High atop the list of things people frequently ask new parents, and in-between squeals associated with a baby's cuteness, are cautious inquiries about sleep. Are you getting enough of it? Is your baby getting enough of it? Where is your baby sleeping? How long is your baby sleeping? For something we’ve literally been doing our entire lives, it’s crazy how complicated it gets (and how much of it goes away) when a little one is added to the mix. And, of course, there's a whole new set of rules for sleep training.
That said, I need to come clean and admit that I was not very good at sleep training our son. My partner stepped up and really steered the process, seeing as I crumbled pretty much every time tears were involved. Thankfully, he was able to stand strong when I couldn't, which is (if I'm being honest) a necessity when you're attempting to sleep train. Whether it's one partner or both, someone will need to stay steadfast when the other ends up caving, even if it's momentarily. Another necessity? Someone with long arms who can efficiently reach in and out of the crib fifty bajillion times a night (*cough*).
As you might imagine, sleep training was and is a fairly intense process that has repeated itself multiple times (sleep regressions are the worst) but that, ultimately, my partner and I conquered (knock on wood). The following set of rules, created specifically for our family and our situation, seemed to help. Obviously, every baby and every sleep scenario is different, but a little information exchange definitely doesn't hurt. So, with that in mind, allow me to share the rules my partner and I followed that helped us survive sleep training.
Accept The Inevitable
I'm not sure there's really a way around it. You will lose sleep after your child is born, and sleep-training is all part of the process. As one of my dear fellow mom friends put it, telling yourself that "this is what I have to work with" when you find yourself starting another day after a night with countless sleep interruptions, makes it easier to tolerate.
Lean On Your Partner
Sometimes, you will need to emotionally lean on whoever is participating in the sleep-training efforts. Other times, you will be so exhausted that you will need to physically lean on someone. Both are important.
Take Care Of Yourself
Not sure about you guys, but my definition of "take care of yourself" was fairly, um, loose when we were sleep training. But still, the small things I was able to manage did make a difference, like brushing my teeth and keeping my eyes open.
Know Your Strengths (And Weaknesses)
Let's jump back to the aforementioned example of how my partner was stronger in the face of tears than I was, shall we? The entire process would have been far less efficient had I tried to comfort our son as often as he did. However, I was able to step up and keep the bed warm every time he got up. Kidding, just kidding! I managed my fair share of early wake-ups, so he could get extra rest. It's a balance, and finding yours is crucial.
Follow The Advice That Works For You
I recommend trusting your gut. I mean, they don't call them motherly instincts for nothing. I got very comfortable with smiling and nodding when people offered random suggestions that I knew I could never actually bring myself to try. The unsolicited advice will be never-ending and plentiful, so just sift through it and find what works best for you.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
If it helps, feel free to write your future self a note along the lines of, OMG you are welcome that your kid is sleeping through the night now. See? I told you it would be worth it. You're welcome, past self.
Refrain From Punching Everyone You Want To Punch
Technically, I would recommend following this suggestion in pretty much all areas of life. But, it's especially good to keep in mind while you're sleep training, since your patience will likely be wearing thin and tensions will be running high and people will start to comment on how you're sleep training or why you're sleep training or the times they tried sleep training.
It Does Actually Pass Fairly Quickly In The Big Scheme Of Things
I know, I know, I am seriously sorry for being yet another voice in the chorus of people telling you that your kid's baby months will pass quickly. But, um, they actually do, and so does sleep training.
If Possible, Limit Other Responsibilities
Granted, this isn't always an option, but just in case you're able to lighten the load you're carrying in other areas of your life, or even in other areas of the home, I think you'll be thankful.
Check In With Your Pediatrician As Needed
Once again, this rule is technically evergreen, but it never hurts to bring it up again, right? Especially when your own sleep is at stake.
Nap. Nap. Nap
I'm sure you know this one, but just in case you're so sleep-deprived that you're forgetting to include it in your list, I wanted to mention it again. You're welcome, and keep fighting the good fight.