Carisa’s story

My name is Carisa, and I tried to sleep train my baby. 

I have an 8-month old daughter, and sleep has always been our biggest struggle. When other babies her age began sleeping through, she was still waking sometimes every hour or hour and a half during the night. Her naps were impossible unless she slept on me. Working from home, I depended on her naps to make my job work. Exclusively breastfeeding and never able to accustom her to a bottle or a pacifier, I felt I was her only soother. My days were full of stress as I watched the clock, my nights bleary and exhausting, and I spent all my free time thinking about our sleep. 

I was a member of two Facebook groups, seeking help. One of them was The Beyond Sleep Training Project group, and one was a staunch sleep training group. I studied and asked questions in both as I tried almost everything to better her sleep. Aside from crying it out, we did a lot of “self-soothing” work: pick-up-put-down, shush-pat, rigid schedules, crying in arms. Nothing worked. The longest we let her cry at night, trying all of these methods but refusing to nurse, was an hour and a half before we broke. We felt she had an iron will, and that made me even more desperate for help.

I posted in The Beyond Sleep Training Project after a wild night of hourly waking, at my wits’ end, asking for emotional support. I received over 200 comments from all of you, genuinely encouraging me and offering solidarity and strength in one of my lowest moments. I never personally responded to any of you, but the perspective and kindness you showed me was a turning point for me that day. A shift. 

In the last six weeks, I have given up the schedule. I stopped trying to get her to take naps in her crib. I began nursing her to sleep for all sleeps. She lays in my arms while I work on my laptop each day now. And, though I never thought I’d say it, we’ve begun bedsharing for a large portion of the night. 

Our results? She sleeps so much better, longer, and less restlessly than she ever did during the months I was “sleep-training” her. Her naps are as long as I ever hoped they’d be. We all sleep at night. My husband still takes her for an hour or two in the morning to make up for anything I lost in all the overnight feeds. And even more than the sleep is the increase in our bond. I no longer resent her and feel deep down like she’s a bit broken. I no longer feel bitter toward myself for not being able to crack the mathematical equation of wake-times, training methods, and distance that would somehow make her sleep without needing me, this equation I thought all these other moms had so easily cracked. For all the hoops I jumped through, the sums never worked. And I’m so glad I stopped trying to solve them. 

Motherhood is fun. It’s hard. It’s fun, too. 

Our first 7 months were really hard, but thanks in part to all of you, I’ve surrendered this idea of sleep training. Life is so much easier when I just say yes to what my baby tells me she needs." 

Image provided by Carisa

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