Have you gotten your hands on the March edition of Your Baby mag? If you haven’t, I’d highly recommend that you do. Not only is this issue packed with interesting and relevant topics but it also comes with a fabulous free kids African Treehouse Kids CD, which Ava is currently enjoying singing along to in the car.

There are a couple of really cool features, one is the fabulous Mommy Bloggers section, where my blog was featured last month and Anita’s Blog was featured this month. There is also the new Great Debate.

This months Great Debate was on Sleep Training, of course, you ALL know how I feel about Sleep Training, so I was happy to participate as the For sleep training and Robyn represented the side against Sleep Training.

You can read the full debate here: sleep debate

You can also read the article on tips for sleep training here: sleep training

After reading both the article and the sleep debate, I wanted to clarify a couple of points and also add some tips of what worked for us:

Sleep training should not be used to try and get your baby to sleep through the night, they will do that by themselves and use them to guide you to show you when they are ready. Obviously, that only really applies to small babies who still require night time feeds, if they’re older or toddlers then the need to feed at night is no longer a concern. For us, Ava slept through the night for the first time at 6 weeks old and she did it a couple of times a week until she started sleeping through consistently from around 12 weeks.

Be clear on why you are sleep training. My intention was not to get Ava to sleep through the night but rather to teach her how to self soothe and also how to link her sleep cycles. She had almost no day time sleep routine and there were days when she’d stay awake, despite my best efforts, from 5am to 11pm. This would totally aggravate her night time routine as she was way over stimulated by this stage and I was completley shattered.

For us, the old cliche of good day time sleep begets good night time sleep is true. As soon as we had Ava’s  day time sleep sorted, the night time sleep quickly resolved too. This, I believe, is largely due to her learning how to link her sleep cycles so that she did not wake up out of habit in the middle of the night.

You must be able to remain calm and not get angry when you sleep train, Ava is very good at picking up on my non verbal communication so sleep training when I was frustrated, angry or anxious simply made her anxious. It has to be done in a calm and loving manner.

Find what works for you. I didn’t use any single method, but rather worked out what worked best for us by taking bits from Baby-Love, Sleep Sense and the Sleep Separation Technique from Super Nanny. My method involved holding her and rocking gently till she got drowsy, as soon as I recognized her sleepy ques I’d put her down in her cot to sleep. I did give her soothing aids, her dummy and her blankie, then I’d leave the room. If she started to cry, I’d wait a couple of minutes and go back into the room to resettle her. It was important to me that she always knew that she was not abandoned and that I would be there if she needed me, so I kept returning. Once I’d settled her, I’d leave the room again. If she continued to cry, I’d stay in her room, with my hand pressed firmly against her back so that she could feel I was still there, wait for her sleep ques and leave again. Rinse repeat till she fell asleep. We, thankfully only had to do this for two days before she was fully able to go to sleep by herself and the longest session where I had to rinse repeat was 45 minutes of alternating between a couple of minutes of crying and pressing my hand against her back.

You have to find what works for you and be committed to the process. I felt it was important to keep reinforcing the routine so that Ava would know what to expect and so that she never felt abandoned or unheard or confused by my erratic responses.

Ultimately, despite the judgement from some sectors of the mommy spectrum, sleep training, which SHOULD NOT be confused with cry it out,  worked fantastically for us and I will definitely do it when we have another child. I really don’t believe that sleep training is wrong or right. Of course, there are right ways of doing it, kind ways of doing it, it should not be your poor baby lying there screaming for hours on end but I refuse to judge mom’s who choose not to sleep train. Ultimately, we all have to do what works for us and I knew that I was returning to work and that I was not the type of person who would be able to spend years getting up at night to settle my child.

Ava is a wonderful sleeper now, even when she is sick, she sleeps and I put it all down to the time and effort that we put into teaching her how to link her sleep cycles, she will come to me now on weekends and tell me she wants to dudu in the afternoons.

I am hoping to have the same success with our second child.