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A Painfully Honest Sleep-Training Diary, From Day 1 To Day SLEEP ISN'T REAL

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Deciding to sleep-train your baby is exciting, isn't it? It's a sign that you're ready to prioritize sleep hygiene, to give your baby the tiny little tools they need to head off into the woods and knock together some sleep. Or it's a sign you just really want to be able to watch NCIS without getting up to nurse in the middle of it. We all come to this place along different paths. Nothing is as riddled with anxiety as the feeling that night is here and you do not know how sleep will go (Will there be any? Will anyone have their nipples bitten off? Will you find your child jumping on their crib mattress like it's a trampoline with pupils the size of M&Ms at 2:04 a.m. when you drag yourself in?). Sleep training is a great shimmering oasis to tired parents: Come in, it says, drink from the pool of self-satisfaction.

But sleep training doesn't always go as you plan. There's the question of which method you'll follow (the reasonable one, obviously). There is inevitably crying (yours and theirs). There are, well, course corrections. My own advice is be like a shark: if you stop, you'll— I don't even know I'm so tired. Here is a diary of how a typical sleep-training journey goes.

Day 1

I’ve read all the books and attended all the baby sleep seminars, and at last I’m ready to embark on my baby’s sleep-training journey. While I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, I am confident that in a couple of days, I'll feel it was all worth it. Weirdly, I am kind of looking forward to this!

First and foremost, experts advise it’s necessary to establish consistent nap and bedtimes in order to establish proper circadian rhythms, so I’ll be gently putting her down to sleep at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for naps, and 7:30 p.m. for bedtime. We have decided the “comfort as needed but do not pick up from crib” method will be a perfect fit for us. Easy does it. More soon!

Day 2

OK, so we’re off to a bit of a bumpy start. I was prepared for this — all 19 of the scholarly journals I purchased on the subject did mention that it will take baby a up to four nights to adjust to her new schedule. Last night I patted my baby's back for long enough I began to think I was a sewing machine — I am tired. I upgraded to a big mug of half-caff this morning (really hoping it doesn’t harm my milk supply!). I have to remind myself what a sacred privilege this is, to teach this new human how to thrive in our beautiful world.

Day 4

I skipped journaling yesterday; after being awake for 48 straight hours, I accidentally fell asleep at Costco; they found me nestled in a pallet of Pampers Cruisers.

Day 6

I’m starting to wonder if “comfort but not pick up” is right for us. For instance, last night, I “comforted but didn’t pick up” 141 times. Shouldn’t we be over the hump by now? I tried consulting the Dr. Sears book again, but my vision is blurred from all the sleep deprivation and exhaustion crying. All I could make out by the light of her bunny nightlight looked like “when crying, never pickle your child’s vape.”

The rhythm of my despondent crying does seem to lull her into short bouts of REM sleep, so I think that’s progress?

Day 11

Ok, so we clearly need a new plan, STAT. We’re going turbo: transitioning to a full “cry it out” method. It works like this:

  • Daughter wakes up and cries.
  • I stand at her door, mournfully whisper-sobbing and imagining her as a young woman, unable to love or muster a tear, even during an episode of This Is Us, due to our having subjected her to the sleep philosophy of Dr. Marc Weissbluth.
  • I set a timer for 15 minutes, assuring myself she will learn to self-soothe or tire herself out. I spend this time listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” on repeat in the fetal position on the hallway floor.
  • At the end of 15 minutes, she has really picked up steam and has switched from a carbon-based life force to a scream-based life form. I rush in to apologize for everything and nurse her until the cruel, unfeeling sun rises to judge me once again.

Day 12

I can't bring myself to stick with this, so I'm correcting course to a method I call "pick-up, put-down, or wind up sleeping on the floor next to her crib" (PUPDOWUSOTFNTHC). It seems like a sleep solution tailored to our unique needs.

Day 17

I ask Siri “how long can a person live without sleep?” and she replies, “It’s honestly better if you don’t know.”

Day 24

Today, I told a mom at my mommy fitness class at the park how much we’re struggling with sleep training, and she was super sympathetic. “Aww," she said, "I can’t imaginemy children all slept through the night from the time I brought them home from the hospital.”

I used an insult I once heard on The Sopranos and was asked to please not return to Stroller Strides, but TBH, it’s the best I’ve felt in weeks.

Day 38

Diary, you’ll never believe this. She did it! She slept for almost five hours straight! We’re doing itttt. I was admittedly beginning to slip there for a minute, but it’s... it's going to be OK! We’ve turned a corner — sleep training works.

Day 51

My daughter hasn’t slept longer than 17 minutes in a row since Day 38. Time is a flat circle. I have ceased to be sentient.

Day 88, Although “Day” Is No Longer A Word With Meaning

Bleep blorp blorp. Sleep blorp. I’m in that type of coma where you’re unable to respond to touch or stimuli, but you’re out of maternity leave, so they just wheel you into conference rooms in an office chair and cover you with a tarp while you pump milk. The baby finally started sleeping through the night, or that’s what I gather from the series of hand squeezes from my husband.

Day 91

Diary, I have amazing news — just found out baby #2 is on the way! Isn’t motherhood an amazing, sacred miracle journey?

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