sooner.

Oh yes, I am talking about sleep training. Yes, I’m talking about the kind that would have my not-newborn baby crying in his room for controlled segments of time. I’m talking about the kind of sleep training I did with my other two babies.

I think it’s worth noting that at ages 6 and 3 they both seem to have a sincere love and attachment to me still. You know, for what it’s worth.

I contemplated working on sleep training with Lowell, our 1 year old, since he was about 7 months old. But honestly, in that moment, getting up and putting a boob in a baby’s mouth is easier than listening to cries, which I can never sleep through.

I was so desperate for sleep in that moment, that I couldn’t commit to more sacrifice for the long-term.

Lowell stopped sleeping in our room around 6 months old. I simply could not sleep in the same room with him very well. My anxiety leads to me waking often at the smallest baby noises, and consistently checking on him if he’s in the same room. In the same bed? Forget it. I’m wrecked with nerves. So nursing him while co-sleeping at night beyond 6 months old just was not an option.

exhaustion copy

I needed to sleep-train my baby because of my anxiety. And yet, in large part, it was my anxiety that kept me from doing so. For me, anxiety makes me overanalyze everything and hyper-critical of my own actions.

The voice of my anxiety was telling me that I would hurt my baby. That I’d make him hate me. That I was a bad mom for valuing my sleep over his needs.

My anxiety voice was not making that stuff up on it’s own. It read it in comments all over the internet, on a blog post I wrote about sleep training my daughter after my anxiety peaked with her, and even well-researched blog posts from medical professionals that make some valid points.

This summer, a study was released that summarized that “interrupted sleep can be as physically detrimental as no sleep at all.” I was living that reality. It didn’t matter if I went to bed at 9 and didn’t crawl out for the day until 9 the next morning. I was waking 3-4 times in that 12 hour stretch, and felt like I didn’t get more than a small nap.

Hands down, THE biggest trigger of my anxiety is exhaustion, and so the cycle just kept perpetuating itself. Anxious because I was exhausted. Exhausted because I was anxious.

From where I am now, I look back and really regret not sleep training Lowell, for not at least trying. I regret letting my anxiety amplify those voices and fears, for letting them be louder than my need for self-care.

I regret not recognizing that while, yes, his cortisol levels may shoot up, causing distress for a few nights, he’d have wound up with a more present, less anxious, and much happier mom much sooner.

This isn’t me trying to convince anyone to sleep train their baby. The deeper message here is that I regret letting voices and the judgements of people I don’t even know or care about mean more to me than my own instincts.

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  1. I just started sleep training my 13 month old and while he doesn’t sleep through the night yet, he has slept the most now than he has in the past year. So.much.regret

  2. My husband was big on sleep training. As a first time mom, I had a lot of guilt about it, until I finally slept like a human being again. At almost 24 months our guy sleeps 12 hours a night, and has for almost a year and Half. It makes everyone happier. I know some other family members judged me for this, the crying and how cruel it all was, but you have to do what is right for your family. Also, they’re sleep deprived and not thinking straight.

  3. I am fighting postpartum depression (a losing battle when my memory is also shot to hell and I can’t remember to take my meds more than a day or two in a row). And fighting sleep deprivation. My second son is 14 months old and I haven’t had a solid 8 hours of sleep since before his older brother was born 3.5 years ago. I know for sure you’re absolutely right about sleep being a factor in postpartum depression and anxiety, and I am absolutely sure getting more sleep would help me, but I still have no intention of sleep training my son, and I have no regrets about not sleep training my first.

  4. Your thoughts on sleep training are perfect. This process is about listening to yourself and your needs not focusing on what others will think of you or how they will judge you. We all have our own timeline for sleep training. For some it is 4 months, for others 9 or 12 months, and for others never. Especially now as depression is getting media attention due to recent events, I can’t thank you enough for underlining the value of self care.

  5. Wel I think about sleep training and night weaning as two separate things.
    Our daughter was absolutely NOT going to be sleep trained. I attempted to do so on multiple occasions from 6-10months. What I affectionately refer to now as the ‘Sleep Wars’. So, much stress and anxiety from attempting to sleep train her…I have such regrets about the energy I expended in the futile endeavor.
    That said, night weaning was successful around 7 months with my husband’s help, and that did allow me to get at least 5-6hrs of continuous sleep vs. Just 2-3. So at least I felt human, albeit a chronically tired one, until she decided for herself to start sleeping 8-10hrs around 12-14months.

  6. If it works, it’s not really harming your child, and if it’s teaching him a better lifelong habit… Then hooray! I have no regrets in that area. My husband and I knew from the get-go that we wouldn’t do well with co-sleeping or frequent night feedings past a certain point.
    Sometimes I wonder if sleep ‘training’ is the right word. Maybe retraining or rehabilitation is a better one!

  7. Christopher Castloo on

    You know, some of the things caused by your Post Partum…and anxiety in general I found disappear from me when I was put on Xanax for another issue separately. I realized my anxiety had taken the form of not attacks, but over-thinking everything and hyper-examining myself and other people and situations to play out every scenario. I’m able to sleep at night thanks to Xanax, my mind isn’t racing completely, and I’m able to focus on my son (2) better which was part of the kick of me going to the doc, realizing I wasn’t as focused and patient as I was before. I’m sorry you’ve had to endure this, but you’re the first person I’ve related to when it comes to anxiety and I wanted to thank you for making me a bit more comfortable with myself. Hindsight is a bit 50/50, but there’s no need to hold regrets. Everything has worked out and it sounds like your post-partum has been a bit more tolerable this time as well 🙂

  8. Erin Pittman-Hollett on

    I didn’t slept train my first because I just couldn’t do it to him and lived what you just described for two years until we put him in a big boy bed and he started sleeping. With my second, I did sleep training at 5 months because I felt like I was bring a terrible mom to my oldest. I was exhausted and felt I was always putting him off to deal with his sister who was awake AGAIN. Took three nights…. Over a year later she still sleeps through the night or soothes herself back to sleep. And I think they both love me the same the way they both compete for my attention 🙂

  9. Thank you for posting this. On *several* occasions I have been bashed, screamed at, downgraded and completely insulted by mothers who think I was in the wrong for sleep training. The difference between me getting broken sleep and me getting a full nights sleep was incredible. I felt as though I could function again. I felt human again. I needed sleep just as much as my baby did. He does so much better when he sleeps through the night too! I have been made to feel like less of a mother because of my choice to sleep train. I look back and I know I did what was right but I still feel this deep rooted guilt because that’s what mothers have made me feel. I never let my child cry for extended periods of time. When he needed me, I was there. But now, 6 months after starting to sleep train, he is a year old and now points for his room when he is ready to go to bed. We kiss, we say a prayer, a big bear hug, and he is asleep. I am sorry for those who feel the need to bash other’s parenting decisions and I appreciate your honesty in this post. You make us all feel normal. Thank you.

  10. Try young living essential oils. They’ll help your anxiety and help your baby sleep. Trust me! The changes in my anxiety and everyone’s sleep is amazing aroundhere

  11. Whitney Gemaly on

    Different strokes for different folks! I’m a WIO kind of gal. Everything in my body tells me to go to my crying baby no matter how much my SO tries to convince me he’ll take care of it “just this one time”. Do what works for you and yours! <3 Sidenote: I have the same crib toy!! I feel so cool right now!! I have the same crib toy as Jill!!

  12. McKenna Stroud on

    I just started sleep training my 8 mo old, but I’m trying to do it gently by staying with him… He slept almost all night last night! We are still in the same room and the only time he woke up was when we came to bed. SO EXCITED!

  13. I have always loved your blunt honesty. You and your family derserve a happy rested mommy. You can only do the best you can at loving them and yourself each day. Some days are good some are so so and some days are just shitty. You offer so much support here and at least for me I feel less alone reading your posts. So, thanks. And as for regrets, life is about growing and learning. You’re doing a great job.

  14. I just had my 3rd child in November. I had postpartum depression for the first time. When I started thinking about sleep training her I had the same voices going through my head. Then one day it hit me that I have two other very happy well adjusted children who couldn’t love me more – who also sleep like champs cause I trained them. As soon as she started sleeping through the night my anxiety and depression started going away. Teaching your children to sleep well is not only good for you it’s great for them. You’ve taught them a (priceless) lifelong skill that many adults have yet to achieve.

  15. Here’s the other thing – it is better for him too. Babies need uninterupted sleep as much as you do. Rock on sister.

  16. LOVE this post! I think we also forget that, just as we adults suffer the negative impact of disrupted sleep, so too do babies. Once they are old enough, and getting enough sustenance throughout the day, that they don’t need to eat during the night, they benefit from a full night of sleep just like we do. My baby became so much happier when she finally started sleeping through the night consistently (at 10 months). Thanks so much for sharing!

  17. My favorite part of this post is your line “The deeper message here is that I regret letting voices and the judgements of people I don’t even know or care about mean more to me than my own instincts.” My daughter was and still is a terrible sleeper. She’s five years old. We tried every single type of sleep training there is out there, even creating a few of our own. She’s just a crappy sleeper, end of story. When we embarked on CIO I knew, in my soul, that this was not the right kind of sleep training for her personality. Yet, everyone I know was pressuring me to try it. The opposite of what others have replied is that I was being accused of being selfish because I should just suck it up and let her cry for a few nights instead of worrying about how I would feel. After a whole month of CIO her sleep went down to one hour increments, nightmares, vomiting, and extreme anxiety for her during the day. I KNEW it was not right for us, yet I still let other people’s judgments and options alter my decision. It took me three months to get her back to where we were before we started. Listen to your heart folks, and remember that the vast majority of parents come from a good place. What’s right for you isn’t right for others, and that goes down a million different avenues, not just sleep issues.

  18. I did sleep training with my son at 4 mths. He was actually on a schedule from the day he came home from the hospital. I know lots of moms that will cringe at this and I don’t tell many people because I know it’s not kosher. But at 8 mths he sleeps ~12 hrs a night from 7 – 7. I know this makes me sane. He also gets good rest and is a happy baby. This isn’t me advocating for everyone to do this, but it works for me and my baby.

  19. I always appreciate how you blog on such subjects that can be so touchy with some moms. You offer your opinion but I never feel that you pass judgement.
    I slept train my first pretty young, and it didn’t work (seriously, we are talking 3h of constant crying for a year), and my second came out slept trained, but no matter what I was going through at that time, what I read on your blog never made me feel bad.
    Glad I found you when I was pregnant with my first, he’s just a year younger than Kendall. 🙂

  20. JoAnn Madden Crohn on

    I feel like I am in your exact situation. My son is 13 months. How long did you have to wait for him to stop screaming the first night? Its such a hard thing to listen to 🙁

    • Well, I didn’t really sleep train this time around. I recall with my other two, they never went longer than 20-30 minutes, I think. It’s very hard.

  21. Do not overstress yourself about it! What matters most is that you’ve made it.

    Thankfully my wife and I did sleep train our first born and managed to save our sanity which for a little while felt like it was out on its way through the window.

    My wife wrote an extensive article about it Our Sleep Training.

    Dads, you have to take part in this!

  22. Pingback: Baby Rabies | I Want To Be Strong- On Body Image After Anxiety

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