To sleep train or not sleep train: why the f*ck is this even a question?

From the moment our parents found out that we were having a baby, Mark and I heard (from both sides, repeatedly) about how little sleep we were going get. Mark and I were apparently both colicky babies and terrible sleepers, and our parents were perhaps just a hair's breadth shy of outright gleeful that we were about to get our comeuppance.

Fast forward a year, and Mark and I are the proud, happy, well-rested parents of a four-month-old who sleeps remarkably well. As in, insists on going to bed between 6:30 and 7:00pm and doesn't wake up again until between 6 and 7am. For good measure, see below.


As you can imagine, while our parents are "happy" for us, they also secretly hate us. Which is fair. This is partially dumb luck (as I've said before, most of parenting is dumb luck). That said, it also has at least something to do with a phenomenon known as sleep training

Without going into the nitty gritty, sleep training is a process by which you teach your baby to (1) go the fuck to sleep and (2) stay the fuck asleep, so (3) you can get some goddamn sleep. Sounds like a great idea right? Well, apparently not to everyone. 

Part of the controversy of sleep training is that it does require, to some degree, letting your baby get pissed off. And then going through the agony of listening to your baby be pissed off for some amount of time. New parents (the ones who aren't sociopaths, anyway) are hard-wired deep down in the most primal lizard parts of their brain to automatically go to and comfort a crying baby. Not doing this is very hard. You are actually fucking with biology. Your brain doesn't like it.

In part because listening to a crying baby is so hard, and in part because back in the day some specialists may have taken the whole "let 'em cry it out" thing a little too far, many parents are wary of, it not outright opposed, to sleep training. But as many of the books out there now explain, you can find a balance. For example, sleep training is not appropriate for a 3 day old. They are too tiny and too hungry and too fragile to sleep for 10 hours. It's just not going to happen. But a 4 or 5 month old is bigger, more robust, and capable of chugging milk like a frat boy doing a keg stand. As our favorite book, The Sleep Easy Solution, explained, babies this age can do it. They just don't necessarily know how. By training your baby to fall asleep on her own, without the aid of rocking, boobies, etc., you are setting her up to be a successful autonomous sleeper for life.

All controversy aside, honestly, people can do whatever they want. We all have different thresholds for sleep deprivation, lack of schedule, and handling general fussiness. Mark and I like sleep, we like schedules, and we like smiling babies. We had to sleep train. Because we're not assholes or sociopaths, there was, of course, a limit to the duration and nature of the crying we were going to allow. Fussing was cool, whereas "I'm being murdered" screaming was not. 

Thing was, just like the book said, after a few days, the 10 minutes of fussing subsided to a minute or two. Like Pavlov's dogs, Avery pretty quickly learned to associate sleep with the pre-nap/bed routine of diaper change, food, crib. It worked shockingly well. Were there times when Mark and I were about to crack? Sure. Does it work perfectly all the time? No way.

But . . . Avery does sleep through the night most nights. She takes naps. She's a happier baby because she gets lots of good rest, and we're happier parents because... so do we. We'll happily take the grandparental shade in exchange for a good night's rest.

I know, I know. Sleep training is hard. It works better for some than for others. There are some trade-offs. But knowing what I know now, the question still stands. Why the fuck is this even a question?


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