It is my veteran opinion that the conscientious art of sleep training occurs to a mother right around the time she needs it. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in other mamas. They get a firm look on their face as they talk about the absurd lengths they’ve recently gone through to get some sleep. And there’s knowledge in their eyes–the infancy period is over and it’s time for the family to have some predictability. There’s a suspicion in the air that everything is being sacrificed for the baby. Dinner, other children, an affectionate marriage, mom’s energy and enthusiasm for life. I personally suffer from a faint sense of bitterness around this time. I don’t ask for it. I don’t want it. But it arrives, lurking in the back of my mind, when one small part of me knows the baby could sleep better, long, harder, deeper, than this. When I know it’s up to me to bring us there. When I know it’s been me that got us into this mess, by feeding willy-nilly at all hours of the day, and letting naps be on the fly or not at all, letting the 2am wakeup slip back in, and then an 11pm wakeup, and shifting bedtimes every day as my calendar demands.
Oh but it’s hard for those few days. When I’m in the moment of it I just want it to end end end. I can tell it is not hunger crying and I don’t want to be counted on to feed at 11pm but my surging hormones want to solve this now. It sounds so wonderful to go in and calm her. But you know if the exact same thing happens tomorrow, and the day after, it will not sound wonderful. And after that heady ten minutes of soothing, I’ll think to myself, what have I done?
And so you have to write a schedule down, or find one in a book, or tell your husband or call your mom. You have do something, out loud, that affirms the logic of it, that reviews and confirms what you’re planning.
With Joan at six months, I’m in this right now. I talked it over with Joe and realized that our day schedule had no predictability for her. As of the beginning of this week, she wasn’t even falling asleep on her own during the day. So I’m fixing that first–paying more attention to the time going by, putting her down for naps, awake, at the same time every day, timing the space between feedings.
And then next week we’ll tackle the nights; and after three or four nights we will all sleep happily ever after. Not really, of course. But I can praise a few of the results for you, from experience: after sleep training you do end up with a baby who can fall asleep on their own, who doesn’t wake up at the slightest discomfort crying out for you, who errs on the side of sleep rather than wake when changes come—like being sick or traveling.
This is the fourth and final piece in a series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. I’m so grateful she was willing to share these, all of which struck a cord with me and, I gather happily, many of you. Thank you, Rachael!
Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe, and their two daughters—2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear. She can also be found under the name girlpolish on twitter or instagram. Read her first, second, and third posts.