Do I have to eat my words about sleep training?

Apr 10, 2018 | Motherhood, Stories


A while back I wrote this post about sleep training. Some people liked it, others compared my home to a Russian Orphanage. The reasoning; I allowed my daughter to try for 4-8 minutes at a clip to teach her to self-settle. Show me a Mum who can settle a baby in under 8 minutes and I’ll show you the next bazillionaire.

I’m not being defensive! Well, maybe a little.

For the record: I’m not Svetlana. My child didn’t stop crying because she thought no one would come tend to her. She learned to stop fighting bedtime. My first born is now four-years-old and still sleeps like a champ.

Allow me one more defensive comment and I’ll get to my point, promise. There are many ways to teach a baby to self-settle, some involve crying and others don’t. It all depends on how much patience you have.

To make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. I prefer my breakfast after a full night’s sleep. (Our method did not involve controlled crying even though some robust commenters accused such.) If you want to know exactly what we did to teach our baby to sleep you can read the full article here.

It used to really annoy me when people told me I got lucky with our methods. They said I was gifted with a good sleeper. 

I never argued for fear of seeming smug. My husband and I worked our buns off to teach our daughter into good sleep habits. We would slip up from time to time, and we always paid the price. After every illness or vacation, we had to ‘re-set’ the sleep schedule. It was hard WORK I tell you! Not luck!

Some of it was luck.

I see that now. We were lucky enough to crack our daughter’s code with a mixture of methods. She’s a regimented child by personality who responded well to our regimented sleep routine and settling.

Our second baby is different.

Each child is different, everyone says it over and over when you’re pregnant with your second. I tried to go into this with a clean slate but obviously, with plans to try the same approach as last time. It worked once, so if it ain’t broke…

Then we got silent reflux. And no sleep. For four months. The same approach would not work for a child with different needs (and a health condition).

I pick the baby up all the time because it could be trapped wind (or she’s messing with me). Silent reflux babies comfort-eat so she fed every two-to-three hours in the first four months. That stretched to every three-to-four hours once she started medication.

Fed up and exhausted, I tried weaning her. She’s slept eight hours exactly twice since (but I didn’t because my body anticipated a wake-up like a puppy waiting for a walk).

Thank goodness for medication because it’s made a tremendous difference to her wind and pain (and our sleep). But it’s not a 100% perfect solution.

Every night is different.

We had bub settling beautifully, and waking up once (for about a month), but for the last two weeks, she’s demanding to be wiggled or rocked to sleep- not something I plan to live with.

To be honest I feel slightly sheepish about my (former) confidence. I still stand by my initial article with the intent that sharing our first approach could help other children. It’s understandable that parents who deal with serious sleep-issues (I take my hat off to you, you warriors) might have been skeptical.

I still believe there are solutions, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for each individual child. I have to believe it! We humans are meant to sleep, not fight it. Right?

Perhaps it’s time to call in reinforcements. I do truly believe every kid has a sleep code, it’s just finding a way to crack it. Sometimes, if we can’t figure it out ourselves, we need to call in the experts.

Have you tried sleep school or a sleep-nanny? 


  1. L Diddy

    I’m just at the “cry myself to sleep every 45 minutes” phase of my baby’s sleep regiment.

    • dawnrieniets

      I feel your pain!

  2. KezUnprepared

    We have an 11 week old over here. Our second born. She’s actually a good sleeper (I just jinxed it didn’t I) but I have realised she is different to our (now 6) son. I know people would say “duh”, but once we figured out what she needed and stopped trying to do everything exactly the same as we did with our son (also a wonderful sleeper – oh god everyone hates us), we’re doing OK for now. As things change, we’ll try to change too! I think there’s nothing wrong with sharing what’s worked for your child, because for every child it doesn’t work for, there might be one with desperate parents who have tried everything else and your way just happens to be the magical solution!

    • dawnrieniets

      Being able to riff is such an important part of parenting. It would be way too easy if we could replicate our wins with each child but unfortunately life isn’t easy (well none of the best parts are, anyway). Keep doing whatever you’re doing with the baby and I wish you many more slumbery nights! Well done Mama!

  3. Carolyn

    I was on the verge of sleep school with my second when she just settled into some sort of manageable routine which I didn’t dare mess with! She wasn’t too bad at night but daytimes she would wake at the end of every 50min sleep cycle. Aargh! She’d be grumpy and tired and cry, cry, cry! Walking her in the pram wouldn’t settle her into sustained sleep, driving in the car, and even in the pouch (your photo brought back memories!) we couldn’t seem to push past that 50 min barrier. It was like she was fighting sleep. I just kept telling myself that as she grew older she’d need less sleep and it would work out eventually. At night if she wouldn’t settle i’d put her next to me in bed. I know some would criticise that method but everyone needs sleep! I don’t know that there is a universal method that works for everyone because as you say, every baby is different. And if you think that there is and it doesn’t work, then it just makes you feel like a failure. I think you just have to do what works for everyone in your house. And, you know, eventually they do all learn how to go to sleep by themselves, and get a decent night’s sleep. In fact, one day, you’ll be yelling at them to wake up!how can they possibly still be sleeping?! But when you’re constantly being woken, that day seems a LONG way off.

    • dawnrieniets

      Parts of your story sound so familar! I may have completely jinxed myself because we’ve had a week of good sleep- day and night. I’ve made an appointment with her Doc to check on the dosage of her reflux meds. I’m starting to wonder if our two weeks of hell was a leap. All the sudden she’s babbling and grabbing everything. Goodness knows. If only these kids weren’t like jigsaw puzzles….I hate puzzles. <3


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