The dirty postpartum words no one talks about…

My struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety

I sit, peering at my nails with scrutiny. There’s something so gratifying about peeling nail polish off. The blank Word document sits open at my computer. I avoid looking at the screen. I realize I’m just stalling. I check the clock. 9:06 pm. I should really go to bed. Just another stalling tactic. What if they think I’m complaining? It doesn’t matter what they think. What if they judge me? Who is “they” anyway? Your potential readers. What if they don’t care about what you’re writing? Well that’s true, they might not.

I peel off a few more shells of nail polish, little by little removing the last evidence of my only “me” time I’ve had in months. I just can’t justify a manicure anymore when I left my job to be stay at home mom. Every dollar counts these days.

That’s not what I’m really trying to write about though. I’m trying to write about a topic that I can barely face as my own reality that I’ve been living the past year.

7-27-17 Living with Postpartum depression and anxiety cover

I wouldn’t say that I was truly clinically “depressed” after I had my son. I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, although those silly surveys you take at the pediatrician’s office probably wouldn’t have caught it if that’s what I was. I wouldn’t have let them catch me either. Who would actually circle answers that had scary words in them like crying, hopeless, harming my baby? I wouldn’t be that mom. Not that mom who couldn’t handle motherhood. I trudged on for months, sleepless night after sleepless night.

So maybe I was. Depression is a nearly impenetrable cloud, and in those days of darkness, I was left in its shadow. It was like the sunlight was trying to cut its way past the murky water to the sea floor; I was always left with dim light, trying to find my way through each day. Each monotonous day with a baby. Over. And Over. Again.

It didn’t feel like I expected. I couldn’t seem to pull myself to the surface for fresh air. I felt like I stagnated at about 50-60% of myself. I never could grasp the last missing pieces to feel like myself again. I was anxious. I had bouts of anxiety for no reason, and when I did have a reason, the anxiety was like a vice around my chest, restricting my oxygen.

I’m not depressed. Not me. I’m doing okay. And the truth was, and is, that I am doing okay. It’s hard to believe that though when I was running on no sleep, no caffeine, and no pharmaceuticals, all because of breastfeeding. All because I love my baby more than anything in the world, and I’d do anything to make sure that he is okay. I fell into the trap of “breast is best,” and I wouldn’t hear of doing anything otherwise, to the possible detriment of my sleep cycles and mental state. Okay, to the definite detriment of my state. I wouldn’t even let my mom feed the baby a bottle so I could sleep more than 2-3 hours in a row.

I never had any serious thoughts of harming my baby. Or myself.  I didn’t cry day after day. I didn’t feel like my days were insurmountable. I always could make it through. This, I believe, is the trap that many new moms fall into. We don’t fit the “mold” of postpartum depression, and no one talks about postpartum anxiety, so we think that this is normal, or worse, that we are the problem, or that this too will pass.

Things are getting better for me now. I haven’t gotten help yet, but I plan to go in soon for a mental tune up (I really need to make that appointment). Maybe it’s the full nights of sleep (except when the anxiety keeps me awake), or maybe it’s the hormones settling back down, but I’m feeling a lot better. I do wish that I had gotten help earlier. I wish that I hadn’t been my own martyr, with an “ever forward” mantra, pushing myself past the healthy limits of physical and mental exhaustion. Getting help, whether it be professional or friendship, doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It means I’m smart enough to know that the phrase “It takes a village” is entirely too accurate.

I wish I knew this at the time. I suffered in silence for many months. Now that I’m coming out of that dark tunnel, I’m hoping that I can tell you, new mom, that you aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. I blame it entirely on the sleep deprivation and wacky hormones. So don’t worry, you’re doing great. But I also want to encourage you to get help if you need it. Don’t wage your internal war alone. You can be so much happier so much faster when you reach out.

You’ve got this, mama.

 

 

What you need for an airplane ride with baby… and what you don’t.

Recently we traveled with our infant, and it was quite a scene. I made sure to pack all the baby gear essential for travel, but I also wanted to be sure that I included everything I would need for our day in the airport and on the airplane. I stayed true to my travel motto: “It’s better to have it and not use it than be without.” We checked our luggage and the car seat, so I prepared a carry-on bag for each of the parents.

How to pack carry-on bags for traveling with an infant

This is what Bag 1 included:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • More diapers
  • Changing pad
  • Outfit change
  • Warm layer (long sleeve shirt)
  • Plane toys
  • Favorite teether (and teether strap)

Baby Banana Infant Training Toothbrush and Teether, Yellow

Baby Banana Infant Training Toothbrush and Teether, Yellow

  • Book
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Cheerios
  • Empty sippy cup
  • Sealed jar of pureed meat
  • Squeezy pouch of pureed fruit
  • Hair ties
  • Wallet
  • Cell phone

This is what Bag 2 included:

  • Back up toys in case he got bored with the first bag of toys
  • Snacks for mom and dad
  • Extra shirts for mom and dad in case of unexpected baby blowout/spit up
  • Phone charges
  • Diapers
  • Tablet loaded with apps like keyboard, finger paint, and other touch games for baby’s entertainment
  • Water bottle (purchased at airport)

I am probably leaving some things out. Needless to say, we were packed to brim with what I had deemed as baby essentials. We also had the baby carrier, Boppy nursing pillow, and stroller bag shoved in the bottom of the stroller.

Here is what we actually used in the airport:

  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Changing pad
  • Favorite teether
  • Cheerios
  • Empty sippy cup
  • Sealed jar of pureed meat
  • Squeezy pouch of pureed fruit
  • Wallet
  • Cell phone

Here is what we actually used on the plane:

  • Anti-bacterial wipes

Seeing a trend here? Yes I, the notorious over-packer, had over-packed  for our plane ride. Thus, my advice to you is to pare down what you think you need to what you actually need. The airport provides so much stimulation for kids you probably won’t need toys. Walking around or just letting baby peer at all the new people will be enough entertainment. Once you are on the plane, the photo instructional card will provide a lot entertainment for tiny hands, and he probably won’t be interested in anything else.

Suggestions for successfully boarding and living through a flight with a baby

  • Take advantage of the early boarding for passengers with small children. It gives you the needed extra time to get everyone on board and also drop off your stroller on the jet way.
  • Shut the air vents. Unless the plane is very warm, you don’t want germy, recycled air blowing right onto your baby’s face.
  • Take the time to wipe everything down. My friend uses Wet Ones anti-bacterial wipes when she travels, but I could only find some all-natural wipes at the store last minute that claimed to kill viruses too. Apparently they worked, none of us got sick going to or coming from our destination.

WET ONES Antibacterial Hand Wipes, Fresh Scent 40 ea (Pack of 3)

WET ONES Antibacterial Hand Wipes, Fresh Scent 40 ea (Pack of 3)

  • Put all magazines and puke bags somewhere out of baby’s reach. Don’t forget to wipe down your new best friend: the picture instruction card.
  • Don’t count on being able to get to your bag under your seat. With a bouncing baby on our laps and ever shrinking knee space, neither of us could reach our bags. Put anything you might need within easy reach ahead of time.
  • Have a bottle, sippy cup, or boob available for take off and landing. These are the times that pressure changes can hurt little ears, and the sucking motion helps to pop ear drums to relieve pressure.
  • If there is no turbulence and baby is fussy, try walking the aisle with him or standing in the back.

#1 Rule for infant travel…

Don’t. Be. Self. Conscious.

I know this is really hard when you have a crying baby and you are sweating while desperately trying every toy or flapping every magazine at your disposal. Sometimes the day just won’t go well and travel will suck. And that’s okay. Most passengers are either parents themselves who understand, or will just put on head phones, and no one will give you a second thought. The person most upset will be you, so try to not even get to that point. It will soon be a distant memory, and baby will (eventually) take a nap and you’ll be able to start fresh again.

The second best rule is that you can always buy what you don’t have, so don’t worry about it. As long as you have enough diapers, wipes, and food for the day, you’re good to go.

Happy travels, mama!

 

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you buy anything I mention, I get a few cents for my effort. It costs you nothing additional, but helps me out. I own everything I mentioned and would never recommend some piece of garbage to you. Promise. Happy shopping!

Booking travel and traveling essentials for a baby

We recently traveled with our little guy and it was…. interesting. In short, he is not the best traveler. The first leg of the trip was by plane, the next leg was an hour in the car. T hates being confined, so trying to keep him on our laps and then in a car seat when he was exhausted from missing a nap during travel was the epitome of meltdown mode. Needless to say I really needed a stiff drink when we arrived at our destination.

I also learned a lot from the experience. Things to do the same–and differently– are listed here so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Of course as the old saying goes: “Babies will be babies,” or something like that, so there is only so much that you can actually prepare for. Some of it you just have to do it and get through it. You’ll survive, your kid will survive, and your sanity? I still can’t account for mine. I will say that the process is worth the destination. Don’t let traveling with a baby scare you away from a much needed vacation (and I know you really need one.)

Booking travel

If you have a young infant, it doesn’t really matter what time you book a flight. Odds are that they will sleep through it anyway. I take that back, if your baby has colic, definitely don’t book it when you know your baby will be all tears all the time. Our doctor suggested avoiding travel at the beginning due to illness exposure, so make sure to check with your pediatrician well before booking or planning any travel. The last thing you want is the little to get sick.

We decided to book our flight in the afternoon during second nap time. We figured that at least T would get a solid first nap and be somewhat tired for the plane and would zonk out. Great theory, unless your flight is delayed an hour and you are left with an overly tired baby that is bouncing around the cabin, yelling for freedom. Lesson: It’s a good theory, but know that things might not work out the way you hoped. I still believe in travel during nap if possible is the way to go; most infants should be soothed by the plane’s engine droning.

Picking a seat

Because I am still breastfeeding, we decided to select the window and middle seat so that I could have some privacy while nursing and hopefully keep T away from the noisy drink cart while he [theoretically] slept. Older, more self aware infant? Book the aisle seat so you can have mom or dad walk baby in the aisle. Good distraction, and you might need it. If you are dual feeding/feeding only with a bottle, for the love of God bring those, too. It is a lot easier than breastfeeding in a tight and very public space, and can also be used for comforting during a car ride. The sucking during nursing or bottle feeding also helps pop little ears to relieve pressure during air travel.

What about buying baby a seat? It is the recommended safety standard, but most airlines allow infants under one year to be on a parent’s lap. On one of our flights, we lucked out and were the only two in a row of 3 seats, and I can say that if you have the bucks to buy a seat every time, DO IT. It was helpful to have the extra space and for one of us to be able to reach for a bag under the seat. On a full flight there ain’t no way you are getting anything under that seat.

Travel gear

For an infant, I prefer to check car seat and luggage as soon as we arrive. It’s less to carry and worry about, and you will need every bit of hand and space available to handle a baby in the airport. I always worry about our car seat getting beat up by rough handling, so I was thrilled to find this padded car seat bag. I even neurotically put bubble wrap between the sides of the bag and seat, just in case. The seat made it unscathed.

J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag, Black

I prefer to travel with a stroller so that I can put my bag underneath in the basket. One of my mom friends prefers to baby carry through the airport and during the flight. Whatever is easier for you and keeps baby happy is the best thing to do. Smaller babies might do better being carried, but older infants like mine want more freedom and prefer to see what is going on. If you choose a stroller, get something light and compact. I have the Kolcraft Cloud stroller, which is lightweight and comes with a great sun hood PLUS snack tray across the front. There is also a pouch underneath. While not the cheapest umbrella stroller, its sturdy and has a few extra features I’m willing to put in a few dollars for.

Kolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller with 5-Point Safety System and Multi-Positon Reclining Seat, Slate

Kolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller with 5-Point Safety System and Multi-Positon Reclining Seat, Slate

Don’t forget a stroller bag; you will need to collapse the stroller and gate check it when you board the plane. You will get it back plane side when you land at your destination.

Zohzo Stroller Travel Bag for Standard or Double / Dual Strollers

Zohzo Stroller Travel Bag for Standard or Double / Dual Strollers

For a baby carrier, I swear by my Lillebaby. Yes I know, it is very expensive. Mine has stood up to multiple washings, travel, hiking, and every day use. It is also sturdy to support my baby much better than the cloth only carriers (and I have 3 varieties of those I use around the house).

Lillebaby The Complete Airflow 360° Ergonomic Six-Position Baby & Child Carrier, Silver

I am hoping that this information helps you plan your vacation. Remember, you don’t really go on vacation, you just parent in another locale. Check back soon, I’m working on posts about how to pack for traveling with baby and how to survive a plane ride with an infant. The joys of parenthood!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you buy anything I mention, I get a few cents for my effort. It costs you nothing additional, but helps me out. I own everything I mentioned and would never recommend some piece of garbage to you. Promise. Happy shopping!

As the sun sets on my final days of breastfeeding…

The play date was going lovely. The sun shone so brightly upon us in our grassy seating that it seemed like something from a movie. The cows mooed happily in the background, screaming children in field trip groups covered the spans like ants on a picnic blanket. Even the odor of the farm wasn’t offensive enough to cut our trip short.

It’s almost funny in a way that babies so close in age can be so drastically different. What a transformation a few weeks or a month makes in a developing infant. Still, I think our dates are more for the moms than for the babes. It gives us a chance to talk to adults and get out of the house, although we constantly interrupt our sentences to stop wandering hands from pulling hair or to redirect grass-grabbing fingers to toys.  Whenever we ask questions we inevitably have a different answer, thus reinforcing in my mind the 100 different ways to raise a child. They seem to be turning out all right, though.

5-5-17 As the sun sets on my days of breastfeeding cover

T abruptly begins to pull at my shirt. His face forages against my chest like a bear after honey. I look around, suddenly feeling very exposed. Adults and children wander freely around us, and I lament again that T won’t take a bottle on occasions such as these. “Well,” I announce, somewhat to hide my distress, “looks like I’m breastfeeding in public!” The other moms barely glance my way, busy with their own curious foragers.

I hear a loud chugging and turn to see a tractor pulling a wagon full of people. “Maybe I’ll wait for them to go by, at least,” I say out loud to no one in particular with a lopsided and halfhearted grin. I do my best to settle T on my lap, and hunch over him to bring myself close enough for him to latch. I unsnap the side of my bra like a pro, and finagle a nipple out while leaving my shirt in place to cover myself as modestly as possible. I hope no one really notices.

The feeding seems to go on forever. I’m painfully aware of how close people pass to us, imaging some kid saying, “Mommy, mommy, look a boobie!” I’m probably more embarrassed than anyone else is at the moment. The other mom chimes in with a joke, much to my reprieve, about how no one could possibly be upset about my situation, given that the cows are being suckled or pumped just over yonder. The irony is not lost on me. I do feel like a dairy cow right now; a constant source of nutrients on demand, my fenced pasture made of imaginary ties that never truly let me leave T for more than a few hours before being called back again.

I sigh, and T decides he’s had enough and rolls away. I deftly pull down my shirt, lest an offensive nipple see the light of day in public. Once again composed, I think about how one day I’ll miss breastfeeding and the bond that it holds for me and my son. He won’t need me in the same way ever again, another stabbing reminder of how fast he’s growing up.

At each feeding now I try harder to cement the memory into place. How perfectly messy his hair is, those beautiful wandering eyes, those inquisitive fingers grabbing onto my face. I marvel at how I could have ever made such a perfect little being.

Yes one day I might miss my sore nipples, too, because that all comes with the territory of the most intimate connection that is breastfeeding. My sweet boy is growing up fast. I don’t think I’ll mind feeding him for now, just a few more times.

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.

4-21-17 How to (re)do Cry It Out cover

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…

4-14-17 When Cry It Out stops working cover

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!

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.

3-6-17-why-i-let-my-baby-cry-cover-2

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…