3 Lessons Learned from Struggling through Sleep Training

Sleep training can be really hard, so take a deep breath and know that you can do it with the 3 "R's".

Sleep training can be really hard, so take a deep breath and know that you can do this.

It’s hard to trust your instincts in the beginning because most of us don’t have any clue what we’re doing. But trust me when I say this: you will hone your instincts and you will know your child and be able to trust your gut.

Here are three lessons I learned from struggling through sleep training my daughter:

1. Relax

I’m three years removed from having a newborn and I remember the anxiety and the uncertainty, but I can now say that I shouldn’t have worried so much. My three-year-old sleeps great (for the most part) and I know I didn’t do it perfectly.  You will get through this time and every mother knows to one degree or another, the struggles that you are facing. So be encouraged and don’t despair.

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2. Routine

I followed the eat, wake (play), sleep routine so that my infant daughter would not be in the habit of being fed to sleep.  I would also do a regular bedtime routine of bath, books, feeding, rocking until drowsy and then putting her down almost asleep. My sweet one was a little fighter so putting her down drowsy did not always work, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The routine started about the same time each night and lasted about 30 to 45 minutes, which helped her wind down for bed.  If she cried after putting her in bed, my strategy was to let her cry for 5 minutes while in the room with her. If she continued to cry, I would pat her on the back and speak reassuring words to calm her without picking her up. If she continued to cry, I would step away from her crib and lengthen the time by 5 minutes before comforting her again.

3. Consistency

Part of the consistency was a normal routine and bedtime. Another part of the consistency was sticking with a strategy for a few weeks before I tried something else. This is one of the harder parts of sleep training because all children are different and it can be difficult to know what’s best. 

Looking back, I can say I wish I would have been less fearful of a negative outcome and just learned from the process. Don’t think that a method is not working until you’ve tried it for a while. Keep doing it the same way and if it’s not working after a few weeks evaluate and change directions.

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As you are trying to settle into one of the most awesome and disruptive changes of your life, take a deep breath, relax and know that it will be okay. There are a lot of theories on sleep and everyone has something that worked for them and a lot of advice to give, but there is no sure fire method that works for every family.

I come to you as one who didn’t feel successful in the midst of sleep training, but was conscientiously trying to do the best I could for my child.  Eventually, I had a great sleeper on my hands and believe me, you can too.


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Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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