Note: I have only my experiences to base my opinions off of. In no way am I judging or trying to say one method of sleep training is right or wrong. I am simply sharing my experience as a first-time-mother.
As a first time mother/parent, there is a terrible thing that we do to ourselves. As we try to not only learn to care for this new human, but also as we learn how to be the best parent we can be; we compare ourselves to those around us. It seems we never rise above this method of self exploration as it starts when we are in elementary school! We compare our clothes, toys, houses and cars and continue to compare ourselves into adulthood! At times, this method seems to be proactive when we see what we don’t want to do, but many times it is a detrimental habit because we unintentionally put on blinders to options we may have otherwise considered.
When my daughter was six-weeks old, though still nursing around the clock, every two hours, I had decided it was time she learn to sleep through the night. In my mind, this meant I got a least 6 hours of sleep in a single block. I know that many of you are now thinking ‘is this gal nuts?’ and Yes, I was. Honestly, I was desperate for a little sleep and I had a close friend at the time, whose daughter was sleeping through the night before she was 8 weeks old. I asked her to share her methods and without further research or pondering, I started implementing these methods immediately. Her advise was a simple and very popular method of a 3 hour cycle consisting of Eat time, Wake/Play time and Sleep time. The idea behind this method was to teach your child NOT to use nursing/feeding as a method of soothing for sleeping.
Immediately, this method felt unnatural because to me, watching my child fall asleep at the breast felt like the most natural thing to me as a mother. I have siblings who never felt the same way, and I never understood it. The idea, that this brand new little bundle of chaos chose me as the caregiver whom they trust and love enough to surrender to sleep in my arms, was the greatest gift.
I ignored my instincts and started training my daughter to self-soothe.
In a journal I kept for my daughter’s first year of life wrote :
I am writing today because I want to apologize. You see, when we brought you home from the hospital, still 3 weeks premature, you would only go to sleep at night if I held you in my arms. Now. you are seven weeks old and you won’t sleep anytime of day or night unless you are in my arms. I read this silly book “Baby Wise” and it had a Chapter on trying to put your child on a schedule and also exposing them to where it is they are going to be sleeping as they grow up. They introduced the theory of ‘crying it out.’ Even your pediatrician says the process is healthy, he told me “we haven’t lost one yet.” So I decided it was time to try to get you in your crib…which you have never slept in before.
We are now in the process of teaching you to ‘self-soothe’ and it absolutely breaks my heart to hear you cry. The new schedule: eat, play, sleep and repeat. 3 hour cycles until you move it to four. The book said that by nursing you to sleep I wasn’t allowing you to learn how to self-soothe and instead was teaching you to rely on me to relax. So yesterday I started to place you in your crib and let you fuss a little to fall asleep. Needless to say, what was only 60 seconds of your cry felt like an eternity and I was sobbing in my room while you cried in yours. By that evening we were both exhausted…and you never slept in your crib….and you never stopped crying. NEVER. W cried together, after 14 hours of ‘crying it out.’ Decision made; this method is not for us.
I remember that very moment in time; holding my daughter tightly as I watched my tears fall onto her onsie as she power-nursed as if it was helping her forget about the horrific hours that had finally passed. I decided, after giving it an honest try, that being ‘Baby Wise’ wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and it wasn’t important. I decided it was More important to listen to my instincts and stop listening to everyone else’s. Most importantly, I stopped being concerned with everyone else’s progress and success and started to focus more on all the wonderful moments I got to have with my daughter that many of my friends would never get.
The most sad comment a fellow mother ever made in my presence; I will answer her cries if she needs me, but I don’t go in if they just want me.
So what is the purpose of being a parent if you refuse to be their for your children? Just a thought.
Even as I try to write this post, I hear my daughter calling my name and it is before 5AM.
There is an innate reaction for most mothers when they hear their child’s call, cry or whimper; we HAVE to answer it.
All I know, is that if my life ended abruptly today or tomorrow, I would be so thankful to have taken the time to cuddle my children and nuzzle my nose into the back of their neck so I can memorize their smell, their breathing patterns and the rate as which they fall from REM into a deep sleep. How else would a mother know that her daughter hums quietly just before she falls asleep? And that before that last part of REM she flails her arms so vigorously that you actually have to take cover if you are too close. Aren’t those things a mother should know? If I just sent her into her room to tend to herself…..I never would have made these precious little discoveries.
They grow up and don’t need you all to quickly already – why rush it?