"Sleep training" is such a polarizing topic, but I think those are the ones we need to talk about most. If we share our rationale, thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other, then we create more opportunities for conversation, agreement, and disagreement, which ultimately leads to more purposeful parenting. Someone may read this and think, "That's definitely not the route I want to go," which is completely understandable. At the end of the day, we are left alone with our thoughts and we have to feel good about the choices we make as parents.
Matt and I started sleep training Henry around five months because our pediatrician recommended that we do it (if we were going to do it) between 4 and 6 months. He said it got much, much harder after 6 months. The three of us had been traveling around the Southwest, and it really threw off Henry's sleep. He was waking up all night long (even more than when he was a baby, baby!). We were exhausted by the time we got home (both from traveling and from months and months of fitful sleep) and were ready for a change. We decided to start sleep training.
Our pediatrician also told us that 4 month-olds can go 8-10 hours at night without milk (6-8 hours at two months and 10-12 hours at six months). So if Henry woke up earlier than the recommended length, we let him cry for five minutes before going into his room and soothing him. If he was still crying, we went in ten minutes later. If he was still crying, we went in 15 minutes later.
The first night, he woke up three times. The second night he woke up twice. And the third night he woke up once. After that, he basically slept from 8pm to 7am (barring new teeth or sickness). As his naps changed over the months, his bedtime gradually moved earlier and earlier. He still sleeps until 7am.
We've been really happy with the way Henry sleeps, so we knew that we wanted to try sleep training with Tate when he hit the four-month mark. The decision was a lot easier the second time around because we've seen the benefits for both us as a couple and Henry. The first time around, I was really worried about interrupting Henry's attachment to us. I very much believe that infants absorb everything. Part of why we tried to have a homebirth was because we wanted Henry to have the gentlest, kindest welcome into the world. The primary reason we decided not to circumcise is because it felt unnecessarily cruel to subject a baby to the pain that comes from severed skin.
So deciding to let Henry cry for 5-minute, 10-minute, and 15-minute increments was not something we took lightly. In the end, though, we ended up feeling fine with it. We felt like a full nights sleep was definitely good for Henry. He has always grown really well, and he seems well-attached and adjusted. We also felt like we were better parents because of it. We have more patience when we sleep for the recommended period, and we benefitted from having time alone or with each other in the evenings. Sleep and time to ourselves help meet our needs so we are more available to meet our children's needs.
With Tate, we were eager to start sleep training right away. Where we are in our lives right now (two full-time jobs and a toddler) makes us even more exhausted. In the weeks leading up to Tate's four-month birthday (November 1st), his sleep got worse and worse. He was waking up every couple hours (and sometimes in 30-minute increments!). He would only go back to sleep if I fed him or we put him in the Moby and carried him around. Since he was fine going back to sleep in the Moby without eating, I felt like he wasn't waking up out of hunger.
The first night, we left his Montessori floor bed (i.e., a crib mattress) next to our bed. When he woke up, we tried not to respond for five minutes. However, he rolls so much that he would roll himself into the wall and we would need to intervene to help him. Still, he was able to put himself back to sleep and significantly reduced the frequency of wakings.
The next night, we moved his mattress into his room and put it in the center of the room on a plush carpet. The first time he woke up he fussed himself back to sleep. The second time, I fed him. Then he slept until 7am.
The third night, he woke up once and I fed him. Then he slept until 7am.
We'll see how tonight goes! Matt and I are both feeling a huge sense of relief that our sleep deprivation days might be coming to an end.