By Sonia Verma
So we are white noise converts; we have a great bedtime routine and a sleep-associated stuffed toy. We’re still trying to find time and energy to start "sleep training." I have an irrational dislike for the term, but whatever you call it, we would like our stubborn Barnacle Baby to learn to settle herself when she starts to wake up.
Until we're ready to brace up for a few really rough nights, I’m back to the path of least resistance. i.e.: stay in bed and let her nurse all night long, even if I only get quasi-sleep.
I’ve talked to friends who’ve come out the other side, and who once consulted sleep doulas, sleep consultants and pediatricians.
And I went to a perfectly timed local momstown Baby Basics program, part of its partnership with Walmart Canada’s Every Little Step program, focused on—hurray!—SLEEP. Sleep consultant Sarah DiCenzo of Good Night Sleep Site fielded questions from a massive group of people just as obsessed with sleep as me. The baby, of course, made a liar of me by sleeping through the entire thing. Damn carseat magic.
Here’s what I know for sure, so far. Not—yet—from doing, but from reading and listening:
1. Consistency, consistency, consistency
Everyone is unanimous on this: We need to pick one way of dealing with the kid’s wakeups, and stick with it, no matter what. Mixed messages make everything harder for babies. And when things are hard for baby . . . shudder. They're not shy about expressing discontent.
So whether we pick her up the second she cries; or shut the door and walk away so she can cry it out, we have to commit to doing that every. single. time.
2. Accept that it’s going to suck at first; and it’ll take time
This kid is used to sitting up, lurching over to me and latching on the second she wakes up. Denying her the comfort she’s always known, even with snuggles and rockings and murmurs and what not, is still denying her. She’s going to yell and rage and work herself up into a lather. SUPER restful, right?
For the record, we don’t want to attempt Cry It Out, the kind where you say goodnight and then stay out of her way until X hours or the whole night has passed, no matter what.
We will go with the route where someone responds to her, but she is still going to be mad because she won’t get the breast when she wants it. She is going to have to find a new way to settle. It’ll be very hard, until it gets easy. We hope.
3. Send Daddy in
Spouse is going to be the man of the hour—every one of those desperate, pre-dawn hours—because there is no conceivable way he COULD give in and offer her the boob.
. . . Er, he doesn't exactly know that yet. Yeeeeah.
4. I mentioned consistency, right? No matter how tired and distressed we are, we need to stick with one thing. Babies aren’t good with exceptions to rules.
Also, I learned that we did pretty much everything wrong. The wrong sleep associations. Putting her down fully asleep rather than drowsy. Disrespecting the sanctity of the nap. All the usual stuff you do as a parent. I feel a twinge of regret because now we’re in such a pickle. But I honestly can’t feel guilt. You do the best you can, and a lot of it is improv. We’ve probably made some great calls, too, though I’m damned if I can name even one just this second.
Still, the one thing all these experts on sleep agree on—besides consistency, consistency, consistency—is that you’re only human, you’re very tired, and tired humans are fallible as all get-out.
Maybe this will be the weekend we start walking that fine line between gentleness and hard-assed denial of her demands. Fingers crossed.
Sonia Verma wants to get going on the sleep training, but first needs to chisel out some time off for her spouse, so he can stay up all night doing it.