Today on the blog – in conjunction with Touro Infirmary – we are absolutely thrilled to be opening a dialog about sleep through our “Rest Assured: You Are Not Alone” series. As moms we are all often sleep deprived, and we struggle with making decisions around our children’s sleep habits as well. Should we use a crib or a bassinet? Is co-sleeping safe or not? Should we sleep train? And who IS the expert on sleep training anyway? Will the baby ever sleep more than 2 hours at a time? Why does my toddler have night terrors? When do I move the toddler to a “big kid” bed and oh my word why won’t they stay in the darn thing? Our goal through this series is to create a safe place for all of us to open up about the sleep issues that trouble us and to acknowledge that no matter our struggles or choices, we are never ever alone.
Getting Mommy to Sleep Through the Night
As a new mom, waking up at 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00am to my infant daughter’s screeching demand to be fed was a regular occurrence. Our nights went something like this…
She would scream, I would get up out of bed, take her out of her bassinet, walk to the back to feed and rock her. I would try not to fall asleep, as I was afraid to drop her out of my arms. After about 30 minutes, she would fall back asleep, and I would gently put her back in her bassinet and try to get some sleep before the process started all over again. And again. And again. Each and every night. I was beyond exhausted. I would try to sleep during the day when she did, but as most mothers know, there are always a million and one other things you can do that that time.
Something had to give, but what? I read about the Ferber method and various sleep schedule routines, but I could not do any that involved crying. Sure, it works for many people, but I recall too many nights in my life when I cried myself to sleep. I could not let my daughter do that. Though cry it out methods may be safe and effective, it wasn’t something I was willing to try.
Once we got breastfeeding established, I enlisted the help of my husband. A team effort helped us get a good 4-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep, even though we didn’t do anything to help our daughter sleep through the night. Eventually, though, she did. We survived, but it was rough. We were always so tired, which caused stress in every area of our life.
When my second child was born, I was determined to sleep more. He, however, did not get that memo. He wanted to nurse all night long it seemed. Since he had a big sister, “sleeping when the baby slept” was impossible. I still couldn’t get on board with any type of sleep training, but what I did was figure out how I could sleep even if he would wake: I brought him into my bed. It sounds so simple, but it took me until my second kid to realize I could safely co-sleep, and we would ALL get more rest that way. My husband hardly ever had to get up, and when I did, it was just to roll over and nurse the baby. I do not know how many times he woke up during the night, and frankly, I didn’t care because I didn’t have to get out of bed. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the dangers of co-sleeping. If it’s not for you, that’s perfectly fine, but it is not dangerous under the proper circumstances. When my son was a month old, our bed became his bed. He didn’t begin to sleep all night until he was over a year old, but I never once felt sleep deprived.
There are many advocates for co-sleeping, and they tout all sorts of emotional benefits for the baby. My main reason was selfish, though. If it helped my kids, great, but it was the best and most guilt free way I could get some much needed sleep. I was concerned about getting him out of our bed, but the transition was simple, and I can’t remember the last time my almost four year old slept in my bed.
I went on to have another child, and we employed the same methods. He woke up nightly to nurse for almost two years, and I don’t regret a single night. I only wish I had been confident and educated enough to co-sleep with my firstborn.