Sleep training. One of parenting’s most divisive and controversial topics, up there with breast vs bottle and co-sleeping. It’s a topic that I’ve never really written about much, because we’ve not done a whole load of it, so why now? Well, in short, because a week of co-sleeping on the sofa with Martha is about as much as I can handle, so she needed to go back into her cot, and here’s how I did it.

I know that there will be people who vehemently disagree with the method I used last night to get Martha to sleep in her own room, and as long as you’re not rude or nasty then I am more than happy to engage in a mature conversation, but please keep it respectful. With that in mind, here we go…

Controlled Crying

*Runs and hides*

Yep, I went there! The not-quite-as-hated-as-cry-it-out-but-near-enough method of sleep training has been deployed at Budding Smiles HQ and I am not about to apologise for it!

Do I like hearing my daughter cry? Of course not. Do I like her sleeping through the night in her own bed so that I can actually share a bed with my husband instead of getting backache on the sofa? Yup!

I know that there are LOADS of different ways to gently sleep train a baby or toddler – trust me when I say we tried about 99.9% of them with Toby! So why this? Simply, because it’s the way Martha would respond best.

Sleep training my 22 month old - controlled crying Sleep training my 22 month old - controlled crying

But it’s mean

No, I disagree at this age. Would I do it with a newborn? No. But Martha can understand a whole load of what’s being said now, hence why when she was squawking at the injustice of being in her own room at bedtime and was seemingly out of control, she immediately chilled out and laid down when I said “Lay down and Mummy will tickle your back.”

After the initial bedtime routine I started the interval timer I’d set up on my phone, which means being in the bedroom for two minutes at a time, with my time out of the room starting at 2 minutes and increasing by a minute each time. No it’s not enjoyable standing outside her door listening to her yelling “MUMMYYYYYYYY!!!” at the top of her lungs, I’m not heartless! But then she does the same when I’m dressing her, changing her nappy, putting her in the car, and telling her not to bite Toby or hit the cat.

I don’t allow her to go to nursery butt naked, walking the 5 miles there and back though.

Consistency is key

Every time I went back in for the 2 minutes I simply picked Martha up and shushed her, rocking gently the whole time. Then when my phone buzzed to say time was up, I said “Night night darling, I love you”, kissed her head, and put her back in her cot. That’s always been my phrase with her, and before the chicken pox-induced co-sleeping Martha would swallow dive into her cot à la Jürgen Klinsmann every time I said it, so she knows what it means!

But it’s still mean…

I get it, it’s not for everyone and believe me when I say that I’d rather not have to do it! But Phil works full time, I run a blog, a business, I do freelance work, look after two children, struggle with depression – while some people may somehow be able to cope with either hours upon hours of gently settling their child, being up most of the night, or never sharing a bed with their husband, I simply can’t.

Between Toby and Martha, Phil and I have struggled with horrific sleep deprivation for 3.5 years. It’s torture. It’s led to near misses on the road, to arguments, to resentment, to a complete lack of productivity, and I don’t doubt it’s been a contributing factor to my depression. Sleep deprivation is dangerous and for Martha, she can’t cope with me being in the room but not holding her – so it’s either I stand rocking her all freaking night, or remind her that she’s perfectly capable of sleeping on her own.

Controlled crying – does it really work?

For us? Yes.

Martha slept soundly from 8pm until 1:15am, having settled half way through my round of being out of the room for up to 7 minutes. That means she was left alone for 21 minutes in total, with me cuddling her when I went in each time.

I repeated the process when she awoke, and this time she settled during the 5 minute stint and she remained asleep until 5:30, when Toby unceremoniously woke her up. At that point she had some milk then fell back asleep until half 7.

Sleep training my 22 month old - controlled crying

I can only repeat myself when I say that I KNOW this is not for everyone. I KNOW that there will be some children who will scream for hours, some parents for whom co-sleeping works really well for them, some children who will happily transfer from mummy’s or daddy’s arms to their cot without a peep – that’s not us though.

*Deep breath*

Wow, that was actually more scary to put out there to the world than my recent video about my depression and taking Sertraline! If you’ve got any stories about sleep training, or indeed why you don’t want to go down that route, then as long as we’re all respectful and kind to one another, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.