My sister and I like to joke that maybe we will sleep again when we are 50. It doesn’t seem likely. I used to sleep so deeply that nothing could wake me. I would have full conversations with my husband and not remember a single word. Now I spend 30 minutes just trying to find the right spot in the enormous bed I no longer share with anyone. I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a full night of sleep where I felt refreshed in the morning.
Sleep training is hard. It stinks, and it is hard. Just when you think you are finally on track to escape being the momma of a 2-year-old that still doesn’t sleep, bam!
Or a cold.
Or for some completely unknown reason the universe has conspired to wait until just the right moment to create chaos and force you back into a life of sleep deprivation. I miss it so — that well rested feeling where I could think properly and feel accomplished at the end of the day.
We talk about sleep training as though it is something you do to your baby, but let’s be honest here. Sleep training is how we as parents train ourselves to function on a new level of constant exhaustion. It is how we train ourselves to fall asleep quickly and wake up the instant we hear a cough, snore, or heavier breathing. We train ourselves to sleep anywhere whether it is our own bed with a little one snuggled in our arms, or the floor of the nursery with our arm awkwardly holding their hand through the slats in their crib.
This sleep training I speak of starts before you even bring your little one home. It starts the day you can no longer sleep on your stomach or back, blissfully taking in the precious hours of sleep at night. It starts the day you are forced to roll to your side and prop a pillow under the growing belly that is pressing on your bladder so that you have to get up every 2 hours to use the potty. From the first time your little one decides that practicing gymnastics in your belly at 3 a.m. sounds like a blast, you are on the path of some serious sleep training.
It involves developing a new skill set surrounding just how to survive sleep regressions and sick babies that can’t sleep. I once woke up after 2 hours of sleep to find my entire right arm completely numb. It was a scary, how-long-has-my-arm-not-been-getting-oxygen kind of way? I slept like that for 2 hours! More importantly, how was I going to move my arm without waking up my sweet little boy who had finally fallen asleep despite his worsening cold and stomach flu?
Cry it out has become the term I use for when I feel like the only solution is for me to sit in the dark crying until I can’t cry anymore because I am so exhausted that I can’t even imagine my sweet boy actually going to sleep long enough for me to get some rest. Sure, it is a mean technique to use. That’s why we all hope we can avoid it. In the end, you may just have to grab some kleenex and get ready for the long haul.
I now think of sleep training as cultivating the right responses to well-meaning advice that you know you will never follow. It is how we train ourselves as parents to find the right methods for getting our little ones to go to sleep and stay asleep. You can find so many articles on sleep training, and so many seem to contradict each other. My feeling here is that there is no one fool proof method for every baby. In the end, you have to train yourself to figure out what level of sleep deprivation you can handle, what works for your little one’s sleep habits and your comfort level, and definitely leave the guilt behind.
Sweet dreams fellow Mommas! That is if you can fall asleep enough to still have dreams.