When I first brought my tiny daughter home from the hospital, I expected that I would have to sacrifice my sleep. All new parents know that sleepless nights come with the territory. And in the beginning those midnight (and 2am, 4am, and 7am) feedings took on a certain romance. It was just the two of us. It was dark and peaceful. However, that got old. Quick.
As she approached the two-month mark, she was still waking up several times a night and my patience was starting to wear thin. I thought for sure that there must be something wrong with me as a mother. Why wouldn’t my baby sleep? What was I doing wrong? To add insult to injury the first question out of people’s mouths was usually “Is she letting you sleep?” I guess the bags under my eyes that could smuggle a family of four weren’t getting the message across that there was no sleep to be had. So through gritted teeth I would answer, “No she’s still not sleeping through the night.” Which was undoubtedly followed by “Why?” But I didn’t know. I had no clue. What I did know was that I was so beyond tired that I could barely function. I started to feel depressed and I started doubting myself as a mother. I wasn’t enjoying motherhood. What I was enjoying was coffee…by the bucketful.
To make matters worse, it seemed that babies much younger than my daughter were sleeping through the night, or so said their smug mothers. I’m telling you, if I were to gouge out the eyes of a mother whose kid slept through the night and there was one tired mother on the jury, I’d walk. Scott free.
Three months started to approach and so did the end of my maternity leave. I was desperate and I knew that something needed to be done. She was still waking up 2-4 times a night and wouldn’t sleep longer then 3 hours at a time. It was so bad that I would like in bed awake because I was so anxious in anticipating her next waking, which is all kinds of crazy.
Something needed to be done. So I did my research. I read every book, article, and blog out there. If it had the word “sleep” in the title, I read it. This provided me with a lot of information about sleep, but surprisingly left me feeling more stressed out. Not only did the authors of these books contradict each other, but they contradicted themselves. I had had enough. So I thought about what I wanted besides the obvious…sweet, sweet sleep. I wanted her to sleep through the night, in her crib, without being rocked, or swaddled since she was busting out of her swaddler and I’m pretty sure you can’t super glue a baby in there. I wanted her to learn how to fall asleep on her own with the least amount of crying possible.
So I implemented a sleep routine. Nothing crazy. Books, bath, lotion, PJ’s, and a bottle in the dark. No playing. No interaction. Zip. Then I would put her down and I would let her fuss, if she cried I would pick her up and soothe her and then put her down again. This continued ad nauseum. Sometimes she would wake up crying an hour later and I would repeat the pick up put down. After about a month, yup a whole month, she finally got it. She would go down at 7pm and wake up at 6am. I was consistent. I didn’t waver. I stayed the course. I was victorious!
However, the road to sleeping through the night isn’t cut and dry. At around 6 months my daughter started night waking again. Growth spurt? Teething? Pain in the neck? Who knew? Certainly not me. I’ve never pretended to have the answers; I’m kind of going in blind. After about two weeks, I was officially in panic mode. Didn’t I just fix her? This time, after I had ruled out hunger or sickness I decided that we needed to retrain. This time there was some crying. The first two nights she cried for 20 minutes. After that 5-10 and within about a week she went back to sleeping through the night.
We have conquered night wakings, for now. Naps, however, are another tale for another day.