At least twice a week, someone emails me about sleep training. It’s either a sad, desperate mama who is ready to sleep train their baby or a sad, desperate mama who is not ready but just wants to say I’m not sleeping and this is the worst.
I hear you.
I have been both of these moms and I get it. The whole thing is hard and confusing and everyone just wants to do the right thing. I like to think of the first year of parenthood as pure Survival Mode. We’re all just figuring each other out and trying not to die. My only real advice is this: give yourself grace. Plenty of grace. Give the baby grace too. They are not ruining your life on purpose. They barely have enough brain cells to poop properly.
I’ve written sleep training posts before, but after the consistent emails and realizing the sleep posts are some of the most read/googled–I thought I should write another one to let everyone know that 1) it gets better and 2) you are brave.
Waylon was 14 months when we sleep trained him. It was not something we ever intended to do. In fact, it was probably our first major parenting disagreement. I wanted to do it and Austin did not. He thought it was cruel and unnecessary, which was exactly how I felt about getting up 3 to 300 times a night.
For the first year, I didn’t mind nursing all night long. After we switched to co-sleeping and floor beds, the whole thing was remarkably wonderful. Despite some minor sleep deprivation, I felt great about nursing on demand and cuddling all night long. It was very bonding.
But then somewhere around 13 months, Waylon started sleeping poorly and we slept less and less. Finally a switch went off in my brain and my body said ENOUGH. I wanted my boobs, sleep, and husband back at night. I wanted to be able to go out in the evenings, go away overnight, and have more independence. I wanted some of my life back.
You can read all about how it went, but to sum it up in one sentence: It was really, really sad and then really, really wonderful.
Every kid is different. Every parent is different. But sleep training (or as I like to call it “sleep teaching”) worked wonders for us. Waylon is now 2 years old and sleeps at least ten hours at night with a long nap in the afternoon. For the past glorious year I have been able to leave for bookclub and late dinners and overnight beach trips without worrying that my kid can’t sleep without me. So cheers to that.
I’m about to reset this whole sleep dream when baby #2 arrives in December, so if you’re reading this future self—remember it gets better. One year is not one million years. You are brave. You are a warrior.
You are brave breastfeeding through the night and brave when you decide it’s over. You know what’s best for you and your baby.
Listen to your body.
Tips & Reminders For Future Self
1) Routine. Routine. Routine. I know routine is annoying and you want to be the cool, flexible mom wearing a flowy skirt and watching the sun set in field of flowers…but you don’t have time for that right now because it’s 7:30 and time to start the bath, pjs, snack, stories, songs, lights out process. Sorry. Thank me later.
2) Get support. When you start sleep training, have at least 5 back up mamas to tell you that your baby won’t die and that it’s okay if you ugly cry into your living room pillows. It’s really hard.
3) Regression is normal. Every few months or so, it’s normal for babies and toddlers and kids to fight sleep during the day and during the night too. Deep breaths. It always gets better. Persevere. Guard naps like Braveheart. See #1.
4) Make sleep a positive experience. Talk about how wonderful it is to be rested and how comfortable it is to be in bed. Read lots of stories and sing lots of songs before sleep time. Even if you have work deadlines or fourteen phone calls to return, set it all aside to take an hour to cuddle and end the day on a positive note. If your toddler spits his toothpaste in your face and screams NO BRUSH TEETH–leave the room, count to 10, and remember ice cream and Netflix is within reach in the near future. (Easier said than done).
5) It gets better. Remember when your kid used to throw all his food on the floor or when he used to cry every time you put him in the carseat? That’s over now! You worked through it! It got better! It always does. Phases come and go, and while sleep is often a constant battle–you are strong, you are brave, and you know what’s best for your kid. At some point you and your spawn will sleep through the night and celebrate with brownies for breakfast. It will be a good day.