Before I get started with this, I think it’s important for me to make clear that I do not consider myself to be an expert mother. I get frustrated and yell sometimes (although yelling is something I’ve been MAJORLY working on). I do things I probably shouldn’t, like let my three year old have fruit snacks at 8:30 a.m. just to get him out of my hair; I let my BABY watch his big brother’s TV shows; I forget to send thank you cards after my son’s birthday (or I just never get around to it); I force my baby to skip his morning nap because I selfishly want to get all my errands done while my oldest is in Preschool; I prop my baby up on a boppy with a bottle so I can get some stuff done while he eats; I could go on and on about everything I do that I know some moms consider deplorable.
Today I’m going to share with you one thing I did right, but it was by accident.
My second son, Preston, started sleeping four hour stretches as early as two weeks old and I felt very optimistic that he was going to be one of those freak babies who sleeps through the night at two months old; and then he was and I felt like I hit the jackpot.
Then came his first cold, which lead to his first ear infection…then another, and another. It was downhill from there and we were back to waking up every two hours. After numerous failed antibiotic treatments, he had his ear tubes surgery when he was about eight months old. I naively thought that would be the magic flip of the switch to get him sleeping through the night because that’s how it went for my first son. I. Was. So. Wrong.
Preston had sleep regressed to the point where waking up was ingrained in him, even without the ear pain. After a couple weeks post op, he still wasn’t sleeping well and it occurred to me that we might have to actually “sleep train” our baby. Then Preston got sick again, and that idea got shelved. He ended up with a double ear infection despite the tubes, but this time the antibiotic treatments actually worked. Once again, I naively hoped that would do the trick and he would start sleeping.
Eeeeehhhh. Wrong again.
We were so desperate for sleep it never seemed like a good time to “sleep train.” We would instead just pop a bottle in his mouth to get him back to sleep as quickly as possible. It didn’t help that our toddler shares a wall with him and we were always afraid he’d wake up.
Then one random night when he was nine months old, I sort of snapped. He woke up at 2:30 a.m. like he always did, and something changed in me. I got up and instead of making a bottle, I went into his room, gave him his paci and Little Unicorn swaddle blanket that he likes to nuzzle his face in and I told him to please shut up shuush and left the room. The screaming intensified when I left and Ryan asked me if he should go make a bottle. My response: “NO! He’s almost nine months old; he does not need food anymore during the night and hasn’t for a while. He needs to shut up and go to sleep! I can’t do this anymore…he’s fine. He needs to figure it out. Humans sleep at night and he will do it too.”
After 15 minutes of crying, it intensified and I decided to go reassure him. I gave him back his paci and swaddler he had thrown, gently rubbed his back and told him it’s time to go night night. I went back to bed and the crying continued.
This time I waited 30 minutes. Reminder, none of this was planned.
30 minutes later, he was still crying. I went in and did my reassuring thing and went back to bed. Still crying.
This time I waited an hour. In my head I thought, “He’s fine. He’s safe in his crib, he doesn’t need to eat every three hours at this age.” 45 minutes later, he was silent. He slept until 6AM.
The very next night, he slept from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Same story the following night every night since barring one or two exceptions. I’m sure I’m jinxing myself by writing about this, but I’m excited and feel like I need to share this for any tired moms out there who are hesitant to “sleep train.”
I just want to say this: It doesn’t need to be a big complicated deal. You probably don’t need to read an entire book about it. You might just need to let him/her cry a little. And yes, it sucks. It’s like nails on a chalkboard and your heart aches and you feel like you need to rescue your little one. But what are you rescuing him/her from? You’re not! You’re enabling their poor sleeping habits (in my opinion). That’s what helped me realize that it’s ok if he cries a little in order for me to start getting some sleep. Sleep deprivation is a real form of torture and my tirednesss was making me a worse mom.
So, I sleep trained my baby by accident. I have no clue if this would work for any of your babies, but I thought it was a story worth sharing.
*photo credit: Hilary Blair Photography*