My Baby Didn't Sleep Either
"It goes by in a blink of the eye." They said. "It's only such a short time." They said
That was the kind of ridiculous advice I received from other parents when I told them that I hadn't slept for more than 3 hours at a time in 3 months.
"But..." I countered, "I don't think I can take this much longer. Did you know that sleep deprivation is a tactic they use to torture people in Guantanamo?"
"Just give her what she needs, she'll get better eventually." They responded with loving, motherly smiles.
"I don't know." I said, "She's a sleep terrorist, and in our house, we don't negotiate with terrorists."
That's true, we don't negotiate with terrorists in our house. No, instead we just give them whatever the hell they want as long as it means they will sleep. SLEEP. SLEEP IS GOOD.
Before I had Hazel I used to google things like "How to make your baby smarter" and "ways to stimulate a newborn and improve their memory". At that time, I thought the most important thing would be making my baby girl the best possible human she could be.
However, two weeks after her birth it became clear that the only thing I would ever care about again was sleep. Hazel's genius iq could wait.
We tried everything--- EVERYTHING from shush-patting to jamming a pacifier in her mouth every 40 minutes to get our little bundle of joy to sleep. Really, none of it worked.
But then again, all of it worked a little bit.
The funny thing about baby sleep is that everyone struggles with it. EVERYONE. I don't care who you are or what kind of stellar mom you are, sleep is just one of those things that babies have to learn. Sure, some of us have a few more challenges than others, but all babies struggle to sleep. ALL OF THEM. (If you're thinking of writing a thoughtful comment about what a "great sleeper" your little one is, go ahead, but I hate you.)
Ok, ok for some babies learning to settle and sleep takes only a few weeks and has been accomplished by 4 or 5 months. But for the rest of us it's a long slog and you will probably exhaust a huge list of ridiculous sleep strategies before that one glorious night when you wake up and realize you've made it through without going in there once.
If I can offer you, the sleep deprived mom who is currently reading this at 3am after googling "how to get my ___ month old to sleep," one piece of advice it's this- don't give up, it's coming.
Here's the sleep trajectory we followed for Hazel:
Newborn: do whatever she wants
1 month: rocking her to sleep, NEVER waking her
2 months: Strict routine
3 months: No routine, stuffed animals in the crib
4 months: absolutely no rocking to sleep, put her down drowsy but awake
5 months: pacifier, strict routine
6 months: pacifier, cut out some daytime sleep
7 months: controlled crying
And now, she is sleeping through the night. Not "sleeping through the night" but actually waking up at 3 am, SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT from 7-7.
Looking at our experience, a lot of people assume I'd be a huge supporter of Cry it Out (CIO). Some even suggested that I should have done it earlier and skipped out on some of those other things. While there are a lot of things I would have done differently (especially in months 1-3 when I had no idea what I was doing), our sleep battle is one thing I wouldn't change.
Hazel had to learn several things before she was ready to sleep through the night: how to eat enough in the day to phase out the night feed, how to soothe herself, how to be ok in a room alone, how to roll around, how to relax... the list goes on. She learned each of those things in a different way, whether it was with the help a pacifier, a stuffed animal or her mother, she slowly gained those skills one by one, which meant when we got to a stage where I knew she could do it and she just needed a little push, sleeping through the night wasn't a traumatic experience.
For us, CIO was a one-night, eight minute ordeal. Yes, ONE NIGHT. Based on the experience of others, I think that's pretty damn incredible. It was certainly hard, and we had several night wakings that night, but after that she slept through the night every night.
Why didn't we have hours and hours of crying? I can't say for sure, but I think it's because she was only missing the last piece of the puzzle-- the ability to soothe herself. She was already capable of relaxing and falling asleep without her parents. She had already learned when bedtime was and what was expected of her, all that was left was one final skill.
Everyone has their own struggle with baby sleep, but for those of you who are always taking small victories (he slept for 3 hours at a time, I didn't have to rock him, she slept in her own bed) just know that every one of those milestones is adding up.