Sleep. This is a word that so many new moms hear and it elicits such a wide range of emotions. Thoughts of a peaceful sleeping baby can fill your heart with joy until you are up every 2 hours throughout the night praying that you can maybe get your baby back to sleep and sleep in a 3-hour stretch next time! For me, the main emotion that I experienced when it came to my baby’s sleep was anxiety.
I know what you’re going to say. Anxious about sleep? Sleep is biological it just happens, why worry about it? My 100% transparent answer is: I just couldn’t help it. My babies sleep consumed my every thought. When she was awake I was worried she should be sleeping in order to get that restorative sleep to help her grow. When she was asleep I was worried she was sleeping too long and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at bedtime. It was a vicious cycle.
A little background on my beautiful baby girl’s sleep. She was born at 10:29 pm bright-eyed and ready to join this world. I kid you not, she did not close her eyes again until 6:00 am the next morning. My husband and I finally decided we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer and asked the nurses to take her to the nursery for a few hours. It was that moment at 6:00 am that my sleep anxiety began.
What is sleep again?
I LOVE my sleep. My initial thought was, how was I going to survive without sleeping? (Dramatic, I know but I was seriously freaking out!) I was always told newborns sleep all the time. They are only up to eat and poop. I am here to tell you that does NOT apply to all babies. Our daughter has always been an extremely alert little girl. She does not want to miss anything. A severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Now, it is also important for me to share that my daughter not only has FOMO but she also has acid reflux. As many moms know, reflux is no joke. During our second week home together, I began to notice signs. Increased spit up, hiccups, and irritability especially when we laid her down. We took her to the pediatrician and she got the official diagnosis and we got the doctor’s orders to hold her upright for 20 minutes after every feeding. She was always falling asleep in our arms snuggling and we were in heaven. However, it did not take long for us to realize that this was the beginning of a vicious cycle.
You can probably guess that after months of being held for 20 minutes after every feeding our daughter began to develop a sleep association. She needed to be held and rocked every time she needed to sleep. Some days when her reflux was worse, she needed walking. Sometimes an hour at a time, only to lay her down and have her wake right back up again. She would only take 30-minute naps unless held because of the discomfort. She would wake up 3-4 times a night. Some times because of hunger, sometimes because of reflux, and other times we have no idea why (trust me, we wish we did).
I began to panic.
I felt guilty. Had I caused her to develop this sleep association? Should I have done something different? I needed to figure out a solution to help her sleep! So, I did what many sleep-deprived moms do, I searched for hours upon hours on Google looking for an answer. Everything I read consistently led me back to sleep training. Now, I know this is a controversial topic. I am 100% pro doing what works best for your family. I truly believe there is no right or wrong. Only what works for you. Well, our family unit decided we should try it.
Everything I was reading told me it was the only way to get your baby to sleep through the night and to make sure they are not, “catnapping.” Everything in my heart told me this wasn’t the right path for us but everything in my brain told me I have no other choice. So, we did it. We hired a sleep coach, we bought the books, we signed up for programs online. But, when bedtime came around and it was time for her to ‘self soothe’ in her crib we couldn’t do it. Hearing her cry like that literally hurt inside. Into her room, I went scooping her up into my arms relieved to have her at peace again.
After spending countless hours and hundreds of dollars my husband and I came to the realization that we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t sleep train our daughter. Again, I felt guilty. Had I truly failed my daughter? Would she never be able to independently sleep on her own now? All because of me. Because I snuggled and rocked her too much?
I was sad and discouraged but had no idea what to do next. I had researched and reached out to experts and my beautiful baby girl still needed to be held and rocked to sleep for every nap and bedtime. So, I decided I had nothing to lose and would try one last thing. This last attempt proved to be the baby sleep secret I was looking for the entire time.
Time. I waited. My baby would tell me when she was ready. It may not be in the conventional time frame but it will be in her time frame. We are encouraging our children to grow up so quickly. Do things on their own. Be independent. However, our babies still need us. Crying is the only way that my baby knows how to communicate. Babies aren’t manipulative. This world is a new and scary place for them. Adjustment takes time. We owe it to our little ones to give them that time to adjust.
Now is my daughter’s sleep perfect? No. Do I still need to rock her sleep? Yes. But I am okay with that. I enjoy that special bonding time with her. I won’t have it forever. She falls asleep rocking and then sleeps peacefully through the night for 10-11 hours. That is a win for my husband and me. No, it’s not perfect by sleep standards, but, it’s perfect for our family.
Trust me, I know it is not always easy. You’re are tired. You want to sleep or lay in bed and binge-watch Netflix shows uninterrupted. But try to remember, it won’t be like this forever. Someday you will be laying in your bed at midnight waiting for the door to open to know that your teenager is home safely. You’ll be missing those midnight snuggles when you knew they were safe in your arms.
Embrace that you are their safe place. Enjoy the time together and try your very best to quiet the noise. Don’t worry about what everyone is telling you. It’s okay if your child is not following the conventional sleep path. I promise you that your baby will not need you to rock them or snuggle them to sleep when they are in college. Time is precious. Life is fleeting. Enjoy every second and soak it all in. I promise you, you will never regret it.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
Image above from pixabay.com