How to (re)do Cry It Out

I can’t believe I’m back here again. Especially because I don’t 100% believe in letting a baby cry to “learn” to sleep. But here I am, on day 3. How did I even get here?

I wrote before about the first time we did Cry It Out (CIO) for sleep training T. It worked so fast it was almost hard to find fault in the method…almost. But then it failed. No one would let a sick or teething baby cry at night, so all of that peaceful sleeping went out the window. So why would I try this method again?

I’m sharing my reasoning and experience so that you, mama, might find solace if you’re going through the same. I’d never try to convince you to try this method, because it is definitely not for everyone. There are many moms who don’t agree with this method, and I totally understand. I can say that I have a foot in that pool as well.

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What the hell happened?

We were going through hell at night. Night wakings occurred about every two hours. A quick cuddle or breastfeed wouldn’t always get him back to sleep, sometimes we were up for an hour at a time. My husband would take the first half of the night, and I the second, so that at least we could each get a little bit more sleep—although the crying would wake us up regardless. Whatever bug T and I had lasted so long I didn’t think I could make it. I was getting delirious from sleep deprivation. Adding new teeth to the mix just prolonged the episode. Until T was better, we were helpless. It was all I could do to just survive at this point.

My husband and I discussed at length what the next steps would be. I did even more research than before, reading both professional opinions and sleep consultant websites, books, and talking to many moms who used all different kinds of methods. In our several visits to the doctors, I also asked for their opinions on sleep. The answer stayed the same: “There is no solid evidence definitely for or against the Cry It Out method.” I double checked—no matter what side of the fence you were on, you could find professional research to support your stance. I was leaning towards the camp that said that letting a baby cry was learned helplessness (basically giving up) and not teaching them anything about self-soothing.

Finally, the baby got better. There were no new signs of teeth. I really didn’t want to do Cry It Out again, because frankly I wasn’t even sure it would work again. One doctor said it was normal to have to do a “refresher” after things like illness or travel, but I remained skeptical. The lack of sleep was taking its toll on everyone, though. I was anxious and feeling depressed, the baby had more fussy hours, and my husband was just as tired. Finally, finally, the baby started dropping night wakings. All through the week he would drop a wake until we got to one blissful night of one wake. It was like the clouds had opened and showered me in warm fuzzies and glitter. I was cautiously optimistic—would this be it?

He’s up again…

That was short lived. The glitter was scratching my eyes up anyway. The next night T was up every hour, sometimes even less. The night after that he woke up four times within the hour after going to bed. With everyone at the end of their frayed ropes, we started Cry It Out…again. Since T is just a few months away from being a year old, the research I had done/what other parents said suggested that the “crying” intervals be longer than they had when we started the first time. We started at 20 minutes, then my husband went to check on him. Wow did that piss Baby T off. He wasn’t that upset before, but the check-in actually made it worse. Since T was cycling between complaining crying and silent sitting, we decided to let him be. It wasn’t going as bad as I had expected (not that an upset baby is ever easy). The first night took 50 minutes by himself to settle down. The second night: a little over an hour. The third? Ten to fifteen minutes. I’m as baffled as you might be reading that, but yes, somehow by some sprinkley, air-borne magic he settled down quickly with hardly a protest.

“Oh fuck what time is it?” — Night wakings

The first two nights T only had one night waking each. It was such vast improvement so quickly it really is hard to hate the method. We let him complain for five minutes to see if he’d settle down (he didn’t), then I went in for a quick change and feed. All business, no rocking or singing or anything, then straight back to bed. He woke back up when I put him down. The first night he cycled for an hour. The second: 5-10 minutes. I’ll let you know how tonight goes…

So am I permanently damaging my kid or what?

That’s the real question, and it depends on who you ask. Although I don’t like the method, we didn’t implement gentle sleep training methods early enough in T’s life so here we are, and we have to deal with it the best way possible. This is how I justify putting all of us through the ordeal:

  1. It’s fast. I don’t know why CIO works as fast as it does, but it does. This means minimal upset for a very short length of time.
  2. It’s working. Because T isn’t full-fledged crying his little eyes out, I can (kind of) handle it. If he was tears-streaming, hiccupping sobbing, I might be writing a different post. Because he is older and cycling with quiet periods where he is clearly settling himself down with his lovey or feeling his sleep-sack fabric, I feel a teensy bit better about the process.
  3. Everyone is getting more sleep i.e. is feeling/functioning better. When we were all sleep deprived it showed. As much as his crying sucks, it doesn’t seem fair to subject a baby to sleep deprivation that is affecting his daytime mood and capabilities as well. One of my books said that it is just as important to preserve an infant’s sleep as it is to care for his other basic needs, which I can agree with.
  4. I’m not setting the stage for a dictatorship. At some point, a parent cannot let the child dictate what happens when and give in to cries and protest. If a child throws a temper tantrum over brushing his teeth or taking a bath, do you give in and say “Okay, you never have to.” No, obviously, you don’t. What is the line between nurturing versus teaching when it comes to sleep? I don’t know, but at this point in time the line for making bedtime bedtime for this family is now.
  5. The sleep crutches have to be broken sometime. I tried the gentle methods of breaking T’s bad sleep habits (breastfeeding, rocking, singing, holding, etc) and they didn’t work. Going cold turkey is definitely harsh, but I make up for all of the above during the day when it counts most.

And most importantly….

  1. It is what is right for our family right now. I could absolutely be singing a different tune by next week. Maybe things all fall apart this weekend. Maybe it all backfires. Maybe it actually works this time. I honestly don’t know. The only thing I know is that fragmented sleep wasn’t working for anyone, so something had to be done. This is the something we chose. It may or may not be right for your family, but only you can decide that. I encourage you to do your research, talk to your doctor, and make an educated decision that works for all of your family. The only other thing I can say is

Good luck. Sleep training fucking sucks.

When Cry It Out stops working

A little while ago I wrote about how we decided to try the Ferber, also known as the interval Cry It Out, method. We were desperate, and nothing else was working. We saw huge changes and great results after only a few days of implementing the new method, and we were all sleeping and so much happier. I can’t say that my engorged volleyball size boobs were happy in the morning, but I sure was.

Just when we had settled into sleep-filled bliss, Baby T started backsliding. We couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t appear to be sick or teething, yet he started waking up more often at night. Frustrated and confused, we took to researching—I swear I think I’ve ready every thing on infant sleep possible…

Of the hundreds of posts out there, one thing I found was something called “extinction bursts.” Fancy name for a bummer of an event, it basically means that your baby has your game figured out and is now fighting you harder. Babies are way smarter than we are, and they can figure all kinds of things out. Primarily, how much crying does it take for you to come and get them.

I’m definitely not saying to neglect a baby’s needs, far from it. However, T’s behavior seemed to fit this extinction burst description to the letter, so we just had to ride it out and keep on the same plan of not picking him up. I read that it might last a week or two, but to stay with the plan and behaviors already enacted and things would get better. Eventually things improved. We wiped the sweat from our brows, prepared to go back to a lot more sleeping.

Did I mention that babies have our number?

How wrong I was…

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I don’t know if our journey is common or not, but what happened next brought some of the most challenging days of parenting we’ve had yet. T went through a particularly vicious cycle of illness, teething, illness, teething, illness. I’m pretty sure he teethed through the whole thing, but needless the say the last few months have been extraordinarily tough on everyone.

Because T was either ill or in pain, one of us went to him when he would wake up crying at night. This didn’t take long to become the new pattern of need for him. We were back to where we had started before any kind of sleep training—some nights even worse! When your longest stretch is 60 minutes at a time and your shortest is 15, you know you’ve got it rough. I don’t believe in making an ill or teething baby cry, so we have just been trying to survive for the last few months.

T is feeling better, and we haven’t seen any new teeth [yet]. So what’s next?

I’ve been doing even more reading and research, talking to moms who have been there, and considering hiring a sleep consultant (yes they do exist). We’re trying to make a plan. We’ve discussed doing another round of cry it out, this time adapted a little bit since T is older and even more stubborn than before. We’ve discussed co-sleeping, since he has always been a clingy baby. We’re just plain stumped about what to do next. I’ve gotten every piece of advice, including some moms that say that there’s nothing really to do but just wait it out—sleep improves with age. This is the most difficult suggestion to swallow.

Whatever we do next, I will keep you posted. Maybe I’ll even figure out the magic formula to make babies sleep! Ha! Don’t hold your breath. I’m glad I didn’t. I’d be long blue by now!

The one thing no one tells you about becoming a mom

I wish someone had told me. It’s like the world’s best kept secret. Maybe no one tells you the real truth because then maybe people wouldn’t have kids. But I’ll let you in on the secret…

Motherhood is really. Fucking. Hard.

I knew becoming a parent would be tough. I knew babies weren’t easy and you didn’t get much sleep. I knew about colic and the 24/7 care that babies required.

But I didn’t know it would be this hard.

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Truly, I didn’t expect it to be like this. Maybe knowing it wouldn’t have helped anyway, in the way that something someone tells you doesn’t have the same weight as personal experience.

I’m past my ninth month of sleep deprivation. I can count the nights I’ve gotten more than 6 hours of sleep in a row on one hand. Add this into newborn colic, infant illness, teething, baby mood swings, being on call every second of every day, and zero time for self-care, and it is turning out to be one hell of a year. It was a year I wasn’t prepared for, and didn’t see coming. It’s been hard. So hard.

But here’s the other amazing truth about being a mom… it is the best thing ever. Admittedly, I don’t always have this opinion at 3 am when I feel like crying and inwardly pray to my baby “Please, oh please, just go to back to sleep.” I might not feel this lovey dovey when he’s fighting his nap and I want to cry because his 30-minute-to-the-t nap time is some of the only time I get to myself during the day. But when I call my friend in a desperate attempt at adult conversation and pour out my aching, tired heart, and she tells me that sometimes it’s hard to make that connection with a difficult baby, my immediate and heart felt answer is “But I love being a mom.” And truthfully, I do.

It boggles me that even as broken as I had felt in that moment, my honest response was still one of love. I had surprised myself. I’ve never loved anything more than my little boy and the path of motherhood I am crawling walking on. I’ve had my lowest days as a mom that I’ve ever had in my life. But I’ve also had my highest. Having that realization was enough to get me through that day.

I just needed someone to tell me that it was going to be okay. That I was okay. That I am doing okay. I guarantee that every mom everywhere needs those words at one time or another. Babies are so hard. We don’t know what they want because they can’t tell us, and in between the cries and hours of rocking them alone in the dark, it can be hard to remember that we are everything to them, and that they aren’t doing it on purpose.

The next day was more than a new day and a fresh start for me. It was one of the best days I’ve had as a mother yet. It was full of giggles and hugs, a long nap for both of us and my son’s wet, open mouth “kisses” on my cheek. Those unexpected hours make up for the many dark ones. I wish I could capture that light I felt in a glass ball so that my heart could remember it during the heavy hours. Good days or bad, time passes so quickly. I would have to agree with everyone that always tells a new mom “Enjoy these moments, they go so fast.” Dark nights might feel like an eternity, but as I’m here almost a year later, I can testify that they pass in the blink of an eye.

So to all the tired, dark-circled, hungry, lonely moms out there: It’s fucking hard. I know. But you are enough. You are doing so well, and you are a really great mom. I wouldn’t lie to you, would I?

The art of mastering kindness (Especially when you want to drop kick that son of a…)

Why is it so hard to be nice?

I am not sure that human kindness is an innate feature. After all, way back when, if you were too kind you might get eaten. Being nice and favorable isn’t a survival mechanism. Selfishness is. And no I’m not talking about when you were back in middle or high school, I’m taking about early human evolution. Still, some kind of bonding must have occurred between these early humans, lest we wouldn’t have sociability or the innate need for companionship.

I read an article recently about a mom who is trying to teach her child about kindness and friendship. She tried to explain to her daughter that not being mean, or being indifferent, isn’t the same as being nice. I really started to think about this. Being indifferent to someone isn’t the same as being nice, or kind, to them.

So what is it, then, that makes kindness…kindness?

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Kindness takes an extra degree of effort. It takes those extra few seconds to hold open a door, to ask a crying stranger if they are okay, or to organize a donation event for a food bank. So often we hurry through our day and, usually selfishly, just try to get to quittin’ time so that we can retreat back to our caves for food and quiet. I get it, though. The last thing I want to do after caring for my baby all day is to do more. I want to be alone and cherish my solitude. But I try to include small acts of kindness in my day and evening, because it is good for the heart. Do you ever do something for someone else and just feel good about it? That good feeling must be why the cavemen continued to be kind even though it could have meant a detriment to their survival. Maybe we haven’t really changed all that much, after all.

Kindness takes caring. In this crazy day and age that we live in, self-preservation is the name of the game. A lot of people have the mindset of “me, me, me,” and, I hate to say it, that the younger generations are even more so. It seems like they never grow out of that MINE stage—a never ending parents’ nightmare. Are we losing the art of caring for one another? Possibly. The number of individuals who volunteer has been declining for over a decade. Why? Some suggest that the emergence of the social culture online takes place of personal interaction, thus cutting off our exposure to seeing those who may need help most. Whatever the cause, it is a trend that I believe will decrease our empathy for others and foster selfishness and isolation in younger generations.

Kindness takes patience. Living near a big city, I experience my fair share of major traffic. Even on days when there really shouldn’t be traffic, there can be major backups that make a short drive into an unnecessarily long one. Before, I had no qualms about letting some choice words fly, or honking my horn to ensure that the moron going under the speed limit knew of my ire. Lately, when I let the f-bomb fly, I look in my rearview mirror and see my little baby looking back at me. I instantly feed guilty, even though he can’t understand such vocabulary yet. I imagine, though, that he understands tone, and I find myself apologizing for my bad behavior. If I want to set a good example for him, how can I have such a short fuse for something so insignificant as someone who didn’t merge properly? If my baby has taught me one thing, he has taught me to have the patience of a saint. The more patience I have, the calmer I feel, and the less angry outbursts [that raise my blood pressure a few notches] I have.

Kindness doesn’t expect reciprocation. Have you ever held the door open for someone or let someone cut in front of you on the road, and when they didn’t say thank you or give you the “thank you” wave you found yourself saying “You’re welcome!” in the most sarcastic tone you can muster? True kindness doesn’t mean getting something back. It requires giving because giving is good and the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter on what scale we give, we should act because it feels right. Granted, if you are on the receiving end then puh-lease wave a thank you; kindness is expressing gratitude, too, ya know!

Being nice is not indifference. Being nice takes more.

Think about one act of kindness that you can do today. Maybe if we had more people who were willing to take a few minutes to do good, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do. Maybe you can be that one that helps change things, even for just one person for just a minute. You never know how far your good deed goes.

So yes, I’ll hold the door open for that person who walks by without a second glance, and still smile and say “You’re welcome!”, and mean it.

I’m a stay at home mom—did I ruin my life?

I recently read an article that is making the rounds on Facebook. In it, the author pens how she has regrets about becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Don’t get me wrong, I understand that with every decision, there are regrets, and also realize that being a SAHM isn’t for everyone. However, I was a little floored at the depth of some of these regrets. The ones that surprised me most were that she felt she was letting down the feminists that paved the way for women to hold careers equal to men, and how her kids viewed her as doing nothing with her life.

While I couldn’t disagree with her more, I am not picking on the author—I am guessing that many SAHMs have also felt this way. This woman has been the only one I found to voice it. She also writes some other regrets that could have been paraphrasing my thoughts, namely concerns about not using her degree and becoming out of touch with the working world. These are two of the major concerns I had, and still have, when I made the decision to leave my career. Reading this article not only left me flabbergasted, but also left me starting to doubt if I had indeed made the right decision when I chose to stay at home.

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Although I can’t explain why, one morning later that week I woke up proud as fuck to be a stay at home mom. My brain must have rewired itself while I slept to give me a bolt of confidence, but I suddenly embodied a much braver and more confident woman. I didn’t recognize her at first because I don’t get to see her that often, which is a real shame, but there she was, unbridled and fiery. Why the hell would I feel bad about my decision? I elected to accept the most challenging career of one’s life: raising a child. Oh please, it’s not that hard you might say. I would answer that you probably didn’t stay at home and try it out then.

While I don’t decree that it is the only job that women have to at least try, I do decree that it is one that should be valued equally to others. This is one of the reasons why I was so prickly when reading the article. I’m not letting down our former female voices who fought for our equality, but doing them proud by making a choice. Feminism is about the ability to choose anything, and be anyone, you want to be. For me in the near future, it is being a mom. And I would make the comparison of mothers to childcare providers (one is paid and one is not) to stress the importance of child-rearing, but even childcare providers and, to a degree, teachers, are often looked at as little more than snot wipers, or in the best case overlooked entirely as to how important their profession is.

If we don’t teach our children to value what SAHMs do as an important contribution to society, then how will we ever change this stigma? Being a SAHM should never be expected of a woman, but should be seen as a valid and elemental part of the workforce. What more important job is there than raising our future generation to be healthy and well-adjusted children? SAHMs do a lot, and are an equal part of the partnership of a relationship.

As far as returning to the workforce, I have no doubts that it will be significantly challenging for myself if/when I go back one day. I could try to pursue some degree-using activities to keep my resume current, but even if I choose not to it is a shame that my alternative career will be looked at as wasted years by a boss at my next interview. Just because I traded keyboards for diapers and meetings for food-flinging food introductions doesn’t mean that I am a less qualified candidate than someone else. If you are arguing experience year for experience year then yes, obviously, I would lose out there. But quality? I don’t lose that just because I get peed on more often than you do.

For me, all of this boils down to being able to be confident in myself and my decisions. No one will ever agree entirely with every decision you make, but the decision you make is right for you. My choice is valid, and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Aaaahhhhh I feel a sense of freedom in making that statement. It feels good to be free. And isn’t that what feminism is all about, anyway?

Why I let my baby cry: Sleep regression, baby sleep training methods, and what actually works

“I no sleep, mom”-The 4 month sleep regression

I made it about 5 and a half months of getting up every 1-3 hours to feed the baby. I was so exhausted and after giving everything I had to the baby, day in and day out, I was starting to reach my breaking point. Just when he was starting to sleep better at around 4 months, or what I thought was better, about 3 hour stretches, we hit the 4 month sleep regression. I had read mixed things about sleep regression online—from mom’s experiences to debate about if it even existed. It exists. And it’s real as fuck.

T started the regression a little later than 4 months, but once he did, he was up every 1-2 hours. It was so miserable. One of us had to get up and feed and/or rock him to sleep. This went on for weeks. I read everything I could about sleep and sleep regressions online, and was left feeling more confused than ever because every piece of advice directly conflicted the next piece I found.

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Finally, when T was about 5 and a half months, I called my pediatrician’s office. “I need to see someone today,” I told the receptionist, “I’m about to lose it.” I went in that afternoon and poured out my frustrations to the doctor. She listened empathetically, and assured me that I was doing great as a mom. “It’s really hard,” she told me, “it lasts a few weeks and then it should get better.” She went on to tell me that we had to do whatever we could to get some sleep, whether that was breastfeed T to sleep or rock him or whatever, but that it doesn’t help anyone to be so sleep deprived. She also didn’t recommend any form of sleep training until 6 months; babies were simply just too young to handle it before then.

I [almost begged] her to let me start solid foods, as everything I had heard told me that once T got baby cereal daily it would fill him up and make him less hungry at night, which should lead to longer sleep stretches. My fairy God-doctor said sure, we could do cereal or fruit or vegetables, but tailed this with a warning that it wouldn’t help the sleep. “It simply isn’t true, but I wish it were,” were her final words on the matter. I was so desperate I didn’t care. I was elated that I could try solids and that I almost had permission to just do what I needed to do to survive this regression.

I stocked up on baby oatmeal and sweet potatoes, and we tried to introduce solids. True to the doctor’s words, it didn’t help. Like every professional resource said, the introduction of solids are for learning and not for filling, and T still wanted his calories the boob-way. Nothing got better. Then at about 6 months, things got worse.

“My f-ing face hurts,  mom”- Teething

How is that even possible, right? What is worse than reverting back to newborn sleep? One word: TEETHING. Mother fucking teething. Mother Nature had a really good idea to take a happy baby and shove razor blades through his gums, which [in most babies] elicits a lot of pain. A lot of pain = no sleep. T was up every 15 minutes to hour and a half. I thought I might die. Apparently growth hormone is secreted while the body sleeps i.e. this makes teeth pop out i.e. no one is actually getting any sleep. The doctor had okayed the use of Tylenol, which seemed to help a little, but nothing helped like that tooth finally breaking the gums.

We got a few days of reprieve before the whole thing started again and a second tooth emerged. My poor sweet angel was in so much pain, I could hardly get frustrated with him over the shitty sleep and nap sessions. But we made it, and things went back to about every 2 hours. It was better than before, I guess.

“I never going to sleep, mom”- Sleep training

When the 6th month was well underway, things weren’t changing, and my husband and I finally decided we needed to try some form of sleep training. We agreed that we couldn’t bear to make our sweet angel cry, languishing alone and afraid in his crib and wailing until he fell asleep, so we started with the No-Cry Sleep Solution, the gentlest of methods.

I should also mention that I did a ton of research on every method possible. While many variations exist, there seem to be a few core methods from which everything is derived. The most gentle is designed for no crying ever, the middle ranges in crying allowance, while the full “cry it out” calls for putting baby to bed and letting him have at it, crying until he passes out, no intervention at all. No matter what, we decided this last option was absolutely not something we would resort to.

Anyway, the crux of the No-Cry Sleep Solution was to change sleep behaviors and ultimately teach baby to fall asleep on his own. The author said it may take longer than other methods, but I was willing to sacrifice a few more weeks of sleep if I could ultimately get a blissful 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Human beings have to learn how to do everything, even fall asleep. An analogy I read is that if your sleeping environment changes, it takes you a few nights to adjust and you get worse sleep, right? Eventually, though, you adapt and start sleeping just fine again. Most babies are allowed to fall asleep breastfeeding or being fed in the warm embrace of a parent, while being gently rocked and sung to. This is an amazing way to fall asleep, right? I wish someone would do this for me, but apparently it’s not acceptable for adults to be rocked to sleep while being sung to (but without boob, obviously).

All of these behaviors are thus associated with sleeping, so a baby begins to rely on them to fall asleep. When these elements aren’t there they can’t fall asleep, and what’s worse, when they wake up on their own alone in their crib, they can’t sleep and begin to cry out for mom or dad. This made so much sense I totally face palmed. I had unwittingly created a monster simply by being a loving mother. Of course these associations don’t apply to all babies. If you have an angel baby who sleeps well without any assistance then count yourself as having won the baby jackpot. For the rest of us haggard souls, though, sleep training is the next step.

We went about trying to change these associations, gently teaching T to not rely on breastfeeding to sleep. I even added the EASY method. This routine changes the standard wake, play, eat, sleep to wake, eat, play, sleep. We were excited to find success when we were able to break the breastfeeding association. But that’s about where our success ended. We followed the No-Cry to a T (ha!), but try as we might, we couldn’t get past the first step of putting T down drowsy but awake. This always resulted in crying, no matter how many times we repeated it. Exhausted, we eventually just gave in to holding him to sleep so someone in the house could at least get a few hours of shut eye. We kept trying, desperate for the method to work. I read and reread the book in case I made an error, but to no avail.

I eventually even tried adding in some of the fading method, where I would stand crib side and soothe T with gentle pats and song without picking him up. Not happening.

Weeks later and no progress to be had, T would wake up in the middle of the night wanting only to play, not to eat or be held. He’d wake up early, ready to start the day at ungodly hours. “That’s it,” I thought, delirious from sleep deprivation, “tonight you cry.”

I had finally reached my breaking point. After more than 7 months of broken sleep, I knew something had to change. There was no way I could continue in the shell of a person I had become. My other mom friends had found success with the Ferber method, so my husband and I finally decided to try it. In basic terms, Ferberizing your baby teaches them that bedtime means bedtime, and if they cry it will not result in pick-ups and snuggles (therefore why babies need to be old enough for this training). You follow bedtime routine, kisses and hugs, and put baby down with a cue word like “night night” and close the door. If baby cries you return at set intervals to assure baby it’s okay, and then gradually stretch out the intervals before re-entering. In theory, babies will learn to fall asleep independently.

Finally evening came, and we had a plan. Our intervals would be 3, 5, 7, 9, then 11 minutes, and if T still cried we would call it quits and pick him up. My brave husband would take the lead, given that T knows that mom is synonymous with boob. I fed my little guy hoping he couldn’t sense my apprehension and gave him a big kiss, then passed him off to dad for story and bed. I waited anxiously downstairs, wine in hand. For the nerves, you know. My husband came down and the crying commenced. Three minutes lasted hours. I was the worst mother in the world. Dad went up and came back. Five more agonizing minutes of crying passed. I was dying inside. Seven minutes. Pour more wine. Nine minutes. Pure human torture. Six minutes into the 11 minute interval, the crying subsided. Silence. My husband and I looked at each other in shock. He was asleep. Sweet Jesus, we did it. He woke up once that night to eat, and we didn’t hear a peep again until 7 am.

It was truly a miracle. I couldn’t believe it. I was afraid to count my success. The second night, we only made it five minutes into the 9 minute interval. T slept the entire night. I woke up in a panic the next morning, thinking something must be terribly wrong. Nope, that sweet boy was snoozing away. Every night got better, T only waking up once to eat or not at all, and sleeping about 12 hours. I didn’t know why this method got such immediate results, but I didn’t care. I was saved. I was sleeping. I felt so much better. It was obvious that T felt better, too. He was happier during the day and didn’t look so tired all the time.

I’m ultimately glad we went with this method. I am also glad that we waited. I don’t believe that T would have been ready earlier, and I probably wasn’t either. I definitely believe that babies need to have reached a certain development before the more drastic measures of sleep training are initiated. They also need to have the physical capacity to go all night without eating. I cringe when I read that moms of 3-month olds are letting them cry it out.

If you think that you might be ready to Ferber, I highly recommend the following steps:

  1. Consult your pediatrician. Sleep training is a big part of baby’s development, so you need to be sure baby is healthy and ready for it.
  2. Do your research. I read a ton of legitimate resources, including the actual Dr. Ferber writings, before attempting this training.
  3. Go in with a plan. You will likely fail if you do not have set parameters with your partner before going into this. What intervals will you follow? Will you follow the same intervals the next night, or start at the second interval length the second night, and the third the following, etc?
  4. Don’t start sleep training when baby is sick or teething, or during any other change in environment (like moving). Baby needs comfort and nourishment more than ever at these times, and adding a new stressor to the mix is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Know that it will suck. It’s horrible hearing your baby cry. Pick the stronger partner, if you have one, or bring in a friend or relative to help you. Having support makes a big difference.
  6. Have a middle of the night plan. What will you do if baby wakes up in the middle of the night? For most babies a “full night’s sleep” is only 6-7 hours, so baby may need to eat and top off in the middle of the night. For much older babies, they may just want comfort.
  7. It’s okay to bail. If the first night kills you, or you just aren’t seeing progress with this method, it is okay to stop. Don’t torture yourself or your baby. Sleep training only works if it works for everyone. It should not be endless stress that makes things worse than before.

I firmly believe that every baby is different and will need different sleep training. No one way works for each baby. We continue to adapt our methods for T’s developing needs, and you will need to do the same for your baby. Whatever method you choose is the right way. Don’t get derailed by all of these professional, and non-professional, opinions on what is “right” for your baby. Follow your gut instincts, you have them for a reason. At the end of the day, we have to do what works for our families, and do what we need to do to survive. Maybe the No-Cry method worked for your baby (if so, I am jealous!). If it means continuing to get up and breastfeed, then fine. Co-sleep [safely]? Fine. I support you, and expect the same in return. We gotta stick together, after all.

Until next time, mama. Wishing you good sleep and sweet dreams…

Here’s how to win at motherhood…

Now that I’m settling into my role as mama (or “mamamaaaaaaa” as my baby may or may not intentionally call me) and getting more sleep than I’ve had in the past 8 months, I’ve had a lot more time for rational thinking. I mean, if rational thinking still exists when on a sleep deficit and caring for another individual 24/7, then I’m as rational as it gets right now. Anyway, so a lot of my thinking has been reviewing how I’m caring for my son. Am I doing the right thing? Am I playing the right developmental games? Is he eating enough? Pooping enough? Has he tried enough solids? Endless unanswered questions build as we draw closer and closer to the Year 1 marker.

So all of these accumulate into one big question, “How does one win at motherhood?”

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In the no-win game of self-comparison, I am the star forward. I compare myself to my mom friends, compare T to their babies, and compare myself to what I see other moms “doing” on blogs and Instagram. Some moms have strict schedules that lay out what baby does and when: naps, meals, and playtime are a regimented schedule that repeats daily. Other moms fly by the seat of their pants, and are completely flexible with their day to day activities: babies nap whenever, eat when they want, and play how they want. I think I fall somewhere in between (but is that the right thing to do?). I read apps and books that talk about appropriate age milestones less and less because there is a direct correlation to my worry level when I do. The less T matches the minute by minute developments, the more I freak out—unnecessarily, I might add, he always hits the milestones eventually.

And then there’s the endless conflicting advice. Pump right away to increase milk supply. Don’t pump or else you’ll end up with oversupply and mastitis. Pick them up when they cry. But don’t or else you’ll make them needy. Swaddle baby with a blanket. Don’t have loose blankets in the crib or else they’ll suffocate. Let them play in their crib to adjust to it, but don’t because then it’s associated with play and not sleep. Breastfeed to soothe baby to sleep. Don’t breastfeed to sleep. Let them play alone. Create structured play. Introduce solids at 6 months, but maybe not for fear of allergies. I got conflicting advice from every nurse, doctor, and lactation consultant I asked for months. Even the mom blogs and internet advice is in direct opposition with everyone else.

So, how do you win at motherhood? The short answer is: you don’t. The long answer is that you can’t win at motherhood, not because it is impossible, but because there is no one right way. Motherhood looks like different things to different people. It can even look different on different days. Some days, T gets three meals, three good naps, playtime, and we go run an errand or two. Sometimes just getting through the day means a lot more sitting around, a little extra tv for mom and a little more of the same ole’ toys for T, and wondering when the hell dad is getting home so there is an extra pair of hands on duty.

The bottom line is that we are all just doing the best that we can do. We are being the best moms that we can be. The new moms are figuring out how to mom. The second time around moms are figuring out how to do that, too, because now there’s two tiny humans instead of just one (but the same number of hands to “control” them with). As long as you feed, change, and be attentive to baby’s needs, you’re leagues ahead already. My best advice is don’t worry. I tell myself this often. Say it with me: I am doing just fine. My baby is just fine.

And when it comes to winning, I already feel like I’ve won the jackpot every time T looks at me with those beautiful eyes and smiles that big gummy grin. And you just can’t beat that feeling.