Disclaimer: I am not trained in sleep therapy, nor am I a practicing sleep consultant. The methods I use were merely learned from my mother, who demonstrated a perfect example of tough love for my sisters and me.
***Take a moment and go grab a cup of tea or something. This is a long post, but it’s my hope that you’ll be better off once you’ve read it! ***
What is tough love? The dictionary describes it as the, “promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.” To me, tough love means being consistent with the boundaries I’ve purposefully put into place. That especially includes sleep habits, because let’s face it, most children won’t just sleep through the night on their own without some guidance.
I’m here to tell you how to train your child to sleep through the night. It’s not going to be easy, and it may take up to several weeks for your kid to actually do it (especially if they’re already knee-deep in the habit of waking up in the middle of the night). It’s going to require hard work on your part. You’ll need patience, diligence and self control. I hope you’re strong enough to do what I’m about to tell you, because in the long run, both you and your child will be extremely grateful for it.
I’ll start out by stating that I know many mothers out there won’t agree with this post. All I have to say to those people is this: it’s a touchy thing, being a mommy. Everyone has different ways of doing it, but that doesn’t mean there has to be hostility or name-calling (both of which I’ve dealt with in the past). I’m not out to gain universal approval by writing this post. I’m only trying to help all the mommies out there who are sick and tired of not getting a good night’s sleep.
My mom raised three very different little girls. Each of us were born about 2 years apart, and each of us had extremely different temperaments. She was able to successfully train all of us to sleep through the night when we were old enough to do it (about 5 weeks or so – which changes from baby to baby). How did she know when we were old enough to sleep through the night without a feeding? She simply told me that once we had slept through the night on our own (I was about 5 weeks old and my parents remember waking up in the morning wondering if I was alive!!!) she knew we would be just fine to sleep through the night from then on.
To summarize the above paragraph: once your child sleeps through the night on their own (this can happen anywhere from 5-10 weeks), whether you think it’s a fluke or not, it’s their way of silently telling you that they don’t really need to eat in the middle of the night anymore. They will survive without that extra feeding. They’ll be just fine.
My daughter, Marlowe, has been sleeping through the night since she was about 5 1/2 weeks old. When it happened, I was terrified of what the next week would look like, because I knew that from then on I wouldn’t give in to feeding her… NO MATTER HOW LONG OR HARD SHE CRIED. I valued (still do) my sleep way too much, and I knew that we’d be better off this way.
*I’m not going to mince words here, nor am I going to sugar coat it. I think you need to know exactly what kind of hell-on-earth you’re in for, and you can make a decision whether or not to do it. I will say this: don’t even bother trying this if you give in to feeding your child even ONE night. That will confuse him/her, making them think that if they cry hard or long enough, you’ll give in. So if you’re going to do this, be consistent, even if it takes a long time. Odds are, depending on how stubborn your kid is, it’ll take about a week before they realize that they can’t manipulate you into feeding them in the middle of the night anymore. And you’ll be a completely new person!! (And more importantly, so will they!)*
Well, the day after Marlowe slept through the night on her own, I told my husband to prepare himself for a really bad sleep that night. Luckily, that was a Friday, and since I knew the next few nights would be the longest, I was grateful we had the weekend to take naps when she did.
It was a very, very bad night. Marlowe woke up every 30-60 minutes or so and screamed bloody murder. I would go into her room and put her pacifier back in her mouth and comfort her until she went back to sleep (Shawn actually slept through the whole thing, for crying out loud). Then I’d go back to sleep until she did it again.
The nightmare of waking up every hour lasted about 2 nights. On the third night, Marlowe woke up every 3 hours, crying. I’d go in and put the pacifier in her mouth and go back to sleep. The fourth night, Marlowe woke up only once. I went in and comforted her and went back to sleep. On the sixth or seventh night, she slept through the night. Ever since then (with the rare exception) Marlowe has slept through the night!! HALLELUJAH!
Now, I did dream feed Marlowe at around 11 every night. That means that right before I went to bed, I fed her a few ounces of milk so she’d have a little something to go on for the whole night. Her sleep schedule at night went something like this:
8 PM: I put Marlowe in her crib for the evening.
11 PM: I fed her a few ounces of milk and put her back in her crib.
7-8 AM: She woke up a happy baby!
I don’t know if it’ll be that easy with our next child, but you’d better believe that I’ll be doing the same thing with him/her (no, we’re not pregnant, so I don’t know when that will be). I am wise enough to realize that in the long run, practicing tough love (with things other than sleeping as well) will teach Marlowe boundaries, rules and discipline.
So, to make it extra easy for you to understand all this, I’m going to summarize this whole post in dot jots for you:
*Once your kid sleeps through the night on their own, they’re old enough to do it for the rest of their lives
*Be consistent and don’t give in to feeding them through the night, even if it takes them a while to learn
*Dream Feed them right before you go to sleep, ensuring that they have a little something to go on
*Have a good night’s sleep
*Wake up happy
*Love your life
Oh, and if you’re wondering whether or not I still Dream Feed Marlowe, the answer is no. I slowly readjusted the time from 11 PM to 10:30, to 9, etc. You get the gist. Now, Marlowe goes to sleep at 7 PM and wakes up at around 8 AM. I am LOVING it!