There is one question that I have been asked countless times in the last year of my daughter’s life. “How is she sleeping at night?” or some variation. It quickly became a dreaded question because for the first months of her life, actually, all of the months of her life, she was a terrible, terrible sleeper at night. Most of the time when whatever person asked me about sleep and I replied with “Well, not great, honestly” they took it as an invitation to give me whatever advice they had on how they got their kids, grandkids, nieces, friend’s baby to sleep. I’d be asked whether or not I tried this method, whether or not I had read this book, or maybe that I should stop nursing, and did I have a bedtime routine for her? And on and on and on.
I don’t know why this is one of those questions that everybody has felt the need to ask. Nobody asks adults how they’re sleeping at night, we don’t ask if they’re getting up to go to the bathroom or to get a midnight snack or sip of water. But still people ask it. And for the longest time I’d been embarrassed by my answer.
As if how my baby slept was a reflection on who I was as a mother or a person.
It’s silly really. It’s not like I’m putting her to bed hungry, keeping the lights on at night, blasting heavy metal music and then wondering why my daughter frequently wakes up-- I know it’s not because of bad mothering. The truth is, I have a very alert little girl with major FOMO who loves me and loves to nurse.
She turned one a month ago and she is growing in her independence. After speaking with some friends who were in the exact same boat as I was...
you know, the boat where you nurse your kid to sleep four or five times before they’re down for the “night” aka for three hours or so before they’re up again.
They encouraged me to look into the sleep routine they used for their son. A very supported method, where there is definitely still some crying, but eventually they get the hang of it. They promised to virtually hold my hand through the first couple nights. The first night was terrible. The worst. I sat by my daughter’s crib in the rocking chair while she screamed and cried and said “Mama” for an hour and 36 minutes. She was so mad at me. I kept reminding her that I was there, and that she could do it. “Do it” being: put herself to sleep without a boob in her mouth. And I kept reminding myself that I could do it too. “Do it”, in my case, meant: allowing us both to feel some initial discomfort for a long term gain-- better sleep for baby and for me. The second night was a mere 32 minutes of crying, and tonight, the third night, it took her 6 minutes of crying and whimpering to fall asleep. If it takes 6 minutes of crying every night until she’s 18 years old, I’ll take it, I can do anything for 6 minutes.
After she fell asleep and was VERY asleep, (I didn’t want to jinx it), I texted the few mom friends who had been “subscribed to my daughter's Sleep Saga”. I was met with congratulations and high-five emojis. I felt like a champion.