Sunday, August 20, 2006

Second thoughts on sleep

It's only because The Little Madam recently graced us with the third-ever night in which she slept through from 6pm until 4.30am or later, but I'm now having second thoughts on whether it really is a good thing to sleep train one's child.

For most of TLM's first year of life, she woke me up 2-4 hourly at night for a night feed. Despite all my moaning and groaning that something had to be done about it, in the name of my sanity and ability to drive without falling asleep at the wheel, we never did get around to sleep-training her (except for her naps, twice).

So I've been both amazed and relieved that she has started to sleep through all by herself, without any "training" on our part (not counting the night-weaning, which only started this week because she still usually wakes for a nightfeed once per night, and only because I've no more patience).

Several mothers told me their kids were all breastfed to sleep, and it didn't stop them from sleeping through by age two - but I sure didn't want to wait that long.

It was Dr Weissbluth's (or Dr Wisebum, as one cheeky reviewer referred to him) book, lent to me by the wise Make Tea, that told me my daughter risked becoming an insomnolent teenager with zero-powers of concentration. And most sleep books told me that the longer we left it, the harder it would be to fix.

But it looks as though, in our case at least, they are wrong, wrong, wrong.

This has brought on a bout of wisdom-in-hindsight. If we knew then what we know now about TLM's evolving sleep behaviour, would I have been so grumpy and insistent that sleep-training was necessary? Would I have been more accepting of these nightly interruptions if I'd known for sure they would last only a few more months?

I suppose when it comes down to making the decision whether to wait or train, it's a matter of whether you think you can endure it any longer and still function effectively as a parent. Did any of you parents have any regrets as to whether you made the right decision, whether it was to train or go with the status quo?


darth said...

we only tried the sleep training thing briefly, then gave up and just let darth jr. find his own way to sleep. it was stressful, tiring, and all that..but in the end, it didn't make any difference. Now he's 12, sleeps fine, does great in school, is a total sports nut, etc. and he plays video games too long, doesn't pick up the towels after a bath or shower, and won't eat mushrooms.

kids! :lol:

EB said...

Yes I do have regrets and lingering doubts as to whether sleep training JJT was necessary. The Dr Weissbluth's argument for brain development was persuasive.

It seems to me from reading your blog that nutrition with supplements as a catalyst was one of the main factors leading TLM to sleep through? If so does it make you wonder whether 100% breastfeeding at the start is overrated?

Violet said...

darth: So maybe kids just sleep through when they're going to, and if it coincides with sleep-training time then the parents are lucky? i hope darth jnr didn't take 12 years to get there though!

eb: Yeah, if we had done the sleep training thing at 6 months, then a genie appeared at 12 months and told us she was going to start sleeping thru that day - I would probably have felt like I'd put her through unnecessary suffering. I don't know for sure if the supplements were the key though. It might have been a coincidence. But I'd certainly recommend giving it a try, to the mother of a non-eating, non-sleeping baby.

Make Tea Not War said...

I'm not sure about wise but certainly opinionated so here goes. I really don't mean to offend anyone here-- just commenting on my experiences. I never did sleep training as such. My daughter slept through the night from when she was two months old. I suspect part of the reason why is the fact that we woke her up at 10.30 pm when she had a nice big bottle of formula and then she went happily off to sleep till 7.00 a.m.

I did take a hard line on leaving her to nap a few times despite crying when she was clearly overtired after eg. too much being handed around by extended family. I didn't do this lightly but when I could see that nothing I was doing to try to help her fall asleep was helping but instead was only making her more frustrated and overtired. I could tell this by the way she'd squirm and twist away and cry more. And actually I don't think I'd find being rocked or patted would help me (personally) to fall asleep either.

In any case, right or wrong, she's not showing any signs of having been scarred by the experience so far. I think she did have quite an easy temperament so maybe she would just have slept through whatever we did. Who can say? I think a lot of temperament is innate and there is nothing we can really do about it.

I also truly believe that babies who are loved and looked after generally turn out just fine in the end regardless of when they slept through, whether controlled crying was utilised or not etc. And I think its a shame we mothers have such a hard time of it with so much conflicting advice, judgement and scare mongering directed us when we are already our own harshest critics & generally doing the best we can.

PS. I quite liked the Weissbluth book but I suspect some of the doom and gloom of what he said was quite exaggerated.

charlotte said...

You are doing the best possible thing for yourself and your baby by listening to your instincts. Only you know what and how much you can take - not any expert, whether it's one who advocates controlled crying or long-term bed sharing. That was MY most important lesson: not to give the "experts" too much say in what was happening with MY child. Despite bed-sharing and on-demand feeding my three all sleep like angels now (at 6, 4 and 1). I'm sure that sleep trainers would not have approved, but hey, it all worked out okay for us.

happy and blue 2 said...

I agree with most of the others. When it comes to your baby, You are the expert. Not some dorky "expert" who is trying to sell books..

Violet said...

mtnw: I believe you about the formula dreamfeed - I could never bring myself to wake TLM for a feed, because the fact that she was asleep in the first place was such a miracle! I really do think it's harder for breastfed babies to sleep for longer, and if it weren't for my pesky family history of allergies, I would have introduced a formula supplement long ago. It's certainly becoming more and more clear to me that they are just going to do what they are going to do despite (not because of) their parents' efforts.

charlotte: you're very lucky that your kids were such good sleepers. I personally couldn't do the co-sleeping thing because I couldn't sleep with the fear of rolling over and squashing the baby...

happyandblue2: for some reason - maybe it's my upbringing - I do tend to look for "expert" opinion in just about everything I want to learn. Being a pupil must be in my bones.

Wicked said...

I haven't read Dr Wisebum's book, but I am highly suspicious of ANY baby-"training" book, whether it is for sleeping, 4-hour feeding, toilet-training, or whatever.

At the risk of sounding like a blathering hippie, children are not dogs (hence the term "training" she says with a derisive snort), and they are all different; what may work for one (or the majority!), may not work for the other. One of my children slept through at 11 weeks and toilet-trained herself before 2, the other still woke nightly until 2 and still wet her pants at age 4... I cannot stress enough what amazingly different girls they both are.

I think the only thing these "training" books are good at is breeding stress in these poor parents when their children don't pick up the ball and run with it according to said book.

Let `em do it when they're ready - they WILL let you know where they are.

Rant over. :)

Violet said...

wicked: ya big hippie ;-)
Seriously, kids can toilet-train themselves?

Wicked said...

Well, I GUESS so! I never did any kind of formal "training" with the Oldest - bar putting one of those kiddy seats on the loo - and she was out of day nappies before age 2, and night nappies before 3. I used to leave the toilet door open a lot when I was taking a whizz, so maybe she picked it up from that.
The Smallest, however, was a different kettle of fish; I remember trying all sorts of things to toilet-train her, as she still thought it was okay to pee her pants a lot at age 4 (which was stressing me out with kindy and all!), AND to pee in the bath all the time, AND to even wet her bed - ON PURPOSE. No, she didn't have any kind of severe family dysfunction that made her wet her bed, she's just a strange child.

So the upshot of all this is, I guess some children CAN toilet-train themselves with a minimum of fuss - just depends on the child.

Violet said...

wicked: I hope it's not a Leo trait <:-o

cinnamon gurl said...

Just discovered your blog so I'm not sure how old TLM is but we've decided not to sleep-train our son (7 months old). I just posted this morning about my doubts about this decision and going against the 'experts.' But I've found other experts who say cosleeping and on demand feeding is the way to go to rationalize our decision. These experts posit that night wakings protect vulnerable kids from SIDS. Regardless, I think some kids are good sleepers (the ones who sleep through at 2 months or two weeks like my friend's newborn)and some are not. Eventually they sleep through from what I've heard.

cinnamon gurl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Violet said...

kate: TLM is almost 13 months old now. If you were to go thru the archives (starting from around Sep '05) you'd see how much anguish her sleeplessness has caused me!