Sleep Training (Or Not)

How’s he sleeping? asks Bee’s Chinese teacher.
Good sleeper? the barista smiles.
Are you guys getting any sleep? prods my mother-in-law.

My answer is always the same:
Well…

Scout is not, by definition, a good sleeper. He’s prone to waking up often in search of his pacifier, in search of comfort, in search of us. We offer him each at his near-every whim, fully aware that this is the precise opposite of every sleep trainer’s advice. But for us, for now, our focus lies instead on creating a solid, trusting bond that extends far into every corner of every hour.

(Even the languishing 3am ones.)

This is new to me, the bucking-of-the-system. It’s going rogue, the decision to ignore the popular advice, the social studies, the “experts.” I’m a rule-follower, and if you give me a five-step formula on getting my baby to sleep, you can bet I’ll follow it to a T.

But I know now that there are no formulas. There are no experts. There is only you, and your baby, and choice after choice after choice to encourage (beg/plead/beseech) him to sleep, all the while knowing you’re at the mercy of those fluttering eyelashes smaller than a fingernail clipping.

And so, on National Parents’ Day, this isn’t a post about sleep training a baby. It’s a post about sleep training a parent.

It’s a post about attempting to assist your child in sleeping through the night while surrendering to the idea that one night, it will all work wonders magnificently, and the next night you’ll be reheating your cold coffee at midnight.

Here are a few things I’m learning about sleep, and survival in the lack:

  1. Flex yourself.
    If your child is biological, you know about stretch marks, about making room for baby in a space that feels impossible to budge an inch. Good news! This is a perfect crash course in resilience, in the necessary skill of flexibility. You’ve stretched your waist (et. al); now let’s stretch your schedule. For our home, this means sending one parent to bed early (6pm!) for a head start and a good chunk of uninterrupted sleep while the other catches extra Zzs until noon the next morning. For you, this might mean car napping during your lunch break (this works wonders) or dozing off while the bigger kids watch Moana. For everyone, it will certainly mean carving down your schedule to the barest of bones. Now is not the season for volunteering in the church nursery, for joining the book club, for learning to cook, for Netflix. This is your time to survive, while baby thrives. Adjust accordingly.
  2. Ignore math.
    You might feel particularly obsessed with the clock during this season, counting down how much (little) sleep you indulged in last night between the feedings, the hugs, the rockings. When Ken’s out of town and I’m solo parenting, I cover the microwave clock with a sticky note so I can’t see what time it is as I’m bouncing a sleepless Scout in the dining room or making wide loops around the kitchen island. This is not the time, nor the place, for math. Resist the urge to know you only slept 2.3 hours last night. In life and in calorie counts, sometimes ignorance is bliss.
  3. Control what you can.
    Of all the things we can’t control – sleep patterns, REM cycles, restless dreams – there are a few outliers that we’re lucky enough to get a say in. From blackout shades and sound machines to diapers and pacifiers, find products that foster the most comfortable environment possible. Particularly noteworthy: Huggies OverNites Diapers are designed specifically for sleep with a soothing protective layer that promises to keep your baby dry and sleeping soundly for a full 12 hours – guaranteed, or your money back.
  4. Adjust the goal.
    If your goal is to “get the baby to sleep for 8 hours,” you’ll likely fail. But if your goal is to provide a restful space where a loving nighttime routine full of hugs is encouraged? Congratulations, this is a goal you can meet. If your goal is to surrender to the idea that you can’t predict the nights when the baby is fussy and teething and up every 45 minutes? This is a goal you can meet. If your goal is to attempt to embrace this season of fog and grit, of mental abandon, of eye bags and espresso shots? This is a goal you can meet. Let your baby tackle the rest (and we’ll both pray he decides to soon).
  5. Enlist the village.
    I have a girlfriend who created a nap train instead of a meal train. For every trusted friend who volunteered to bring dinner after she had her baby, she asked instead if they could entertain the kids while she napped. Another friend requested babysitters instead of gifts when her daughter turned 1, utilizing a few stolen hours for peace and quiet. Your village, no matter how small, is waiting on the bench. Put ’em in, Coach.

Tell me, what would you add to the survival list? I’d love to hear!

p.s. July 23rd is National Parents Day! Send this post to a mama you know who rocks all night and is rocking it all day. May her (coffee) cup runneth over.

 

This post is sponsored by Huggies OverNites Diapers, designed for sleep and 25 percent more absorbent, so you can give them a hug that settles and soothes without worrying about nighttime leaks. Try Huggies OverNites Diapers at nighttime to experience a sounder sleep, guaranteed. Learn more at Huggies.com.

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  • Love this! I am a firm believer that parenting doesn’t end at bedtime. I have 3 kids and have never sleep trained or let them “cry it out.” Even though this has also meant losing sleep for about 10 years now, it has also meant a whole lot of cuddles and nursing sessions, of kids knowing that they can always jump in bed with me after a nightmare of if they just need a little comfort, and of kids who feel secure that mama is always there for them. And surprise, the big ones did eventually learn to sleep through the night and even in their own beds, and then suddenly we are left missing those nighttime snuggles!

    • Ah, I love this Ashley!!! It’s funny, Bee still sleeps in my bed more often than not! Highlight of my night – those are some really sweet cuddles. :)

  • Erin,
    I love this just as much, if not more, than all your other posts. I am almost 6 weeks in to our beautiful baby #2 with an almost 3 year old and the nap train idea is BRILLIANT. Amongst other things, we are complete transplants in a new area away from family and have been wonderfully blessed with new friends. I have a hard time asking, but will definitely lean toward this when presented the opportunity. God speed to you and yours, and cheers to another cup of coffee (or tea ;-))!

    • Oh Anne – I’m so happy you’ve found some community in your new area – that can be so so hard to do! Blessings on your newest addition – what a lucky babe! :) Cheers right back atcha!

  • This was such a good reminder for me. My fourth child is almost 18 months old and by far, our worst sleeper. Some nights are so frustrating but I try to always remember that this too shall pass. And, I have become an expert at the 30 minute power nap. 😊

  • “Your village, no matter how small, is waiting on the bench. Put ’em in, Coach.” As a non-mom, this speaks to me. This definitely inspired me to be more creative in encouraging my mom-friends to take care of themselves while their littles are, well, little. :)

  • I noticed, after agonizing about doing the right thing, that for every expert and study that says we should sleep train, there is one that says we should not. I decided that there can’t possibly be one right way to parent or very few of us would grow up to be healthy adults! So I just do what feels right for all of us at the time (which was mostly being available at night but sometimes not) and hope for the best.

  • Oh my goodness! I love this so much. Totally in the thick of it right now with my 3rd babe, and I could t agree more! We make it through somehow!

  • sleep training works and what is more it make parents and a baby much more happy! I always thought that sleep training is a long process and apparently I was wrong. When my baby girl was 4 months old I tried the Hold With Love method by Susan Urban from her HOW TO TEACH A BABY TO FALL ASLEEP ALONE guide ( http://www.parental-love.com ). My daughter has always been a pretty terrible sleeper so I thought it is going to be a long trip to get her to sleep properly but after a few days we made it ( ONLY A FEW DAYS!!!!!!!). After the HWL method she falls asleep on her own without rocking and her naps looks much better. We are eliminating night feedings now with the HWL and it looks promising.
    I am glad I decided to change my daughter’s sleeping habits and we are all much more happy now.

      • Erin, I am glad I found this blog ( like it a lot ) and I am glad I saw Donna saying about “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone guide”! It has worked for my son who has just turned 8 months! Great step by step instructions and short read! To sum up – wonderful! I am so happy now :)
        I am going to follow this blog :)

    • This guide is great – short, clear instruction, without unnecessary information. Less than 20 pages and after reading I knew what, when and how! The method worked just great so I am very happy with what we achieved!

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