Sleep training is challenging. Like, being a mom is hard, but sleep training is unbelievably hard. Ultimately, it was my partner who steered the process, because I was a deeply sad every single time I heard my baby cry. This brings me to my next point, which is that struggling to sleep train, or struggling with the 'cry it out' method in particular, doesn’t make you a bad mom. I was terrible at it, and I’m OK with the undeniable fact that I was terrible at it. I know I have other strengths, like snuggling and toddler outfit styling and chicken nugget preparation. I could do all of these things on repeat, but sleep training? Nope.
It's not to say that I didn't feel guilty or "less than" or "lacking," in some way, when I had to look at my partner with my, "You have to do this," eyes. I wish I could have gone into the room and been able to handle my child crying. I wish sleep training didn't fall so heavily on my partner, and I could have been more of an active and equal participant. Still, we're also a partnership, and being in a partnership means that two people help one another get through something together. For us, that meant my husband handling the sleep training, and me trying to act like he wasn't handling the sleep training.
We had plenty of friends and family recommend a number of different methods to us, too, and each were intriguing in their own way. Ultimately, we found a way that worked for our family (the fact that our son slept in our room for the first ten or so months complicated things a bit), thanks mostly in part to my partner’s ability to stay strong at 4am, which is pretty much where I lose all sanity. Still, I want to offer a shout-out to any other moms struggling. It’s normal, you're not a bad mother, you're not lacking or "less than," and here’s why:
Listening To Your Kid Cry Is Hard
Can you imagine if crying wasn't an effective way for babies to communicate? What would happen? Would the early days of motherhood simply feel like a peaceful hammock-swing by the ocean? I mean, probably. Since that's not our reality, though, and baby tears are horrible, we're kinda inclined to make it stop, which makes cry-it-out that much tougher.
You’re Wired To Actually Respond To Tears
Not only are baby cries hard to listen to, but there's some science to it, too. Ah, biology, you cruel mistress. I've yet to figure out a way to outsmart you, but perhaps someday I will.
You’re Already Tired...
During my son's early months, I was so tired that thinking straight was simply not an option. It wasn't even in the realm of possibility. Whenever my son woke at night, it was practically impossible for me to process and figure out the appropriate response based on whatever method we were currently employing. Thankfully, I have a partner who sleeps more lightly and who could help, but the point remains.
... And You're Already Frustrated
Speaking of being woken up in the middle of the night, these weren't peaceful wake-ups. They were often stressful, tearful ones that included leaky and achy breasts, too. If that doesn't shrink your patience, I don't know what would.
You’re Allowed To Be Affected By The Stigma
I wish I could say that I'm totally immune to the opinions of others, but I'm not. When I've had friends tell me that theirs was "not a 'cry it out' family," I couldn't help but wonder what it would say about me if mine was.
There Are Complicated Rules To Follow
I'm not sure about you guys, but I am terrible with following directions when I'd rather be sleeping.
Sleep Training, In General, Can Be A Struggle
I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure no method of sleep training is "perfect," and that each of them brings their own challenges and struggles. Having difficulties with any method doesn't mean you're a bad parent. It just means you're a parent.
All Babies Are Different
Did someone you know tell you that the method worked wonders for their own child? Oh, that's awesome. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that doesn't mean that your baby will be receptive to it, though. It's probably better to have this talk now, actually, so that you can start sleep training with realistic expectations.
The Name Is Intense
I confess, if the name was "Lovey Dovey Snuggly To Help Your Baby Sleep," I might be more inclined to try it. Since that damn word "cry" is right there, front and center, I'm less interested. Also, if anyone wants to hire me for more potential re-branding ideas, you know where to find me.