Conflicting advice from sleep training books and tips from friends, family, and even strangers can be overwhelming to parents of babies who sleep poorly.
The clock says it’s 9:58pm. “He’s about to wake up any minute”, I say to myself. I know, because he’s been waking around 10:00pm, almost consistently, for MONTHS. I’m talking about Baby S. Who perhaps should now be called “Toddler S” having recently celebrated his first birthday. But he’s still very much my baby. And he still hasn’t- EVER- slept through the night.
If you’ve ever had a baby who was a poor sleeper, you know that it’s not just physically exhausting being interrupted all night long, but it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting wondering what you might be doing wrong in your quest to get your baby to sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time. The simple question, “Is he a good sleeper?”, asked by well-meaning strangers and friends, can elicit a swell of emotions. For some reason, how well your baby sleeps seems to have become some sort of parenting yardstick, where the ones whose infants are sleeping through the night at three months are the ones who’ve got it right, and the rest of us… well, we must be doing SOMETHING wrong! “Just let him cry it out!” the well-meaning friends and strangers say. Oh, if only it were that simple!
One of the biggest journeys I’ve taken as a parent has been this sleep journey. Which, it’s turned out, has been a quest not just to get some better sleep, but to understand where my own beliefs lie on this subject. Our oldest child, CK, is now three. He’s a cinch to put to bed in his own room: three stories and a cuddle and it’s goodnight for him. He rarely wakes in the night anymore. But it didn’t start out this way, and we’ve bumbled our way along, with a combination of bed sharing (in his room and ours) and crying sessions that went on way longer than I’d care to admit. Looking back, there was no magic fix that I can pinpoint. That’s why, when our incredibly easy-going and independent-sleeping second son hit the three-month mark and started to sleep less and less at night, I began to read sleep books.
I realized that the experts seem to come from two polarizing camps: the “No Cry” camp (Dr. Sears, Elizabeth Pantley) and the “Cry it Out/ Controlled Crying” advocates. Figure out which side you believe is “right” and you’ll be sleeping soundly in no time, right? Well, not so quickly, if you’ve got children like mine. So I’ve gone back and forth like a ping-pong ball, co-sleeping and feeling good about it, and four or five rounds of “controlled crying” when I’ve been at the point of utter frustration with the exhaustion and the undercurrent of pressure I feel to get him sleeping already. Baby S has not responded well to these attempts. When the books say the crying will lessen after a few days, he’s picked it up with more gusto, and then slept for shorter periods, to boot!
I wish I had the answer to help him sleep through the night. But I’m afraid I’ll continue to bumble along, hoping that by age three, Baby S will be as good a sleeper as his brother. In the meantime, I remind myself that this too shall pass. And when I look at my three-year old and reflect on how quickly he’s grown, I know it to be true.