Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ways I'm ruining my kid: part 1 - Sleep training (or lack thereof)

Before Dalton was born, I just assumed I would sleep train him. Because I love sleep. In fact, it’s a basic human need.
But then it turned out he was still cute, even at 3am.
 Next to labor and delivery, the lack of sleep was probably my biggest fear regarding new parenthood. If I had a quarter for every time I heard “sleep now while you can!”, I would have so much money. Enough to pay for like half a day of daycare. There is no greater joy as a parent than frightening pregnant women about L&D and lack of sleep. I will admit I am guilty of the former. But I try to avoid the latter.

Because they do sleep, on occasion. 

                A few weeks ago a friend sent me this post and I loved it. Another friend just sent it to me today and I loved it so much it made me cry. She says it so much better than I can, but basically the idea is that while it can be tough to get up multiple times in the night with a baby, the really hard part is feeling like it’s your fault, and even worse, that you are ruining them for life.

                Yes, the internet is a huge problem in perpetuating this. But I run into it in real life too. One of the first questions people ask when they see you holding a baby is “how is he sleeping?”. Then they will often inform you that they read such and so book and their baby then slept through the night (STTN) at 5 minutes old. Rice cereal in the bottle, then they’ll sleep like a champ! Which implies that, since I did not read such and so book and I’m not giving him rice cereal and my baby is not yet able to STTN, it’s my fault. Maybe they aren’t implying that at all, but my mom guilt sure does. People love to say things like “it’s time to let him cry it out!”. Why exactly is it time for that? It’s always followed with stories of how they let their baby cry it out and now she sleeps for 12 hours straight every night and then even changes her own diaper while she’s at it. And again, then it feels like the implication is that I’m doing something wrong by soothing him when he cries.

                Let’s stop right here. I am 100% pro sleep training. Because I know that it’s hard, and therefore if you do it, you have a good reason, and its right for your family. I am just not pro people telling me when it’s time for me to do something. Especially, as it so often is, when it’s strangers or people I barely know that have spent about ten minutes with him.

                If the time comes where it’s right for us, we will sleep train, or cry it out, or do whatever we need to do. I’m not feeling it right now though. He’s up to eat 2-3 times per night, more often than not 3 and maybe some others for unknown (to us) reasons. The doctor said this was fine.

It doesn’t bother me. I feed him, put him back in his crib, fall back asleep. I don’t watch the clock or count wakeups or tally up the total hours I get of sleep so I can whine and be a martyr about how god forbid my healthy child is behaving completely normally. Albeit not as “good” as some other babies (don’t get me started on the “good” baby nonsense). That easily leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of “I only got x hours of sleep, I will be sooooo tired today). Nobody cares how much or how little sleep you got, how long a stretch you slept (or didn’t sleep) I’m not the only tired person out there, and I’m still expected to do my job at 100% regardless. As I should be. Because I expect Dalton’s teachers to do their best, even if they just popped out their own kid and he or she isn’t a “good” sleeper.

However, I was getting really scared. Almost all my friends have sleep trained. I started to wonder what would happen if we didn’t sleep train. Not sleep training was unheard of. You might as well just not potty train. The sleep is not a problem for me, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him (he’s rested and happy, at least as best as I can tell during the day), so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Well, because everyone and their mom is (ha! See what I did there?). Nobody wants to be the odd one out.
We are trying everything to get him off the swaddle, but he's a true junkie.
I texted my mom to ask if she sleep trained us. She did not. So that makes at least 3 non-sleep trained babies who are now productive adult members of society. I considered posting about it on a mom Facebook group. It’s such a loaded topic though. I couldn’t think of a way to word it that wouldn’t result in some sort of heated debate.

I was terrified of the four month sleep regression. It’s a THING. It’s well documented on the internet. So it’s real. Sure, my mom never heard of it, the doctor never mentioned it, but it’s ON THE INTERNET. Tomorrow Dalton will be five months old. I’ve been wondering when we will get slapped in the face with this regression. Probably now, since I spoke of it. My Instagram friend, who had her baby a few days after me, told me they just came out of the 4 month sleep regression. Her baby was waking 1-3 times a night. Around here, we call that a good night! Maybe everyone’s perceptions are just different. It is possible, because babies are all different. Almost like they are real people. Getting sucked in to fearing something just because the internet says it’s a THING can turn into another self-fulfilling prophecy.

I tried to read some sleep books. Eric threatened to burn one because it stressed me out so bad. They are really big on telling you what you did wrong. There is no way to right these wrongs. The best you can do is start socking away bail money or at least money for therapy because you have ruined your kid. The books say sleep training is great for working moms, because obviously you need to be at your best to be professional. Perfect. Then there is all this stuff you are supposed to do to make them nap right so they sleep at night. He naps at daycare. I can’t control what happens when I’m not there. The books tell you to make sure they sleep until 7am. That’s when we walk out the door. They want them to sleep 12 hours at night. Sorry, but I’m not putting him down five minutes after we get home, unless he really needs it. We need time together. Maybe by working moms the books meant people who blog full time for a “job”? Because no one I know with a real job can do these things.

Long story short, for today, I’ll continue to do everything “wrong”. Picking him up when he cries, nursing to sleep, letting him nap on daddy, and sometimes even *GASP* bringing him into our bed.
I miss when he used to pass out on me all the time.

Maybe sometime I’ll fall asleep in a faculty meeting and risk getting fired and we will sleep train immediately. Or it will just be time. Maybe I never will and won’t bother potty training either and we will send him off to college in an adult size Halo sleep sack and adult pampers.

Experiences with baby sleep, sleep training, non sleep training, your own sleep, or mommy martyrs at work who whine about sleep. Go.



  1. We just stopped swaddling when leif grew out of the biggest sleep save with swaddle "wings." So feel free to wait til 8 months. He'll still be a "good" baby. :)

  2. I used to work with a guy who was expecting. Everyone told him to get sleep while he can. He'd respond with "The baby will sleep on "our" schedule," which led to all kinds of laughter and jokes in the office.
    Generation on generation of baby managed to grow up into a well adjusted child/teen/adult before the competitive parenting push on the internet.
    It seems like you're doing just fine. The books are probably good, but they're not really in existence to give advice or help you. They're there to make money for the publishing companies. Don't take the content as a personal insult. It's not at all about you. You're a teacher. You know the happiest kids are the ones who start off in homes where they are loved and cared for.

  3. I have an 11 month old that I haven't sleep trained. She wakes up 1 to 2 times a night still, I still nurse to sleep and break all of the rules. She's perfect, just like Dalton. Enjoy your baby and trust your instinct. I look forward to reading your posts, you make me laugh.

  4. Sleep training is like an intervention for a drug addict. You have to hit rock bottom first. I came across a mom in a breastfeeding support group on FB who said her kid was 26 MONTHS OLD and had never slept more than 2 hours at a time, ever. I didn't want to be a jerk but I kind of wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and be like MY GOD WOMAN LET THAT BABY CRY. And also I just wanted to hug because oh my god.

    1. Ha, that makes sense. As soon as I hit rock bottom I will sleep train and recant this post.

  5. 26months?? OMG!!

    anyways I just came here to say you're doing great!! My mom never sleep trained us...and both my brother and I are married grown ups and gainfully employed. I don't sleep through the night but that's mostly because I have to pee all the time ;). Also my SIL isn't sleep training and her baby is 16 months old...and perfectly fine! They even co sleep in the same bed and you know what? He's a happy, healthy, funny kid.

    Ignore the books, trust your gut. You guys are doing great!!

  6. My daughter wouldn't sleep unless I was holding her.. she sleep trained me and didn't get out of my bed until she was well over a year old and then once she moved to a big girl bed and figured out how to get out of it she moved right back into my bed. She sleeps on the floor next to me now half the night and half the night in my bed. I tried to fight it for awhile but I really like sleep and this gets me the most sleep.

    You are a great mom. My son loved the swaddle too, we used it on him for a long long time.

  7. As you know, I still nurse to sleep. Although sometimes it doesn't work. In those cases, I usually rock him to sleep or make my husband do it. Sometimes I think it's easier for my husband to rock him to sleep because he doesn't smell like milk.
    The working full time thing is so hard! I feel so bad if I have to wake the baby in the morning and I feel like a failure on the weekends sometimes if I can't get him to nap. I usually just give up and let him sleep in my arms for at least one nap. Maybe I need a black out shade in his room so he'll nap?!

  8. My daughter didn't sleep through the night for well over a year. It was so hard being that tired for that long. And when we hit rock bottom (about the time the wake ups were every 45 minutes) we let her cry, and after a few nights she was sleeping and things were better.

    My son (4.5 mo) has been sleeping 7 to 7 for a few weeks and it is glorious. It took one night of sleep training - he cried for half an hour and has been a sleep olympian since. I have zero illusions that the sleep magic will continue, but I will enjoy it while it lasts. I got 8 hours of sleep IN A ROW one night last week, for the first time since 2012, and it was so magical.

  9. I never heard of sleep training, but I could tell you some stories of things your grandmother (Bubby) said were done in her era. And speaking of potty training, she swore she never had to do it. She claimed that we all just trained ourselves at around two years old. Wild, right?

  10. I would tell you to hang in there, but I don't think that's necessary because it sounds like you are doing things exactly as you should be for your family (ie- what's best for you guy!). Good for you :)


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