7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me When We Struggled With Sleep Training
I love sleep. The problem is, because of anxiety, I've become an insufferable insomniac with a pretty rigid schedule of events created to help me actually get to sleep. My kids don't understand the importance of sleep and how it affects their growing bodies and brains, so getting them to sleep is no picnic, either. As a result, there's a lot of things I wish my partner said to me when we struggled sleep training our babies, so at the very least I wasn't spending my time constantly frustrated.
As new parents, sleep training our daughter was a whole new world. We'd read all the baby books and even took prenatal classes but, in the end, it was between us and our baby. At the time, I was struggling with postpartum depression (PPD), and my daughter struggled to get and stay on a schedule that benefited us both. After a lot of failed routines, we landed on a relaxing bath, tight swaddle, and calming rock while we fed. My partner and I were pretty thrilled when it started working nearly every time. It was amazing to realize we were regularly enjoying a full night's sleep, until my daughter decided to change the plan.
Turns out, sleep regressions are inevitable. Whether it was because she started to outgrow her swaddle (ours started to break free from hers), she didn't feel the same effects from the bath, rock, and feed schedule as she did in her younger weeks, or because her brain is busier (and therefore takes longer to settle or causes her to wake more times through the night), it was frustrating. No one slept through the night anymore. It certainly didn't help me heal from my postpartum depression and, honestly, probably prolonged that healing. Although all of this was a natural part of our baby growing and maturing as her needs changed, maybe I'd have felt better about the lack of sleep if my partner said some of the following things:
"Give Her A Few Minutes"
When my baby first went through this awful sleep regression phase, my immediate response was to run in to check on her, hold her, and rock her until she fell back asleep. Anytime I did the aforementioned, though, it derailed previous attempts at sticking to our plan. With sleep training on any level, it's important to keep to a pattern while simultaneously remaining fluid when the baby's needs change. I wish my partner had reminded me to give it a few before rushing in. On the nights I could actually wait before going in to check on her, she typically quieted within a few minutes.
"Let Me Check On Her"
Of all the nights my daughter fought sleep, I wish my partner told me he'd be the one to check on her. Going through postpartum depression meant that, by the end of every day, I was so drained there was nothing left for me to give. He did help, and wasn't absent, but there were still many times he could've taken more of that responsibility off of me so I could focus on getting better.
"It Won't Last Forever"
I know every phase pf parenting will pass. I also know that when you're in the moment, those phases can feel like they last a lifetime. When you're sleep-deprived, the day seems to magnify and all the stressors are that much worse.
On the nights when my partner was home from work, and our baby wasn't sleeping, I wish he'd taken more time to comfort me before I let the anxiety take over. While saying nothing lasts forever doesn't magically fix everything, it can help whoever is listening gain some perspective.
"Take Care Of Yourself"
Postpartum depression is all-consuming. When you're a new mother going through it, it's hard to delegate the baby's needs versus what you need in order to survive the day. Obviously the baby's needs are priority, but it's hard to accommodate those priorities if you can't care for yourself. I wish my partner would have told me to take care of me when sleep training felt too overwhelming. If he had, I might've received the help I needed sooner.
"She Must Really Love Spending Time With You"
Those first few months, I always felt like my baby hated me. Part of that came from very confused hormones, and the other part was the very real fear I was doing everything wrong. As the primary caregiver, I'd already failed at breastfeeding, bonding, and a multitude of other things I thought a "successful" mother should be able to do. I wish my partner spent more time pointing out reasons why our baby refused sleep. Like maybe I was just so awesome she couldn't bear to be away from me. I probably would've shrugged it off, but still. I needed to hear words like that at a time when I felt inferior.
"It's Not Your Fault"
Of all the things I needed to hear during sleep training and the subsequent sleep regressions, the fact that it wasn't my fault is by far the most important. I truly believed everything that went wrong with our daughter was, is, my fault. If this is motherhood, I could've used a partner there to remind me otherwise.
"You're Doing A Good Job"
Sure, my partner told me what a good job I was doing sometimes. But as parenthood goes, words get lost in translation when you're exhausted and stressed and overwhelmed. The times I cried, or begged him to check on our baby so I could get some kind of quiet time inside my chaotic brain, I so wish he'd taken a moment to tell me it was OK and I was doing great. They're simple words, but they have a huge impact.
In the grand scheme of things, sleep training of any kind doesn't last that long. It's merely a blip in your baby's (and your) life, but it can still drain every bit of sanity from you. Now that my kids are bigger and past all that (mostly), I know it gets easier and I know my partner's more aware of all the right things to say and do if another sleep regression occurs. We're both imperfect and learning as we go but, so far and despite the lack of sleep, we're doing great. Well, except for the late nights when we hear our 5 year old wide awake, playing with Legos or busting through our bedroom door. That's always "fun."