To Be Honest, I Basically Didn't Sleep For A Year, Until SIDS Risk Was Lower

Ad failed to load

When you announce you’re pregnant, people start throwing little tidbits of advice your way as though you actually want to hear it. After people starting freaking me out about all the negative aspects of having a baby (tearing, deflated breasts, colic) I had to look for more reasons to worry so I started browsing through parent chat groups, which is where I first learned about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is a legitimate concern amongst both moms and dads, and it quickly became my biggest fear — so much so, that I barely slept for the first year of my daughter's life.

If there was a way to measure my anxiety level as a new mom it would have been at a 10. I did not want her to sleep alone in her crib, which led to me watching her every chance I could.

The Mayo Clinic defines SIDS as the “unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old,” which often occurs when infants are sleeping in their cribs. The thought of placing my little girl to sleep in her crib and waking up to find her no longer breathing terrified me. Plus, I had recently read Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, by Ayelet Waldman and was in complete panic mode. The rules for safe sleep are — if you aren't familiar – fairly full-on. You aren't to let your baby sleep in the car seat (unless they fall asleep while driving), you aren't to let them sleep in the swing, or the Rock 'n' Play, or in your arms, lest they become dependent on being there. Your baby should sleep on their own on their back on a flat surface free of any other objects or bedding, in your room but on a separate sleep surface. These guidelines have reduced the risk of SIDS dramatically, but that didn't help my anxiety.

Ad failed to load

Basically, I just resolved to not sleep for a year until SIDS risk was lower.

Much, much later. (Photo courtesy of Ambrosia Brody)

Which is why I slept — more like lay half-awake — with my hand on my daughter’s chest the first year of her life. I considered getting a SIDS monitor, but after the pediatrician told me they are ineffective, I dropped the idea.

Ad failed to load

My husband and I took every measure to prevent SIDS. My daughter slept on her back on a not-too-soft bassinet pad and without a blanket in a bassinet an arm’s length away from my bed. We took all the precautions to ensure she was not overheated, which meant most of the time she slept in an infant-sized undershirt and diaper, wrapped in a sleep sack.

Even though we followed all the recommendations, so many fears kept me from falling asleep. Is that sweat on her head? Is she too hot? Is the bassinet pad too soft? What if it’s too hard and it hurts her back? OMG should she not be wrapped in a sleepsack? Wait, is she breathing? Maybe I should wake her up to make sure she’s OK.

Ambrosia Brody photo
Ad failed to load

If there was a way to measure my anxiety level as a new mom it would have been at a 10. I did not want her to sleep alone in her crib, which led to me watching her every chance I could. Working from home was difficult because I wanted her near me all the time but I had to focus on actual work. She’d spent a lot of time sleeping in the Baby Bjorn, in the stroller or in my arms, but then it was difficult to put her down because she wanted to be held.

I was emotional, cranky, overwhelmed and exhausted.

And when I finally did put her in the crib or the Pack 'n' Play, I did sneak into the room to make sure she was breathing. I’d eye her chest to make sure it was rising and falling. My hand would hover over her mouth and nose as I felt for the warmness of her breath. If that wasn’t enough to convince me that she was OK, sometimes I admittedly roused her just so she would flinch. Then I’d run away when she stirred so she would not wake up fully and need to be rocked back to sleep.

Ad failed to load

Minimal sleep meant not only was I always tired but I was not operating at full speed. In other words: I was emotional, cranky, overwhelmed and exhausted. Sometimes I’d get to the store and forget what it was I was there for; I’d pack a half-made lunch or step out of the house with two different shoes. Living life half awake was not the business. I was able to sneak naps here and there and sometimes I’d actually fall asleep with my hand on my daughter’s chest and wake up several hours later with my hand above my head and my daughter snoring in the bassinet. Other days I was operating on multiple same-day trips to Starbucks and pure adrenaline.

Ambrosia Brody photo

A sense of pure relief washed over me when my daughter turned one. Finally, finally, my daughter was no longer at risk for SIDS. It was a milestone for the entire family. My husband started to sleep train her and sometimes she would sleep in her own room in her crib away from me. Although we were out of the woods and escaped SIDS, those fears of waking up to find her no longer in her crib, or not breathing were more difficult to shake. I still snuck into her room at night to make sure she was OK and I kept the baby monitor right beside me in case she woke up. But mostly, I slept more than three consecutive hours at a time and I could actually relax.

Ad failed to load

Because this process worked so well for my first daughter, I implemented the same actions with my second daughter. That’s two years of not getting consistent sleep or hitting REM cycles. Two years of multiple stops to Starbucks in one day and feeling tired all the time. Would I do it again if I have a third baby? Totally. Only this time I’ll make sure to reload myStarbucks card so I’ll never be short of coffee.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

9 Easy Kid Foods To Turn Green, Just In Time For St. Patrick's Day

The best part about having kids is that you get your own personal crew to celebrate the holidays with, in all your color coordinating and matching glory. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you are obviously working on turning everyth…
By Mishal Ali Zafar

Here Are Some Conditions That Might Require You To Be On Bed Rest During Pregnancy

When I worked in an office, I worked with quite a few pregnant ladies all at the same time. Something must have been in the water, because while I was there for three years, two of my coworkers got pregnant twice, and another girl was pregnant with h…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

I Didn't Follow The Pregnancy Diet Rules & My Daughter Turned Out Just Fine

My diet is an ever-changing and wholly personal thing, which is precisely why I refused to follow any pregnancy diet rules when I was expecting my daughter. For years, I've essentially practiced intuitive eating, in that I listen to my body and eat w…
By Marie Southard Ospina

5 Foods You & Your Partner Should Eat If You're Trying To Get Pregnant

When you're trying to conceive (TTC) and it's just not happening, it's easy to feel like you're doing something wrong. It can be soul-crushing to keep seeing negatives when all you really want to do is wave a positive pregnancy test in the air. So wh…
By Kate Miller