New Parents Beware – This is What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Train Your Baby

Neil Willenson did a lousy job sleep training his children.

The Power Blog By Neil Willenson

I tried to Skype my dear friend Janet the other night at 7:32 p.m. While it is nice chatting with Janet, the purpose of this video call — and most others — was to check in on my “niece” Franki who is now in her second year of a life filled with abundant love, fun and nurturing. This baby is truly cherished as Janet’s journey to motherhood was not an easy one.
For a number of years, Janet did more than pray for a baby — she worked very hard to achieve this dream through unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination and adoption. Alas, in late December 2013, her journey to motherhood was accomplished when she was entrusted with the care of a gorgeous newborn who Janet named Frances Blair.
Given that I Skyped at 7:32 p.m., I should have known that Franki would be fast asleep in bed and that Janet likely was sitting on the couch enjoying a glass of pinot noir. Perhaps after visiting my own home on multiple occasions, Janet decided to be a strict adherent to Dr. Mark Weissbluth’s sleep training method outlined in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Virtually without exception, Franki’s bedtime is at 7:30 p.m. sharp.
Even though I make fun of my friend Janet for being a “sleep dictator” and remark that her young baby daughter is “imprisoned 12-14 hours a day,” ultimately I know that Janet’s life is likely a bit easier and more restful than mine. And more importantly, in Janet’s words, Franki is “the happiest child in the world.”
In his piece “Why I’m Not Letting My Baby Cry It Out” published on April 10th, Huffington Post blogger Clint Edwards presents his passionate argument for not sleep training his children using the “cry it out” method. I can relate as my two “spirited” children kept crying and crying and crying when left unattended in their cribs. I found it easier to comfort them in part due to compassion and in other part due to the fact that I had to work early the next morning. Comforting them — and ultimately placing them in bed with my wife and me — meant I could get back to sleep. While my wife was a proponent of sleep training, I circumvented her efforts at every opportunity. I remarked, “What, do you think they will still be in our bed when they are seven?”
Well, let’s provide an update and compare and contrast.
This is Franki on any given evening at 7:30 p.m.:
This is Janet at 7:31 p.m.:
These are early morning photos from the king bed I share with my wife (and children on occasion):
While my kid’s sleep habits have dramatically improved I must admit putting them to sleep requires a bit of a time commitment as we cuddle, read and sit with them for upwards of 30 minutes. While I often say “there are worse ways of spending 30 minutes than snuggling with your kids” I think this is pretty much just what most parents of non-sleep trained children say to make themselves feel better. After all, House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and Homeland are all waiting for my wife and me on the DVR.
While our 10-year-old daughter now remains in her own bed most evenings, our 7-year-old son still “crashes” our bed virtually every morning around 4:00 a.m. How is it that a small child can take up so much room in a king bed? And why does he have to sleep diagonally? And why is it that while sleeping he often kicks me in “important” places? Maybe he doesn’t want a second sibling?
So for all my friends and house guests who witnessed my sleep-training-failures first hand and warned me of the ill-effects, feel free to say “I told you so.”
With that said, while my kids are not perfect sleepers both Janet and I do have one thing in common. We both wake up feeling blessed — she is just a bit more rested.
Good luck on your journey to a restful night’s sleep.