Sleep is Good and You Should Have It
When my first child was born, I was ecstatic. I also had absolutely no idea what I was doing and went purely on instinct. And when I say “instinct,” I mean the pure animal impulses that raced through my body every time my little one so much as made a peep. I believed that my child should never cry and that I should be there as her comforter all of the time. Good for you if you have already figured out that this is not a great strategy! It leads to exhaustion, frustration, and a whole lot less enjoyment of your baby and your life.
Fast forward to my child’s one-year birthday and I still have a kid who wakes up to nurse throughout the night and spends a good portion of the night waking me up to help her go back to sleep. I was bleary-eyed, performing poorly at work, and resentful but I didn’t know how to change things because I feared that my precious child would be irreparably harmed by crying. If you find yourself in this category, it’s a pretty normal mistake. But it doesn't have to be permanent! It can get better.
Supporting our little ones in healthy sleep is so important for them, for us, for our marriages and our jobs. Good sleep is essential for having a good life. There is a wonderful book by Jodi Mindell called, “Sleeping Through the Night,” and I highly recommend it for any Mama who is ready to sleep through the night herself! Dr. Mindell goes through the basics of normal sleep cycles and explains the science of sleep- all good stuff. But here is the tough part: If you’re like I was, you may be long past that “ideal window” of sleep training, which occurs at about 4 months, and you have now moved into the realm of “Uh-Oh! Houston, we got a problem, here.” This is when YOU have become the prime sleep association for your baby and she is now convinced that she needs you to rock, nurse, sing, bounce, and pacify to get her to go back to sleep. You, being the loving parent that you are, know the consequences of what happens when you do not “help” your child fall asleep. She cries. And for me, crying made me feel like a terrible mom. I thought my heart was being shredded. I couldn’t take it. But I didn’t understand how much I was making things worse, both in the short and long term, by not allowing my child to learn how to put herself to sleep.
I gotta tell you… I got three kids. And #1 is still a pretty poor sleeper, closely followed by #2 who at the age of 11, still likes her Mama to come and hang out with her until she starts to fall asleep. There goes my whole evening! And what was tender and sweet at age 2 is really a problem at age 11. Child #3? He jumps into bed, grabs all his loveys and kisses me goodnight. I shut the door and leave and he falls asleep on his own. It is bliss! I finally figured it out. And I wish I had learned this stuff years ago. Please don’t wait until #3 to get a good sleeper. You can have it with #1. You and your baby can be sleeping like a dream in less than a week. Done. You will have figured it out and your baby will too. Think how much less coffee you’d need every day! Think how much better you would feel if you got a full night’s sleep every night. It can happen. Dream it. See it. Do it. Do not think that sleep will magically resolve by itself unless you want to still be "helping" your child fall asleep a decade from now. If any of my mistakes can help someone else have it easier, thank goodness! That's what I'm here for.