If the last three months of your life have been anything like mine, you’re probably looking at your screen through blood-shot eyes that are underlain with enormous, purple bags. You probably haven’t gotten more than a few hours of straight sleep in weeks, and those hours of “sleep” have most likely been on the recliner (or worse, the floor) of your child’s bedroom.
I have been putting off “sleep training” Cora for months for a few reasons. First, I’m a wuss and hate to hear her cry, and refuse to do so when it’s my fault. Second, I didn’t want to force anything when I knew she already wasn’t feeling well and we are still having a daily struggle with major digestive issues that no one can seem to find the answer to. Third, I wasn’t ready to give up my precious time with my sweet infant when she still liked to cuddle (Really, I’m still not). BUT, despite all of these items being continually true, my wish to mother my baby through the night was impeding my ability to mother her during the day. I have literally had days where, once finally in bed, I cannot remember what I did that day, what I wore, or what I ate. I felt like that if I was even being an acceptable mother, I was unaware of it. I was living in a fog. I needed some flipping sleep. After this realization, and a few more stubborn sleepless nights that would hopefully give a bit more time to get Cora’s tummy under control, I decided to attempt some version of sleep training (again).
My biggest holdback with sleep training, really, was that I always want Cora to know that I love her and am here for her, whenever and wherever but I felt like “sleep training” as I knew it would conflict with that goal and require me to leave her in her crib for hours on end and create some catastrophic psychological issues down the road. Though, I have been told repeatedly that that is false. Though that method is the solution for some people, I couldn’t do it. I really did want Cora to learn to sleep on her own and to feel comfortable in her bed without me, but I didn’t want her to feel totally abandoned either… After talking to a good friend and fellow new mom who told me what she had been doing with her daughter, I found a compromise. The goal was to do my usual bedtime routine, tell Cora that I love her and put her in bed, and leave for only one minute. After a minute of crying, I went in and reassured her however I felt was necessary. I sang, held her hand, rubbed her back, and even picked her up when she wouldn’t otherwise stop crying. I would stay in her room for thirty seconds, then leave again, this time waiting two minutes. I continued this, alternating comforting her then leaving for increasing amounts of time, until we reached five minutes of crying. I knew that this was an amount that we could both handle. After that, I went into her room and held her hand and sang to her until she fell asleep. We did the same thing for both of her naps the next day but only ever got up to one minute of crying. By that second night, she was falling asleep on her own without a tear and last night she slept completely through the night!
I want to say that this “method” is a miracle-worker but I know that it isn’t. I think that the key to our success this time around, (this most definitely was not our first attempt) was that Cora and I were both actually ready. I had read about this “being ready” bologna a few times before and never understood it. I thought maybe it just meant that both of us were sufficiently sleep-deprived but it turns out the opposite is true for a baby… My advice to anyone who has wondered at this same question is to take a guess and try to sleep train now. For me, more than one or two nights of hysterics was too much and meant I needed to wait a while longer. For others, a week or more may be the limit. You pick an amount of time, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, try again later. Sleep is just around the corner! Or a few… but you’ll get there.