Parenting is full of annoying but extremely necessary tasks. Diapering. Feeding (literally any version of feeding is a pain in the ass at some point). Cleaning. And, of course, sleep training. Sleep training is the worst (or, like, up there) and there are things I wish someone did for me when I was sleep training my baby because there's so much I needed on every level — physical, emotional, and mental.
Sleep training goes differently for everyone. There's no one sleep training method or story. Both my kids shared my bed until my husband and I stopped loving it and started resenting it and they were sent to their crib, which actually was a pretty smooth transition, all things considered. (We'd be setting them down in the crib at the beginning of the night anyway, so it wasn't anything too wildly different for them.) When they were about 15 months, we began sleep training, the dreaded and controversial "cry-it-out" method. Basically we made sure all their needs were taken care of and then, when they cried we just... let them. It completely sucked but it worked — the adage "it's harder on you than it is on them" comes to mind.
Here are just some of the things I wish someone had done for me that would have made the whole emotionally messy process a wee bit more manageable.
1. Supply Wine
I know that "mommy drinks" jokes and culture are problematic and shouldn't be used as an across the board thing for a number of reasons... but I'm talking about me and I'm telling you that I really, really would've liked someone to hook me up with a nice Rioja to make this process a little more pleasant.
Not all moms are wine moms. I'm a wine mom. And the only reason I've become this stereotype is because I've always loved wine and I refuse to give it up because now that makes me a stereotype.
2. Reassure Me That I Wasn't Scarring Him For Life
The hardest part of sleep training was listening to my baby cry. Like... really, really hard. Cry right along with him hard. I didn't want him to think I was abandoning him or that he'd never see me again. I didn't want to confuse him or make him feel he couldn't trust me again. The truth is that's not really how this works and, moreover, years later, I can tell you that the emotional bond I have with my child is still as strong as it ever was.
But it would have been really nice to be reassured of that going into it.
3. Supply Coffee
Just because they gave you a hard time at night doesn't mean they aren't going to be wide awake at 5:45 a.m., and they will not make it easy for you, you know, like they do. Also, I just feel like preemptively making someone coffee is, like, such a completely lovely gesture anyway, let alone when you could really use it.
4. Assure Me That This Would Happen Relatively Quickly
YMMV on this one, but in the case of both my kids, they were sleep trained in three days. The first night was hell — more than an hour of wailing. The second night the crying lasted maybe 10 minutes and by the last night they fussed for three minutes before going to sleep and staying asleep. It. Was. Miraculous. I was elated. I might not have sobbed so hysterically on night one if I knew, within a few nights, things would be OK.
5. Warn Me That This Was Not A One-Time-Process
Oh but don't get too comfortable, my dearie-os. Because babies are constantly growing and changing, which means that their sleep patterns aren't really "set" for a while. My kids slept through the night for a while after their initial sleep training, but as they hit new "milestones" (like being able to climb out of their crib, transitioning to a toddler bed, or talking enough to be able to come up with a million excuses as to why they had to get out of bed), that meant finding new ways to reinforce the idea of "No, really, you need to go to bed and stay there."
My daughter's relapses were pretty easily managed, if annoying. My son... ... well, my husband and I are still recovering, years later.
6. Understand The Importance Of "The Schedule"
I was the first of my friends to have kids, so they (quite reasonably) didn't really understand just how crucial it was to the mental well-being of my everyday existence to cater to my kids' sleep schedules. Similarly, my family members were decades removed from this stage of parenting and had sort of forgotten what it was like. (Or maybe they were just lucky and had the kind of kids who didn't put them through total hell if their schedule was tampered with.) As a result, everyone was kind to me during this time, but it was clear that a lot of people thought I was being coddling and overzealous. The truth of the matter was that I didn't want to socialize if it meant I would be a zombie for the next two weeks as we worked hard to undo the damage caused by keeping my kids out until 10 p.m. It would have been nice to have someone be like "I totally get it, go do what you need to do" and really understand the truth of what they were saying.
7. Put My Son Back Every Time He Got Out Of Bed
No joke: My husband once filmed him running out of his bed, almost continuously, for over an hour and a half before he finally passed out on the floor next to his bed. Incidentally, everything you need to know about a facet of my son's personality is summed up in that story.
8. Remind Me To Control My Temper
Because I lost it. A lot. And I always felt like complete crap for having lost it once I found it again.
9. Buy Me Really Comfy Pajamas
TMI: my preferred sleepwear is my birthday suit. When I co-slept, I threw on some underwear (boobs had to be out for nursing anyway. Once I had to start sleep training and getting out of my bed to put kids back in theirs (and inevitably having them crawl into bed with us come dawn), I needed some jammie-jams... and all of mine sucked. They were either too hot or too itchy or too ride-up-my-buttcrack-y. Fact: they still mostly all suck and I resent that I still have to be clothed because those precious little goblins are still constantly coming in for a cuddle.
10. Make More Time For Me
Because when you're putting your kids to bed for two hours that leaves, like, half an hour before it's time for you to get to bed, too (don't you judge me: it's a school night!). It always sucked that we had no time for ourselves after the whole parenting crap was over for the day.
So if I could have befriended a Time Lord or something, that would have been great.
11. Just Do It For Me