From Dusk ‘Til Yawn
It’s 5am. No wait, maybe it’s 7am? . . . I don’t really know anymore.
The times start to blend together when your coffee turns cold. I feel a sudden pain in my legs. Not a cramping; it’s more like I’ve run a marathon. The crying on the baby monitor reminds me that the strain in my quads is the result of going up and down the stairs so many times. It feels like I’m preparing for a race. But this, my friends, is sleep training.
Let me start by disclosing that I have no idea what I’m doing. I Google things . . . a lot. I read dated message boards, secretly hoping one of these moms comes back to their post from three years ago to tell us that their child is thriving due to the particular sleep method they used. “Newmom3495” has left me hanging so many times.
My son Sawyer is nine months old and FINALLY in his crib all night. At one point, we nicknamed him New York, after the city that never sleeps. It’s been a long road, and when I say I’ve tried everything, I mean that I’ve tried everything. You’ll do just about anything when you’re waking up every two hours and still working full time. We’ve turned on vacuums for white noise, tried blackout curtains to block light, rice in the bottle — nothing seemed to work. I was a zombie.
When I started putting the peanut butter in the freezer, I knew I was starting to lose my mind with the loss of sleep. Some nights I would end up nursing him for hours just to relax. It clearly wasn’t my first choice; it was my only option. When Sawyer turned five months, it was time to get him out of his bassinet and into his room. I returned to the message boards, desperately in search for an answer.
I started by spending multiple nights sleeping on his bedroom floor, using a stuffed moose as a pillow and a baby blanket for warmth. I know that may sound dramatic, but I didn’t intend on staying up there. When you’re sleep deprived, you’ll find that you can make it about halfway through the thought of, “I should get up,” before your eyelids slam shut. After he started falling asleep in his crib, the next goal was getting him to stay down.
I didn’t have the heart to do the “Cry it out” method. That’s essentially where you let your baby cry itself to sleep. I don’t judge any mother who goes that route. I can just tell you that I decided it wasn’t for me.
After months averaging about four hours of sleep a night, I was beginning to forget basic information. The new lines under my eyes were longer than Black Friday. I took a week off of work and started doing a hybrid of the two most popular sleeping plans.
It started with a solid night routine. Dinner at 5:30, pajamas at 6:15, a little playtime and a book, and then a two-ounce bottle of breast milk before hitting the crib by 7pm. I would let him whine for five to seven minutes at a time, adding one minute a night, up to 12 minutes total. Here’s the tough part: I couldn’t pick him up. Instead, I would go in, rub his belly or head, put my face close, and make a shushing noise. When he would calm down, I would leave the room praying that I wouldn’t have to return until the morning. Unanswered prayers, but every day it got better.
I remember sitting in a neighboring room, staring at the clock on my phone, hearing him whimper in short increments. I would go back to the message boards to justify my method. Tears were shed on both sides of the door that week. There were so many times I wanted to rush in the room and pick him up. I knew, however, that it would only undo everything we had worked toward. I couldn’t start over.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that, as a mom, you need to do what you think is best. I’m so grateful for social media, my mom, and Google for getting me through this first year. Some parents told me to let him cry all night. Other moms say I should pick him up as soon as he starts to whimper. It doesn’t make any one of them wrong; what’s right for someone else’s family may not be right for yours.
Every night, things got better; it’s been that way ever since. Sometimes he sleeps 13 hours straight. Other nights, he may need us to hit the music button on the monitor a few times. But we still NEVER pick him up. The last nine months have been the best part of my life, but I would be lying if I said they haven’t been equally as challenging. One thing’s for certain, though; it’s a lot easier to conquer this whole “new mom” thing when you’re able to stay awake.