Sleep training – the follow up

Back in February I wrote a post about how we had begun to try and ‘sleep train’ Millie, a process where we aimed to be able to put her to bed and then walk out of her room at night and leave her to fall asleep by herself, and then stay in her room all night.

At the time of writing it we had gotten twelve nights in to a routine where we were having a cuddle, putting her down, saying goodnight and leaving the room, to cries that were lessening but still pretty strong, and we were making progress.

We carried on with this and the bedtime bit was going well – we never got to a stage where there was no crying at all but she would stop crying after around 10 seconds and lay down. During the night however, something shifted and Millie began waking more and more often, eventually to five or six times a night.

Initially we were determined to stick to our plan and we would stay in her room, give her a cuddle and then leave the room again, but we quickly became very exhausted doing this again and again, at different time through the night, and Millie would not settle back to sleep even after an hour or two being with her or going in and out.

We were becoming desperate again, and were at a bit of a loss. The sleep training/controlled crying method was a last resort and was supposed to work for everyone in a relatively short space of time with some commitment, which we had done, so why was Millie still waking so much after almost a month?

One night when my husband was working I took Millie to our bed with me after she had woken up again, and she slept soundly all night, so that became our new tactic. David took to sleeping on the sofa (which is very comfy and apparently better for his back anyway), and I swapped my sleeping partner for a small starfish shaped child.


Although this was working in terms of getting more sleep, and I adore sleeping next to her, it certainly wasn’t a long term option, but we weren’t sure where to go next. Then for my birthday David booked a night away for us all and the hotel had put a child’s camp bed directly alongside the double. Millie liked it, and slept really well, and I realised how much I missed sleeping next to my husband. So we tried it at home!

We had removed the side from the cot a few months earlier in one of our many efforts to solve the sleep conundrum, so we switched our room around a little and put Millie’s bed in our room, alongside our own bed.

Things are quite different, though it’s still been a bit of a journey. Initially we saw very quick improvements, with Millie sleeping through the night, and walking without crying because she could see us next to her. One night I saw her wake up and roll over in a panic, then see us and just lie back down again. After everything we’d been through, all she wanted was to be near us – so simple!

Now of course sleeping in a room with a giant comfy adult bed to climb onto is pretty tempting. Over a couple of weeks we started with Millie getting into our bed for her story, being all cute, snuggling in with her toys, and then she would join us in the middle of the night, and because we were lazy we ended up with her never in her own bed, just always in ours. Sometimes this worked and sometimes, on the sideways sleeping nights, it really didn’t, and that brings us up to this week when I became overtired and really fed up, and after I spent a night sleeping in Millie’s (very short) bed because I’d had enough of trying to fit around her, I knew I had to sort things out.


The last three nights, I’ve gone back to basics. I’ve read before that, although one of a toddler’s purposes is to test boundaries, explore, and push whatever they can, they also need to have the rules they are testing. Not only do they like to know where the lines lie, but they need to, because without this they don’t have any guide for behaviour. We were seeing this is action because Millie, although clearly tired, was pushing and pushing herself and not going to sleep until 9.30-10pm, which was only adding to my exhaustion, and I think it’s because she had no boundaries. She could go in the bedroom, lay where she wanted and we’d accommodate it, play until late and we’d try and curb it but weren’t strong enough about it in honesty. She had no lines to operate within, and just didn’t know what to do.

So – we’re now on night three of Operation Mummy’s Sorting Her Bedtime Shit Out, and so far so good! She sleeps in her own bed, and there’s been a bit of predictable protest, but it’s steadily reduced every night. And last night Millie spent the whole night in her own bed, whoop! There’s a clear lesson here – although I get worn down to the point of strength and commitment to sort things out, I’m not consistent, and take the easy option and give in after a while, which just doesn’t cut it, and confuses Millie. She needs me, and Dave, to be clear and strong in our boundary setting.

So tonight she was asleep by 8.30pm, which feels like a luxury right now, and I’m having a glass of bubbly to celebrate, and raise a glass to the future. She turns two in a fortnight so here’s a to a less lazy mother and finally cracking this sleep shiz!

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The sleep issue

Millie loves sleeping in our bed. What baby doesn’t like the big, warm, smells-like-my-parent bed?! Except I think I’ve allowed her in so much it’s now expected, and it may* be an issue.

* I’ll come back to that later

So how did I get here? There’s a list:

  • Millie’s room is tiny and there’s no room for a chair, so on the nights when she needs long cuddles or doesn’t want to go back to sleep, my back will only hold out so long without support so I’ve ended up nipping next door to sit on my bed, then it would be easy just to lay her down 
  • I quickly realised that when I was struggling to stay awake for night feeds/cries/whatever and just needed to get some sleep, she would settle very quickly laid next to me (she’s even mastered a cheeky grin that definitely says ‘I won!’ When I lay her in my bed). Sleep always wins so this has become my answer to getting a little more shut eye
  • For daytime sleep particularly, I absolutely love laying next to her and playing or cuddling a bit until she drifts off, and you can’t really do that in her cot

So now, she goes down at night in her room, and if she wakes for a feed it’s very hard getting her back into her cot so she often ends up in with us til morning. Also, literally all her naps at home are on our bed. 

So is this actually an issue? On one hand I think no, it’s not what most other parents I know do but if we’re happy isn’t that enough? She’s sleeping well so that’s fine really. But she’s getting bigger and I would like my bed back during the night sometimes, and it would be good if she were more comfortable staying in her own room after a night feed. 

The naps could pose more of a problem, because she never naps at home without one of us there laid next to her. This feels like an issue because it’s drilled into us that they should be able to self settle but I don’t know if I agree. It’s more inconvenient sometimes, and there’s a pretty serious risk I will end up asleep too, but for the most part it’s just how we do it. What is definitely an issue is that she doesn’t crawl yet but she’s trying, and when she does there’s no protection around our bed. Though it’s going to be hard moving her to sleeping alone during the day it’s a necessity for her safety (plus she does it at nursery without a problem, which means it’s not impossible and I guess also means it’s me being too indulgent 😁).

Part of me thinks I should fall in line, do what my friends do and get her in her cot all the time. It would definitely be easier. But there’s also a foot stamping part of me that thinks ‘no!’. Co-sleeping is wonderful, good for bonding, means we’re both getting better quality sleep (OK, she is at least), and really I’m just enjoying it. She’s so beautiful when she sleeps, and she’s growing too fast already, I should enjoy this shouldn’t I?! 

So there you go, I don’t have an answer but at least I’ve been honest as a lazy parent who defaults to the easy option. She’s napping on my bed right now actually, with pillow bumpers just in case. I might stop typing and sneak a cuddle, while I can. Here’s a bed selfie as a sign off 😍