Learning to Sleep

8:18 AM


Portable baby bed c/o Dockatot

You know that feeling when you're strung out and sleep deprived and your head is pounding and foggy most of the time? You think you have it together and that you're functioning pretty well considering the joke that is your sleep situation. And then you get a couple of months removed from that point in time, look back, and realize just what a basketcase you were for a hot minute.

Otto boy, bless his sweet little heart, came out and quickly made it known that his 4 AM in-utero dance parties were indicative of his sleep patterns earthside. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every time I laid down to go to sleep for the first 9 months of his life, Otto would wake up within 30 minutes. And every time I put him to sleep, he would wake up at least 3 times before settling in for all of 1-2 hours. Thankfully in the moment I was just tired enough to be blissfully ignorant of the insanity, and I used my crutches. Swinging, cosleeping, swaddling, bouncing, nursing to sleep, and nursing in my sleep were my saving graces. They all worked in different combinations, and I held on tight to them for dear life until they didn't work anymore. 

Every morning I woke up for a long day, and every night went to bed for a long and sleepless night preceding another long day. This is the nature of babies and it didn't come as a surprise, but those long days and nights certainly test a lady's nerves now and then. So you ride it out, laugh (or cry) off the crazy, and survive, remembering that babies aren't up all night forever and that this phase will pass.

We made it work until it just didn't. It became increasingly more clear that even though I do not like the idea of sleep training and wanted to do everything in my power  not to make my sweet baby cry in his bed, I was doing him an injustice by not helping him learn to sleep (and my whole family an injustice by not sleeping myself and being a cranky zombie woman). The night before we moved to Waxahachie was the one that made my decision to sleep train final. Otto and I were up until 4:30 in the morning and none of my life-saving tactics were working- he wouldn't nurse. He wouldn't swing. He wouldn't lay with me. He was so exhausted that he wouldn't sleep, and both of us spent a lot of time in tears that night. Our tiny apartment had paper thin walls and we were all on top of each other, so I knew I needed to wait until we had a little more space. I decided that our first night in our new house, we would start sleep training Otto boy (he was almost 9 months). 

Now you have to understand that I was desperate at this point. I had tried every way around crying it out to no avail. None of my crutches even KIND of worked anymore. With Milo, we would give him a bottle in bed to help him fall asleep, (I know I know) but Otto never took a bottle, so that option was out too. I had to tell Trevor that he was not allowed to give me sad puppy dog eyes even once because I needed zero extra guilt than I already felt. Trevor is wonderful in every way, but he was never the one trying to get Otto down for literally hours every day and night. I knew that this was what needed to happen and I told Trevor he had to support me and comfort me and be nice to me about it, because otherwise I knew I wouldn't go through with it. 

True story: Otto currently sleeps in a pack and play in a closet. It's dark, quiet, and cozy. The first night, Otto cried for 45 minutes. I went in and patted his back and told him I still loved him in increments of about 8-12-15 minutes (unless he was starting to calm down). The next night he cried for about 20 minutes, and the third night he laid down, took a breath, turned his head, and SLEPT. When he woke up in the night, I did the same thing (but in all honesty I sleep with earplugs so I'm a little foggy on the midnight wake ups). The first night I did nurse him around 4:30 AM because my boobs felt like they would explode after not nursing since bedtime, but the next day I waited until he was awake for the day (around 6:30). 

For naptime, I did the same. It took longer for naps to catch on, and the first week or so he didn't nap much at all (if he was still awake after about 45-50 minutes I gave in). But after a couple of weeks, he was napping like a champ 2x a day, no problem. 

Now Otto sings himself to sleep, and knows to do the same if he wakes up in the night. I kid you not, he is a completely different baby. He's happy and cheery when he's awake. He gives me clear signals when he wants to sleep, and he goes down like a dream. My anxiety levels have plummeted because I can count on bedtime happening at bedtime and not lasting a frustrating 5 hours followed by a wake up 2 hours later. Sleep is a BIG DEAL! We are all a lot more sane these days and it's because of the miracle of a good night's sleep all around. I sleep trained my baby and he still loves me and knows I love him. 

I guess the point here is that some babies need help learning to sleep. Some figure it out easier, and all babies are different with what they prefer for sleep. Otto clearly needed help getting it figured out, and it has been LIFE CHANGING. My main advice when sleep training would be this:

WAIT until you're all more than ready. Sleep is a family effort!

DON'T sleep train tiny babies. They just need love. They'll fall asleep eventually while they're still so little. 

Set a date and commit. 

There is nothing "one size fits all" about any two babies. Feel it out and figure out what works for you and your specific baby!

Stick it out until that's not an option anymore. I tried everything in my power with Otto until nothing would work, which helped me not question the decision to sleep train. 

If it's not taking in a week or so, it's too soon! You'll know when everyone is ready for that step if you have to take it, and if it's not catching on, try again when they're a bit older and more ready. 

Trust your instincts. You're the mom. You'll know if your baby is ready, and you'll know if they aren't. 

Good luck and happy sleeping! 

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