Friday, September 23, 2016

Sleep training myths debunked

Some people are doubly blessed when they become parents. They have these gorgeous little people that take over their hearts, AND their little people sleep well from the get go. I marvel at these people with a mix of jealousy and and awe. While I can very objectively state that my son was one of the coolest babies every born, he was not one of those babies who slept.

I spent 18 long weeks after his birth trolling the internet to find the magic solution that would buy me more than a few hours at a time. While my mom friends started celebrating that their kiddo was sleeping 6, or 7, or even 8 (HOLY #&#^) hours at a time after a month or two, we celebrated my son's two month birthday from a mattress on the living room floor. Why, you ask? Because he would sleep in his chair for 4 uninterrupted hours if (and only if) it was on the hardwood floor, so we set up camp in the living room.

After I had to leave a meeting at work and go hide in the bathroom to cry my eyes out because I was just so, so tired, we decided to finally listen to our doctor's advice and sleep train my kid (yes, ladies and gentlemen, my doctor suggested this). Like so many things with a baby, I was shocked to find out how controversial this was. People still give me the side eye when we mention that we did this, and I think it is because there are some pretty prevalent myths about what sleep training entails.

Let's address those, shall we?

1. I could never just let my baby cry like that

This one is the most common. My favorite iteration was from a woman who didn't have children (but I am sure her hypothetical kids sleep like angels, as hypothetical kids always do).

"Sleep training" is not synonymous with the infamous Ferber method, which does involve letting your kid cry it out. Sleep training has lots of ranges and tactics, from the very simple setting of a bed time and pre-bed routine up to full on cry it out. I read multiple books and every article I could find on this, and there is no one magic method, as (shockingly) every baby's needs are different.

We used a controlled cry method where we would let him cry for 5 minutes before we went to soothe him, then 10, and then 15, etc. It worked well for him, but for me... well, myth number 2.

2. I guess it's nice if you can stand to listen to him cry

Yep, I put my screaming baby in his crib, walked out of the room, and started doing tequila shots in my kitchen while I waited for the exotic dancers to arrive. What an asinine thing to say.

I cried as much as my baby cried the first three nights of this. In fact, the first night I caved after 45 minutes and slept on my trusty living room mattress. I had visions of him developing attachment disorders and growing up to hate me or become a Trump supporter. Every second of the four days it took to get him to sleep in his crib was torture for me. But I would do it all again, because the third myth is also crap...

3. Well, I suppose you have to do what's best for you

The insinuation here being that I am putting myself ahead of my kid. Not true, and a hearty f*ck off to you. This is wrong and insulting on two levels:

A. Babies need to sleep. All that growing and learning burns up a LOT of energy. There are reasons baby books tell you that your kid should be sleeping something like 14 hours a day- THEY NEED TO. It is a developmental imperative. When he passed that four month mark, his doctor was very clear with us that sleep training was fine (and even important) because he needed to sleep.

B. Zombie moms are not good moms. I mean, we do our best, but in order to be a good mother, I need more than 3 fitful hours of sleep on a futon mattress every night. So let's not separate what is best for me from what is best for my kid in this instance, as they happen to be one and the same.

4. Aren't you worried that it will impact your relationship?

Anyone who thinks sleep training somehow lessened my love for my kid or his need for me is welcome to come over next Saturday and watch what happens when I try to put the little velcro baby down.

All in all, you didn't raise my kid. Even if you've had six of your own, none of them was mine.Sleep training worked for us. It does not make me a bad, negligent mother, nor is my child doomed to be a serial killer or tea partier. And hopefully, a few of these facts will help prevent other mothers from getting the sleep-training side eye if it turns out to be what they need to do. We get enough judgement about...well, everything else...

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article. I know an added article from The Sleep Doctor that that will supplement your topic on developing healthy sleeping habits for your child. I hope this helps.