I’m Ready, Mama – Independent Sleep

Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.

“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”

“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”

“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”

Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:

Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.

Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.

But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.

I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.

But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?

With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.

A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”

And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.

To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.

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Infant Sleep Strikes, Sisterhood, and Surrender

It’s been a long time since I have slept due to baby night wakings so I am not sure how coherent I will be.  But I wanted to reach out to all the families out there that might be going through something similar and offer empathy, sisterhood, and the promise of better days.

We, as a culture, seem to have this Hollywood-esque notion of baby sleep. The phrase “sleeping like a baby” immediately comes to mind.  And I know I am not the only person who has been asked, “Oh, is she a good baby? Is she sleeping through the night yet?”

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that infant and toddler sleep is meant to be light.  They’re meant to wake often at night for food and reassurance.  This is what kept them alive in more primitive times.  Of course, now we don’t have to worry about being eaten by sabre tooth cats, but that doesn’t change the fact that babies are hard-wired by their very biology to need to wake at night.  Learning to sleep through the night is a developmental milestone that all babies reach at different times.  Just like walking and talking, you cannot “train” a baby to sleep through the night before he or she is developmentally ready to do so.

That doesn’t change the fact that waking with a baby through the night can be exhausting.  Believe me, I know.  We are on day 5 of the current sleep strike.  Cricket is waking up every hour and staying up.  She is nurse, nurse, nursing.  Crawling around.  Exploring my face with her little fingers.  And just generally not sleeping.  Thank God we bed-share.  I can’t even imagine how hard it would be if I had to hike my butt down the hall to put her to sleep, stagger back to bed, only to have to hike down the hall again just as my eyes were closing.

She’s not waking to be mean or difficult or because she is a “bad” baby.  She is waking because she has a need, and for babies these needs are real and immediate.  Babies wake for all kinds of reasons:

  • Teething
  • Learning new skills
  • Because they miss us and love us
  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Growth spurts
  • Feeling sick
  • Baby is realizing that he or she is a separate person from Mama

Just to name a few.

And I’ve noticed with both girls and in talking to other parents that sleep definitely comes in cycles.  There are often ways to predict it.  There are several periods of wakefulness that we see pretty much across the board:

  • The 4 month sleep regression
  • The 6 month growth spurt
  • The 8 month sleep regression
  • The 15 month old period of nursing like a newborn

Cricket is right at 13 months.  We’re a little early for the 15 month period, but she is teething, growing, and coming down with a cold.  Plus, she misses me.  She is so busy playing in the mornings and evenings that she often doesn’t want to nurse or only wants to take the time for a little snack.  Note: This isn’t self-weaning. This is also really normal baby behavior and will pass with time.

Getting up every morning for work when I haven’t slept at night is hard.  Really hard.  I feel like hell right now and the horrible cold I caught isn’t helping.  This is so hard.  But I know it will pass.  I am here, waving my white flag.  I am surrendering to her needs.  She will only be a baby for a little while longer.  Every day with her is precious, every night waking is a chance to remind her that Mama will be here for her no matter what.

So if you’re like me, or if you find yourself in the future in a similar situation, I’m here with you, wide awake in solidarity and sisterhood.  Dig deep and find that white flag.  Surrender to it.  Don’t get caught in the moment.  Remember that the days are fleeting right now.  It will get easier and, as my dear friend Paris says, “Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you suck at it.”