Why sleep training was the best decision I ever made
To be honest, the first year of motherhood is a blur. Some things I remember like they were yesterday and others are long gone to the mom fog that set in, oh, around the same time as my really fun bout of pregnancy insomnia. What I do remember is feeling a level of exhaustion that I was convinced would have been considered a lot for even Octo-mom to deal with, and since I only had one infant and not eight, I was concerned that my breaking point might be around the next corner.
See, I didn’t luck out and have one of those babies that stare up at you lovingly while you rock them until they close their eyes and drift into a three hour snooze fest (those babies exist, I know them). I had a baby who suffered from constant colic, wanted to be breastfed all of his waking hours and would maybe grant a short, 30 minute nap after I drove around the block 40 times listening to him scream bloody murder.
Let me just pause to say that I am by no means a sleep expert or trained or certified in the realm of baby sleep. I know every kid and every situation is different and circumstances matter. I also know that seven months into my maternity leave, I thought I was going to lose my effing mind if my kid didn’t start to get some serious shut-eye and give me a damn break. So, it was officially time to stop just purely surviving and take back some control. I needed to sleep train my babe.
This in and of itself was a pretty overwhelming concept considering I had no idea what sleep training was let alone how to go about doing it. Then I remembered an article a girlfriend of mine shared on Facebook and at the time I sort of blew it off and filed it under the “this can’t possibly work” category. I think the title was “Neuro-scientist shares secret to get your baby to sleep through the night” or some crap like that and the title alone was enough to make me roll my eyes so far back into my head I’m surprised they came back…
But I digress. I read the article and I started small. Because really, I had nothing to lose. If he screamed in his crib I would go back up and get him and we’d be in the same spot we were before. Neither one of us was going to get LESS rest trying. So, we came up with a routine. Per the articles advice, I took him back up to bed two hours after waking up that morning (apparently a baby’s sleep cycles every two hours and that is the magic window to put them back down), stuck him on a boob, cuddled him, then put him to bed. I walked out of the room, grabbed the monitor and went downstairs and sat on the couch. All by myself. For the first time since having my baby.
Did he cry? Hell yes he cried. Did I cry? OF COURSE I cried. Did I have to go up and cuddle him some more? Nurse him some more? Yes. But each time I put him back down in the crib and walked away. Eventually, he fell asleep. And in that moment I felt like the universe was patting me on the back. I napped. He napped. And we both woke up happier, dare I say, better people.
I have never strayed from that routine since. And let me tell you something. He actually sleeps better at night because he is well rested during the day and we try our damndest not to let him get to that point of being OVER TIRED. Was every day a success? No. Was it perfect right out of the gate? No! But we stuck with it, and it truly only took him a few weeks to know it as his new normal. It made bed times easier, it made my days at home with him easier and we were both happier and healthier because of it.
If you’re on the fence about sleep training, just know that when you find something that works for you and for baby, everything will feel better. There are a lot of different techniques out there and this one way is not the only way or even the best way. But it worked for us. And if I have one wish for new mamas everywhere, it’s that they get at least one pat on the back a day courtesy of the Universe, cus we deserve it dammit!