Whenever a brand new parent asks me for tricks to get their baby to sleep that actually work, I sort of have to laugh. Not a mean-spirited laugh, but an, "I've been here and I know your desperation" laugh. Picture it: New York City, 2011. A young mother has been home with her new baby boy for three weeks, and she's exhausted. The child is voracious, and requires a feeding every hour and a half to two hours. She has not had three consecutive hours of sleep since he was born. One morning, at 2 a.m., she hears a soft cry. Groggily, she reaches toward the sound and draws her unusually wriggly little one to her breast to nurse. That, my friends, is the all-too-true story of how I was so absurdly tired I once tried tobreastfeed my cat.
And that's just the newborn exhaustion. At some point you move on to the, "OK this kid could definitely be sleeping more but they aren't" stage. Sometimes that stage lasts an obnoxiously long time. Then you're exhausted (maybe less exhausted than you were when they were a newborn, but still pretty damn tired) and frustrated because, damnit kid! Go the f*ck to sleep!
While I will always be nervous to jinx it, I'm fairly confident in saying that the worst has passed when it comes to my children torturing me with sleep deprivation. Gone are the days of hourly wake-ups and routinely waking up at 5 a.m. every day. No longer do they require my partner and I to stand guard at their door for two hours to keep them from getting up after bedtime. Yes, at ages 2 and 5, they're mostly pretty good about just going to sleep, staying asleep, and letting me sleep until a decent hour. However, it wasn't always so simple. The journey to these happy times was full of hardship and tears and wondering if I was ever going to feel rested ever again.
Then again, it was also a journey of knowledge and self-discovery: mainly the discovery that I did, in fact, have the power to help convince my children they didn't need to breastsleep for the rest of their lives. I learned that sometimes, co-sleeping is the right decision for you even if you never thought it would be. I learned gentle bouncing and white noise machines are a parents' allies. I learned some "stay-in-bed" techniques that really did the trick. Other parents have learned some other things that, hopefully, can help you in your own bleary-eyed journey to a full eight hours of shut-eye: