When Ayaan was about six months old, I sleep trained him. He was a very bad sleeper and refused to nap during the day and at that point, I had tried almost everything else and was running out of options and patience. So I read Ferber and followed his advice to the T. It was harder than was suggested but at ten months, Ayaan was completely trained and sleeping through the night. (The detailed post I wrote about it at the time can be found here).
Of course, I would have preferred to not let him cry it out. But things had come to such a pass that my sanity, his health and our happiness depended on him being able to sleep a reasonable number of hours in a day. But I have often wondered whether it was my fault that things got to be that way. From the day he popped out, he was a baby who would soothe only when he was being carried. I, aided by my mother and mother-in-law at various points of time, spent many uncountable hours walking up and down the house with him. He seemed to have an in-built motion and gravity sensor that made him take umbrage the minute the poor soul carrying him decided to stop pacing or, God forbid, sit down. Everyone said you must not let a little baby cry. At that age, they cannot manipulate you - they are just telling you what they want. Well, in Ayaan's case, he wanted to be carried till my spinal column felt like someone had been at it with a hammer. So that's what I did but somehow that got in the way of him being comfortable with being put down in his cot for a nap...
Anyway, when Tarana was born, I vowed I wouldn't let things get that bad. To start with, things went well. She was sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch at night by time she was three weeks old and when she did wake, I would feed her and put her down next to me on the bed. She would play for a bit and go back to sleep, after which I would pop her back in her cot. Her napping behaviour was somewhat more erratic but overall, we were getting by and it didn't seem like any drastic measures would be required.
Then when she was six months old, she got sick. And with a stuffy nose, sleeping in a flat position became understandably difficult. So between an exhausted Jai and a fever-ridden me, we took turns sitting up with her asleep on our shoulders. It was just a few days, but it turned out to be habit-forming and she developed an aversion to sleeping in her cot. There were some really horrible night when she would be up for three hours. Actually, Jai and/ or I would be up for three hours at a stretch - she would sleep on our shoulders but get up the minute she was put down in her cot. Her naps totally went to hell. It took ages to rock her into a deep sleep and then she would sleep no more than fifteen or thirty minutes.
Again, things reached breaking point. But I still dithered on taking more drastic steps. Whenever I felt just about ready to throw in the towel and let her cry it out, she would go through a good phase and my resolve would weaken. Then, there was the whole hoo-haa about sleep training possibly causing long-term brain damage. Let's not even get started about the latent guilt about sleep training Ayaan that came bubbling to the surface. But let's just say that it made me even more reluctant to sleep train Tarana and add to that the burden of guilt. Lastly, by the time I was considering this, Tarana was already crawling, sitting up and pulling herself up to stand. I worried that she might get agitated and hurt herself on the sides of her cot...
Given that I was confused about how to correct her behavior, I decided to correct mine. I started going to bed really early - as soon as the kids were in bed, in fact. That effectively dealt with my sleep deprivation so I limped on for another couple of months. But Tarana was still not getting enough uninterrupted sleep so she was pretty cranky in the day. And without any lengthy naps and a grumpy, clingy baby, I found it hard to get any time to get my own stuff done or to spend much quality time with Ayaan.
I finally decided to experiment with a modified sleep training method. In Tarana's case, getting her to sleep wasn't a problem. She was asleep within minutes of being rocked - the issue was getting her to fall into such a deep sleep that she would not wake up when she was put down. To put things into perspective, her eyes would close within 3-4 minutes of being rocked but the last mile of getting her to be a 100% asleep would take anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes. It was also a pretty elaborate process - first, I would walk and pat her, then I put sit down and keep patting her, then I would stop the patting and just sit and even then, when put into her cot, she would stir and so then some patting was required to get her to settle. Not fun, to say the least.
So I decided to do away with the 100% fast asleep objective. I would rock her to sleep for the initial 3-4 minutes and then put her cot and leave. (This was different from the Ferber method I followed with Ayaan where I put him into his cot fully awake). In this case, she was already very, very sleepy. So she cried only for about 5 minutes on the first day. And except for one occasion when she howled for 10 minutes, the crying never exceeded that. It's been about three weeks now, and she usually cries for under a minute before sleep overwhelms her.
So yes, I am sleep training her. But this is a relatively gentle method that I feel no qualms about. The crying is minimal and she is sleeping much better. She now takes two naps during the day, both lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. And she wakes only once for a feed at night. We are both more rested and she is much less irritable during her waking hours...
On a related note, do/ did any of your babies meet the sleep quotas recommended by the sleep experts? Neither of my kids ever came close to the hours prescribed here. Even now, Tarana sleeps an average of 11 hours in a day, which is quite a long way off from the 14 hours that they say she should be sleeping.