My Experience and Philosophy on Baby Sleep

It sucks, the never-ending, ever-judgmental, righteously defending, finger-pointing accusing war on parenthood. Especially with me. I’m a worrier. I’m a people pleasure. I’m a self-judger. I want what is best for Rhys, but knowing myself, my personality, and my weaknesses, I need to watch out for myself for the sake of Rhys.

**This is a long post. If you want the summary, go to the last few paragraphs.**

When Rhys was first born, I barely slept the first week and half. The two nights spent in the hospital were miserable. I was so anxious and nervous about being a first-time parent (as was Justin), that with every stir and movement or peep Rhys made, I peered over to see if he was okay and still breathing. The fear of SIDS from online sources were scorched into my head and I was so scared that he’d die those first two nights. However, on the second night, Justin and I were barely functioning. In the middle of the night, the nurse took him to do more newborn tests and we timidly, shakingly asked her if she could take him to the nursery for a few hours. She said she would, but she would immediately bring him back if he needed to be fed. We wholeheartedly agreed. And, for the first time in 3 days (we barely slept the day before my induction due to anxiety), we had a solid two hours of sleep. And, I will tell you, those two hours were life-saving! The rest of the week was spent with mostly skin-to-skin co-sleeping on the recliner in our living room. I was trying to learn how to calm a baby and nurse at night (and there were nursing issues the first few weeks) and try to let Justin get some sleep since he had a 40 minute commute each day to work and college. As much as I was crying, too, for anxiety of doing what was best, and why was he crying, and was he comfortable enough, and was he getting enough milk, etc. etc., I absolutely loved having him on my chest.

After those two first weeks, Rhys became a pretty good sleeper. We had him sleep in a bassinet beside our bed. He would wake up twice a night for a feeding. This was pretty consistent for the first few months of his life, and a it was a pattern he created himself. I was very thankful to read that the 3 hour cycle that he developed himself throughout the night and day was pretty normal and average for others online!

When Rhys dropped down to one nighttime feeding (which was about the same time he decided to stop nursing), we started an earlier bedtime, began a bedtime routine, and moved him into his crib. He typically did pretty good with only one feeding at night.  However, he didn’t like sleeping in his crib during the day time, so I had to cosleep with him for his naps. I enjoyed these, because I loved cuddling with my baby boy, and sometimes, I had a nap, too. Since he couldn’t scoot or crawl, and could only roll over one way, sometimes, I’d lay with him until he was asleep, then move off the bed and do what I needed to do during the day.

When he was about 5 months old, he slept solidly through the night. I awoke startled at 5:00AM, surprised to see the time, strained my ears to hear if Rhys was crying, didn’t, so I went back to sleep. Then, a few weeks later, he did the same thing three times in a row! Then, a few weeks later, he was sleeping through the night almost consistently! Christmas came, and with it, traveling and visiting family and being our of our routine for two and a half weeks! Rhys’s sleep pattern was definitely disrupted, and he was waking up 2-4 times a night, but that was understandable.

I didn’t feel comfortable with any sort of sleep training or sleep coaching, or whatever term you want, since all the sources I read said a 6 month old was too young for that; they recommended 8 months. But, since he had been able to sleep through the night consistently before (on his own), we knew he was capable of doing it again. So, during January and February, if he’d cry in the night, we’d wait 5 minutes, an approach we learned through Bringing up Bebe and liked. If he was still crying, we’d go up and rock him back to sleep. If it was past 3AM, we’d bring him into bed with us and co-sleep with him, and that seemed to work. We didn’t mind doing it…although it did start to bring back the terrible tendinitis I had in my arms.

Mid-February, Rhys was 7.5 months old and he and I both got a really, really bad upper respiratory viral infection that lasted a week and a half. It was back to the skin-to-skin sleeping on the recliner, with intermediate sleep breaks in the swing. It was very, very hard on me. I didn’t allow Justin a turn as he had to be at his full-time job at 7AM, whereas I didn’t have to teach until 11, and could take a nap. But, I was still sleep deprived, and it didn’t help my patience for my students. But, when he was better, and all the mucus was out of his system, his sleep was broken. Yes, his sleep was broken. He was waking up between 5-8 times a night, and never being able to be comforted. He’d even restlessly toss and turn in bed with us. We resorted to swings, midnight drives, going back to bottles, watching TV until his eyes closed, everything.

Finally, we made a choice. We needed to do some sort of sleep-training and Rhys was at the earliest recommended age. Rhys was a good sleeper–he had proven that. But, with a long Christmas vacation and then a long illness, he had forgotten how good he was and he was just scared to sleep. So, we wanted to help him get back to his good patterns. I also will admit that if I wake up many times in the middle of the night, and don’t go right back to sleep, I act pretty witchy! We didn’t like CIO cold-turkey and wanted to have some positive sleep reinforcements. This is what we did, and it worked for us, but what is important is that every parent must learn and discover what is best for them as a unique and individual family.

We bought a music machine that had a large on/off push button, a mirror, and stars that shone on the ceiling. We bought an arsenal of pacies. We lined his crib with towels (instead of a crib liner/padding), and laid all his stuffed animals in it. We made his crib a safe haven. We still rocked and fed him a bottle to sleep. I don’t regret this. It helps that his full stomach is relaxing and that the last thing he sees is his mom or dad. After he finished, we put him down in his crib, his eyes closed, and told him we loved him, we will just be downstairs, and we will see him in the morning and that he is a good boy. We wanted to let him know we were proud of him and instilled trust in him. We then practiced Ferberizing. If he cried, we’d wait five minutes, then go in, put his pacy in, turn on his music machine, and leave. Then, we’d wait 10 minutes. Then, fifteen. Then, twenty. We never let him cry longer than twenty minutes. If he did, we’d rock him to sleep, singing and whispering to him. But, we would not bring him into bed with us. (I’m a light sleeper, and now he moves too much in his sleep, so I wasn’t really sleeping if we co-slept anymore!)

The first night, he started this fussing about 1AM…it was a long night. We didn’t really get to sleep until 3AM. Then, the next night, in total, he only cried 40 minutes (5, 10, 15, 10 minute increments). The third night, only 5 minutes. When we went in to turn on the music machine, as soon as he heard the music and saw the stars, he stopped crying and immediately closed his eyes. SUCCESS! He has been sleeping through the night since March! Now, he can also stand up, turn on his music machine himself, and lay back down to sleep!

Now, we are trying to slowly separate his last bottle from being put to bed. We feed it to him downstairs watching Family Feud (he has a weird sensation with Steve Harvey), then we’ll rock him for less than a minute! before putting him in his crib. Sometimes, he’ll wake up earlier than 7AM, but we still do Ferberizing until 6:30AM (most of the time, he’ll fall back asleep). But, we always listen to the type of crying he is making. If Rhys is screaming bloody murder, we’ll go in and try to console him. If he is sick, or, like recently, teething, we are a little more lenient on the Ferberizing. We’ll still wait the 5 minutes minimum, but sometimes we still bring him into bed with us.

So, I guess, a SUPER long story made short, there is no right way to help your child sleep through the night. And, just because you prefer a method, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. And, be flexible, yet consistent. And, be aware of your child’s cries and needs, such as illness, teething, peeing through his diaper, etc. And, realize that your philosophy on baby sleep will probably change–who knows, I may have to (or want to) do things differently whenever we have another.

Moral of the story: What is right and best for you, may not be right and best for someone else. Every individual, baby, mother, father, sibling, family is different and their circumstances are all unique. DO NOT JUDGE and DO NOT SAY YOUR WAY IS BETTER!

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Desiree @ Macke Monologues

    The never-ending sleep debate… I'm a big believer in doing what works for you and your family. While some people swear by co-sleeping, others say baby in his/her own crib is the way to go. I say, whatever gets you all the most sleep at night! 🙂

    Poor Rhys. Have you tried the teething tablets? We used to give those to Marcus and they always seemed to help a little.

  • My mom always said that she was utterly mystified by parents whose infants and toddlers slept, because she had 7 babies who didn't. 🙂 Actually, now that we're all mostly grown-up, it turns out that all of her children still have a low need for sleep and are extremely energetic, so it must be a predisposition of ours. Mom has a pretty low need for sleep herself, so could mostly handle staying up all night with the babies, but after #7 she didn't recover well and baby wasn't interested in sleeping much so us older kids took shifts holding the baby–pacing the floor with her for endless hours at night. Everyone eventually learns to sleep 8 hours solid–but some babies definitely take longer than others. If he's grumpy though, it sounds like a different situation and that he does need his sleep. According to my Mom's description, all of us pretty much just wanted to play and 'talk' and explore all day and all night because sleeping was too boring. Hopefully you guys are able to get him sleeping solidly again!

  • We actually haven't. He does like cold, wet washcloths and frozen peas.
    We try to do whatever will work for Rhys at the time!

  • Wow! I've said this once, and I'll say it again…you mom is a super woman!

  • Obviously I don't have much of an idea about the whole sleeping baby debate yet haha! My husband's family has some very interesting views about the whole child rearing thing so I'm hoping we can just keep that last paragraph in mind when the tie comes.