I have always needed a full eight hours of beauty sleep. But with my first baby, my sleep (and mind) was thrown for a loop, especially when it came to those much-needed pillow hours.
As a first-time mom, I had definite ideas about, well, everything. From feeding to screen time, to sleep. My baby would blissfully snooze in her bassinet next to our bed and I would occasionally rise to nurse her. We would awake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, ready for the day.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In our journey to a good night's sleep, we tried every trick in the book.
We started with a bassinet. I would gently place baby girl into it after nursing her to sleep and then crawl into my own bed. Within a few minutes to hours (who really knows in that sleep-deprived state?), she would wake and want to eat again. Though my biceps grew strong with the never-ending picking up and putting down, I wasn’t looking for a midnight workout.
Next, we moved on to something I swore I would never do: co-sleeping. I lost a brother to SIDS, and have a husband that can sleep through a five-alarm fire, so the thought of co-sleeping terrified me. But my mind was a scrambled egg and something needed to change. Through research and reading, I found my comfort with co-sleeping. And you know what? It was perfect! Baby could nurse all night long, hubby was a surprisingly aware and adaptive bed sharer, and I got more sleep than I thought possible. Plus, there is nothing like the feeling of your little one’s warm head snuggled next to your own.
That is, until that sweet little nugget grew a bit bigger and stronger and became a kicking, punching, non-stop-nursing party animal. So, for my sanity (and desire to not have bruises), we decided it was time to sleep-train. For me to be a better mom and wife, my daughter needed to move to her own bed in her own room so I could catch up on much-needed sleep.
I made schedules and lists and followed all of the steps to ensure success. And it worked! For a week.
I ordered a handful of books and joined a lot of online groups so that when we started sleep training we would get it right, right away. My husband and I debated which was the best approach: I voted for a gentle, no-crying method, and he was firmly in the cry-it-out camp. In the end, I won. I made schedules and lists and followed all of the steps to ensure success. And it worked! For a week.
Then, things got noticeably worse. Baby girl was not having it with the gentle check-ins: every time we soothed her, she got more upset. So much so, that after I had been crying (yep, me!) from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. one night, due to sleep exhaustion, frustration and fear that my daughter would never sleep, we called a sleep consultant.
Thanks to the sleep consultant, we discovered that our little one had a tongue- and lip-tie, which explained the non-stop nursing at all hours. Once that was fixed, nursing improved enormously, I agreed to try a cry-it-out strategy for a few days to see if it would work for our family. After a home visit with the sleep consultant and a little bit of homework, we were ready to go. We bought a sound machine, blackout curtains, a baby monitor and a bottle of wine (for us, not the baby).
I won’t lie: That first night of crying was one of the most gut-wrenching things to go through. However, I can empirically say that I cried more than the baby. Night two saw improvement; night three was even better; and by the end of the week, we were in the sleepy swing of things.
I'm happy to report that our toddler now (mostly) sleeps through the night. I believe this wild ride was worth it: Every step in our sleep journey was the right thing to do at the time, and when it wasn’t working, we were ready for a new approach. All that being said, I still keep waking up at 5:45 a.m. every morning, no matter what. Maybe I need to look into sleep training for myself?