Did Sleep Training Scar our daughter?

It all started when our daughter turned 2.    Like all toddlers she decided that the cot was not where she wanted to be anymore and would jump up and down screaming out for our attention.   We decided the best thing to do was ignore her and hoped that after a while she would get bored, wear herself out from all the screaming and finally pass out.   Minutes felt like hours, the high pitched screaming would get right under my skin and all I wanted to do was go in and shout“ SHUT UP”.  Of course this was not the answer.  A pillow to shout into and a large glass of wine always used to help.

The bedtime fear would kick in from about 6.30pm when CBeebies was coming to an end.  I knew that we were in for another shit night.

Only this night was different.

It was quiet.

I remember laying in bed wide-awake, contemplating about going in to check on her when suddenly our bedroom door opened.   The cheeky monkey had found a way to climb out of the cot and terrorize us in our room.

We gave in, we needed some f**king sleep, we let her sleep in our bed…

I am not good with dates or specific times but somewhere in between us letting her sleep in our bed and 6 months later we got married, had a honeymoon, fell pregnant with our second and bought a house in the burbs.  Definitely wouldn’t recommend doing all of this in one go as I think I went slightly mad.

My husband and I agreed that we would start sleep training as soon as we moved into the house.    It was a new house with new rules and we definitely didn’t want to have 4 of us in a bed with no sleep.  I also, to be honest, would have punched the next person in the face if I heard them say” You’ve made a rod for your own back”

As my bump grew so did the fear of sleep training.    My daughter was so stubborn, much like me, and when she didn’t get her own way could be a royal pain in the arse.  We really had, gritting my teeth saying this, made a rod for our own back, by allowing her to fall asleep with us by our side.   Every night.  It became a normal part of the night- time routine.   Bed/Milk/story/half hour of wriggling around / stay quiet until she drops off.

My husband and I never got an evening to ourselves.  Holidays and dinners were a nightmare as we just kept going up and down to sooth her and stay with her until she fell back to sleep!  GRRRRRRRR

We gave in, we needed some f**king sleep, we let her sleep in our bed…

SO it was time.  I warned work that we were going to start sleep training and to ignore my mood-swings.  I delivered a bottle of wine and a sorry note to my neighbours warning them of extra night crying and my husband and I made a pact that no one was to break.

Eve one – Total F**cking nightmare.  Had in total one hour of sleep.

Eve two –  Total Nightmare . Had in total about 2 hours sleep.  Went to work and burst into tears.

Eve 3 – Better but still not managed to get her to fall asleep on her own.

Days 4 – 10 are a real blur and we had tried everything.  Nothing seemed to be working . I was about to crack.  Cracks in our marriage were starting to show. No amount of concealer was going to cover the suitcases under my eyes.  I was a mess and at breaking point.

We tried the waiting for 5/10/15 minutes approach, going in and putting her back whilst saying nothing , sitting next to her on the floor then gradually moving  to the doorway, then hallway then bedroom just to reassure her we were there.

Sometimes the whole process would last up to 3 hours and then as soon as we sat down the crying would start or we would hear her creeping back into our bed.  I wanted to tear my hair out.  I wanted to tear my husbands hair out!

Desperate times called for desperate measures and we decided to do something, which looking back now was cruel and quite frankly inhumane!

Someone had told us once that the only thing that worked was to hold the door handle tight so their child couldn’t open the door and get out.

We tried this method…

Jesus f*cking Christ it was brutal.  I couldn’t listen to her screams.  I swear to god if someone had walked past and didn’t know we were sleep training would have thought we were physically hurting her.   Book shelves were thrown to the floor in a rage, she threw herself to the floor and kept shouting “ daddy daddy daddy” my heart was breaking and I had to shut myself in the living room as I could not bare her screams.   After, what seemed like hours, she calmed down and started to talk to herself and we heard her get into bed.  Finally she fell asleep.

That night she stayed in her bed, and the next night after that.  This brutal method took two nights and after that she stayed in her room.

Of course we felt relieved that we had finally cracked it but this relief has slowly been replaced with utter regret.

Every time she is on a play date with her friends and a door is accidentally closed on her she screams in fear.

Then, very recently, after a classic post nursery meltdown, I carried her into the bedroom and a gust of wind from the open window slammed her door shut.  I honestly thought she had got her finger caught in the door as her scream was not an angry one, it was a blatant terrified one.

As I ran in she threw herself into my arms and kept saying: 'I am sorry, I am sorry mummy, please don’t shut the door I don’t like it'
Writing this makes me well up as I know, deep down, this was down to us and our selfishness.

I asked her if she remembered us closing the door at night and she said yes.  I wanted to burst into tears as I felt like the worst mum in the world but I didn’t want her to see my weakness.

We may not have physically hurt her, but we certainly mentally scarred her and I hate myself for it.

I really hope that this fear of door closing will be long forgotten as she grows older. I will never forget.

I will also never ever do anything like this again.  I am not going to go through the same pain with my son.

Now our daughter is an amazing sleeper.  Yes there are nights when she comes in but its so rare now and I love cuddling up next to her.  At the end of the day they all get there in the end and learn to sleep in their own beds… some longer than others but they do get there.

These early days of motherhood are so precious and you never get these days back so treasure every moment and if you can, don’t resort to what we did.  Biggest regret so far.  I am sure there will be more…

  • Jeff Page (Hectic-Dad)
    Posted at 14:47h, 01 December Reply

    Oh Bonnie…what an amazingly open and honest post! I was tearing up as I read this. We honestly tried every approach (including the one you used) on our eight kids. Sometimes we were using different approaches for different kids as we had them at different stages. We even had to use different approaches for our first, second+third (twins), and fourth while all of the were under four. Then we had a boy and all the rules changed. Then one who could climb out of everything (including the nursery WINDOW!). I can attest to the fact that they all seem to be normally adjusted 20-somethings (well the first six are, the other two are still teenagers) despite the crying, screams, and the like.

    I love that you were willing to share your story. All the parenting books make it sound so easy. Most blogs are all bright and shiny with the “look at my perfect life” approach. But parenting isn’t like that. It’s messy, frustrating, and full of laughter and tears…sometimes at the same time.

    Keep up the amazing work and congrats on bringing this blog to life! You three have done a great job with your opening posts…I look forward to reading many more.

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