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Sleep

Gentle sleep training?! Is it possible?!

129 replies

Aw12345 · 05/05/2019 20:54

We have decided we absolutely have to do something to help our 9 month old sleep better. We're all completely shattered and most importantly LO is tired/grizzly all day because we can't get him to sleep anywhere near enough for his own needs.

Has full bedtime routine, bath etc, goes to bed about 7, normally takes about 2 hours rocking him in the pram to get him to sleep, wakes about 5 times a night for feeding (ebf) and then awake for the day at about 7am. Naps for about 2 hours during the day (also very difficult to get him to sleep at all in the day, feed to sleep/rock in pram/drive in car etc).

We're trying "pick up, put down" and "stay and support" but he is crying lots and it's breaking my heart 😪.

Is it normal to cry so much with these methods?

Any help/wisdom needed. We feel so guilty that he's not getting enough sleep, and feel guilty about the sleep methods too 🤷😢

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DippyAvocado · 05/05/2019 20:57

There's a book called the No Cry Sleep Solution which I thought was quite good. I would work first on the getting him to sleep in the first place. Two hours every night of rocking is crazy. Are there any other problems, eg reflux?

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Aw12345 · 05/05/2019 21:10

No other problems that we know of at all, he seems totally healthy, weighed him to make sure he's gaining weight well etc, loves his food, meeting his development milestones. ☹️ I'm just so sorry for him and want to do the best thing for him but I don't know what the best thing is to try and get him more sleep!

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lorisparkle · 05/05/2019 22:21

When I was at my wits end the health visitor recommended the book 'teach your child to sleep'. It has some different methods which you pick depending on your lo and your family. We needed to do a very structured gradual retreat/ withdrawal method with our ds. It did involve some crying but I never left him to cry.

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Whatnameisgood · 06/05/2019 06:49

I totally understand how you feel. I have just used the services of a ‘gentle’ sleep trainer. There is crying but you are in with them the whole time. It is bloody horrendous at first tbh and I’m not sure how I’d have coped with my first baby as I think that sort of thing is always harder with the first somehow. In essence, she gave us a very short pre-bed routine so baby knows what’s coming and can relax into it, then you put baby down and comfort them as guided by her in a consistent way and they eventually go to sleep. Like I say, there is crying but you are with them so although it’s hard it felt much more comfortable to me. She seemed to think 10 months is quite a good age to sleep train (mine was actually younger). I’d really recommend you giving her a call. Not sure if I can put her details on here. Feel free to PM me. If you do, please let me know on this thread as I’ve never used PM on this site before. Really good luck. I totally feel what you’re saying about exhaustion etc. FWIW, it sounds like pick up put down is just making things worse for all of you. This lady told me she’d seen it cause problems.

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Whatnameisgood · 06/05/2019 06:53

Ps she does different support packages. I chose the one where she stayed with us for 48 hours, which I’d definitely recommend. I’d have had her stay an extra day but 48 hours is her max.

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Indecisivelurcher · 06/05/2019 07:08

To be honest in my view and depending on personality, some babies cry more if you try to stay and support them than they do if you leave them. They can't understand why you're just there and won't do what you 'normally' do to 'help'. These sort of tactics might take longer each night and more nights. I would say 9 months is too old for pick up put down, I think it's more for 4mo type age. I would honestly recommend looking into controlled crying with interval checks. You might think it's more 'brutal' but vs quicker and less nights of it... There used to be a sleep personality quiz online somewhere, possibly thebabysleepsite

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Seraphimofthewilderness · 06/05/2019 07:17

I hated the 'gentle' (it fucking isn't) sleep training bollox.

Night weaning helped though- which needs to be done by someone other than you.

Get Dad to do the night wakings and only offer water- not milk.

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abcriskringle · 06/05/2019 07:19

In terms of waking for night feeds, if you are confident he gets enough in the day by now, I tried this strategy I heard from a fellow bf-ing friend:
When baby wakes, don't feed for 10 minutes. Try other ways of settling - shushing, patting, rocking, whatever. If after 10 minutes they are still awake then feed. You'll be amazed at how invariably your little one will doze off in under 5 minutes! I managed to cut night feeds down to once or twice using this method and it improved sleep overall.
I can't comment on other sleep training methods as I co-sleep which works as the best way for us all to get some rest. Good luck though, I too had/have a rubbish sleeper and it sucks!

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OhHolyJesus · 06/05/2019 07:34

Agree with PP - it might be called gentle but it's fucking hard work!

So worth it though, just coming on to wish you luck. It is horrible at the time but truly the best thing we (I) did.

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ElphabaTheGreen · 06/05/2019 07:43

There is no such thing as ‘gentle’ sleep training and there is nothing you have/haven’t done to make him need the amount of support he needs to sleep. He’s just a baby who isn’t developmentally ready to sleep unsupported, and what you describe suggests he won’t be for some time.

Neither of mine were sleepers. Multiple, multiple night wakings and would only nap on me, in the car or in a pram/sling until they dropped naps past 2yo. With DS1 (now 6yo) I tried every sleep training method under the sun from No Cry (lies) Sleep Solution to spending a fortune on a ‘gentle sleep trainer’ to full on Cry It Out, because I also had people on here convincing me that ‘you’re upsetting him by staying in the room’. To this day, he is my less-secure sleeper - won’t go to sleep with the light off, wakes in the night terrified of the slightest noises, would donate an arm to sleep in bed with us. I’m sure it’s because of all the sleep training I did with him - that I justified as ‘helping him to sleep better’ when, really, it was only for me because I was knackered and wanted a break. He slept absolutely fine when he got the support he needed to do so, but it went to shit when I withdrew support. Sleep training is my single biggest regret as a parent so far.

With DS2 (now 4yo), I just did exactly what he needed (didn’t fight his need for co-sleeping, feeding to sleep, car drives) and he is the better sleeper now. Yes it’s exhausting and you feel like you’re genuinely going to drop dead some days, but you will survive, the longer-term pay-off is better, and it does pass.

In short, my advice is don’t push any independent sleeping, by any method. Find a compromise that gets you both more rest (he’ll get more than you, it won’t be optimised for you, but it will be better in the longer term and he’ll be a happier baby which will stress you out less). The two hour pram rocking suggests he’s not tired enough to go to sleep when you’re putting him to bed for the night. How long after his last nap is it? Can you push it back by an hour and feed to sleep instead so it’s physically less effort for you? Will he co-sleep with you for night time?

I started a very gradual withdrawal with both of mine and cold-turkey night weaning when they were a little over a year old (co-sleeping on the floor of their rooms and moving away over a period of months) and they were both sleeping through the night in their own rooms by between 18mo and 2yo. It might feel like ages away to you now, but it really isn’t!

Brew and Cake also helps!

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Aw12345 · 06/05/2019 07:57

Thanks so much for your replies, so nice to hear experience from fellow mums with older little ones.

We have tried co-sleeping but he still won't actually sleep and he crawls around etc. I'm really worried about him falling off the bed so we bought a mattress just to go on the floor in his room so if he did crawl off in the night he (hopefully) wouldn't injure himself.

I feel like if anything he's overtired but getting him to nap in the day is so difficult as we always resort to rocking him in the pram for ages.

Health visitor says they need at least 12 hours sleep at this age and he's not getting anywhere near that 😟

I'm also worried like pp said that we'll create bad sleep associations. I'd love to hire sleep consultant but don't think we can afford to 😔

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User11011 · 06/05/2019 07:59

Yes!
Crying isn't harmful, big left to cry alone is. Sit and comfort him, calming voice, stroking back. Do it gradually. Good luck!
Ps. You're instincts are right - babies need a good night sleep as much as we do!

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NewAccount270219 · 06/05/2019 08:08

To this day, he is my less-secure sleeper - won’t go to sleep with the light off, wakes in the night terrified of the slightest noises, would donate an arm to sleep in bed with us. I’m sure it’s because of all the sleep training I did with him - that I justified as ‘helping him to sleep better’ when, really, it was only for me because I was knackered and wanted a break.

You have absolutely no idea how he'd sleep if you hadn't done the sleep training - he may have been inherently a very fragile sleeper and that's why it didn't work and why he's not a good sleeper now. Or you may be right. No one can know on a sample of two.

It's very easy to sneer at 'only for the mother' when it's well behind you and it's not ever going to be you doing it again. I also think very few people are the best parents they can be while severely sleep deprived (I certainly wasn't). Sleep is a very basic need; it's not a selfish luxury to want enough to function.

OP, we did gradual retreat (with a sleep consultant) and as others said, it did involve tears but not him crying alone. I tried all the 'gentle sleep book' stuff first but I think we were too knackered and too at the end of our tethers to do it properly - it takes months of patience and consistency, and we just weren't being consistent enough. Or maybe it just wasn't working for DS, I don't know.

Google 'what worked for me Mumsnet' to see an example of gradual retreat that has worked for lots of people (but not everyone).

It took us a couple of weeks rather than the few nights people say controlled crying takes, but for us it felt more 'right'. I can see the advantages to a few really bad nights but over very quickly, though. We are so much happier now - and I do think that matters - and so is DS.

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NewAccount270219 · 06/05/2019 08:10

The thing that really makes me shudder when I think of it is all the driving I was doing - motorway commute to work, but also quite a bit of driving with DS in the car. That's the thing that I really feel now was irresponsible.

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ElphabaTheGreen · 06/05/2019 08:13

Don’t set too much store by what your HV says. Some babies just need less sleep than others. Neither of mine ever, ever came close to 12 hours of sleep. The longest stretch either of them has ever done is 10.5 hours when he had a tummy bug when he was three or four.

They’re now both ludicrously healthy and still don’t sleep much. They’re usually up before 6am (although are now old enough to look after themselves) and won’t fall asleep until well after 8pm. Within waking hours they fit in school and very boisterous after school activities (swimming, gymnastics, dancing) without a dent in their energy levels. People used to say ironically that non-sleeping babies turn out to be clever and it’s certainly true in DS1’s case - he’s frighteningly clever and his non-sleeping has transformed into an energetic enthusiasm and fascination in all things, which is delightful (if exhausting). DS2...let’s just say he’s the creative one Grin

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ElphabaTheGreen · 06/05/2019 08:18

It's very easy to sneer at 'only for the mother' when it's well behind you and it's not ever going to be you doing it again.

I’m not sneering, NewAccount, and you’re damn right I’m not ever going to be doing it again. It’s hell on Earth and reason number one why I’d never have a third. I’m only posting my own experience and, from my own experience, 1) my better sleeper is the one who wasn’t sleep trained and 2) once I accepted that sleep training was more for me than it was for my DSs, it gave me one less thing to feel guilty about as I knew I wasn’t doing them a disservice by supporting them to sleep.

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NewAccount270219 · 06/05/2019 08:28

But you didn't actually ever sleep train him? You tried various methods and none of them worked? I completely understand why you therefore decided it wasn't right for you and you may well have been right that it simply wasn't going to work for him and he needed the extra support, but you can't really compare to a baby who actually did sleep much better and developed robust sleep habits after sleep training.

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Whatnameisgood · 06/05/2019 08:32

In terms of affordability, if you can afford a holiday or ever eat out you can afford a sleep trainer. Not being flippant but it is the best money you can spend (in my view) when you and baby are not getting enough sleep. As long as you’ve got the right sleep trainer. Literally nothing other than food and bills are more important. Do a bit of research and look into which sleep trainers will do gentle methods and have packages where they advise via Skype and email. The woman I used does, but have a google and see what you can find. It’s honestly worth it to get an effective, consistent approach that you’re comfortable with. Someone on here likened sleep trainers to a personal trainer. They won’t find a magic exercise that gets you fit while you sit on your sofa and eat crisps, but they’ll help you find the right method and stick at it consistently

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NewAccount270219 · 06/05/2019 08:34

Someone on here likened sleep trainers to a personal trainer. They won’t find a magic exercise that gets you fit while you sit on your sofa and eat crisps, but they’ll help you find the right method and stick at it consistently

That was me! basks in mumsnet fame

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Whatnameisgood · 06/05/2019 08:35

Ps the lady I used I would consider to be using the gradual retreat method. I’m in with him until he’s asleep but singing and patting in his cot rather than rocking

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Whatnameisgood · 06/05/2019 08:43

Awesome, NewAccount! I use that analogy all the time now!

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Oly4 · 06/05/2019 08:49

9 months is tiny. He will sleep eventually, they all do.
I do gently sleep training (gradual retreat) but not until about 18 months. They all sleep beautifully now. Your 9-month-old will be confused and anxious about why you aren’t cuddling him. An 18-month-old can understand instructions to lay down with a back rub etc.
I do understand that feeling of being at your wits end though!

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ElphabaTheGreen · 06/05/2019 09:00

Re-read my posts, NewAccount. I did sleep train both of them. DS1 - too much, too soon and nothing really ‘worked’ until he was over a year (ie obviously the point he was developmentally ready) but it was a feeble ‘truce’ because I think I’d put associations into him that being put in his cot/bed meant being left to cry in the dark, with or without me there. DS2 - not until he was considerably older (I did try swaddling, dummy, patting etc when tiny until it became patently clear that sleep was not going to happen unless glued to me so I went straight for supported sleep from earlier on). He did become a great sleeper after very, very gradual (ie slow withdrawal over months) sleep training because he was developmentally more ready for it and had been reassured by my presence up until that point that sleep was ‘safe’.

A baby that needs as much support as the OP’s is not developmentally ready to have sleep training, in my albeit limited experience, and I just think she’s going to give herself more upset than if she waits until her baby is past a year and will have some grasp of the idea of independent sleep.

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Sunshiness · 06/05/2019 14:43

Elphaba is right. There are so many lies and misperceptions being spread by those profiting from sleep training. Take a look at Sarah Ockwell-Smith's book Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters. It is a very small, thin book but so eye-opening. There is also a Facebook group called "The Beyond Sleep Training Project". Sleep training is NOT necessary and NOT in your baby's best interest.

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SS1987 · 06/05/2019 14:57

I done some gentle sleep training and it worked for my little one a lot quicker than I expected. Definitely ask for advice but do what you think, every baby is different. Might work out better than you were expecting, might not. For me it was the best thing for me and my daughter as we were both unbelievably exhausted. No one can say don’t do it as your baby will cry endlessly but we also can’t say it will definitely work. Give it a go and see how little one gets on for a few nights. Good luck

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