Ahh, Sleep: Part 1

Before I had a child I knew exactly the type of mama I would eventually be: sharply intuitive and therefore always abundantly and lovingly empathetic, plus, always generous with my patience and tolerant of baby’s every confusing need, even at 4 am, which (I had decided) is easy to do as long as I remember that my tiny, innocent baby needs me fundamentally (a fact that should be thrilling not daunting). And, of course, I would never ever ever sleep train, because 1) it’s mean, and 2) it’s unnecessary if you do everything right from the start. Now that I am a really good boy mom it has become evident that I do everything wrong and have done from the start. Plus, I have come to realize that I failed as a pre-mom to factor in chronic sleep deprivation and postpartum hormonal changes when planning my  tolerant and empathetic 4am reactions, sharp intuition be damned. Oops. It’s ok, my baby is still essentially perfect, except for the tiny (huge) matter of sleep.

Day one at home from the hospital, husband and I lovingly wrapped baby boy up in his swaddle and snuggled him down into the chief, #1, primo baby registry item, the Fisher Price Rock ‘N Play (magical for getting baby to sleep, said all my wise mom friends). We stared adoringly at our squishy little chunk of joy, then quickly remembered we should be sleeping. Husband kissed me and rolled over for his midnight nap, but when I turned off my bedside lamp and hoped to doze, I cried instead. Fat tears of panic fell from my eyes for such reasons as “I can’t see the baby,” and “what if he’s not breathing?!” It was at that moment that I did as any good boy mom ought: I turned on my light, I grabbed my pillow, and I laid my head as close to the RNP as I could get it without actually docking myself on top of my baby. And there I laid, partially awake but with eyes closed, waiting for baby to wake for some food. Two seconds later the baby stirred just the tiniest bit, and sleep mistake #1 was made: I snatched that boy up before he had the chance to even fuss, let alone try to self soothe. I patted baby’s belly and cooed into his cherub face, I told him he was perfect and reminded him he was safe, and I handed him to his papa bear, who immediately popped a bottle of fresh breastmilk into baby’s mouth. “Huzzah!” I thought. “If I provide mama comfort before baby even has a chance to become upset, he will feel so perfectly secure that he will never need to cry and he will sleep soundly always, because I am such a good mom!”

What has resulted instead is a babe who doesn’t even know that self soothing is a thing – at least 6 times a night. Oops.

One night, after about 3 weeks of newborness, Husband and I lovingly wrapped baby boy up in his swaddle and snuggled him down into his RNP, and when baby grunted and snored, as usual, Husband lovingly said, “I don’t like those noises he makes. It sounds like he’s having trouble breathing.” Then husband kissed me and rolled over for his midnight nap. I, however, was again gripped by irrational panic, and I smacked dear hubby on the butt, insisting he wake up and help me stare sleeplessly at the baby to ensure that breaths were being taken. That’s when we began to cosleep in shifts, and I began trolling the almighty internet for info on how to help the bubs sleep. During my first shift with the bubba, I laid baby down flat on his back and propped myself up with my elbow to stare at his beautiful face. My heart burst into a million love morsels watching baby yawn and toot, and I just about died of love when that sweet boy sighed and rolled onto his side, snuggling closer to mama. Those dreamy moments are some of my favorite when I think back to the newborn days. But, during that first night of bedsharing sleep mistake #2 was made: the moment baby began to squirm, but before he woke completely, I lovingly and gently eased my hand under his head and offered him a drink of his bottle. “Oh yea!” I thought. “According to the internet, dreamfeeds are where it’s at! Baby will totally sleep longer stretches now, and eventually I’ll get to sleep too. Booya. I am so good at this.”

What has resulted instead is a babe who expects a bottle in his face every time he so much as stirs in his sleep, which, again, is 6 times a night. Oops.

One night, when bubs was about 6 weeks old, and long after he had nixed the swaddle, I lovingly laid baby down for my shift and curled my body around his, and stared perplexedly as he began to scream bloody murder. I picked the boy up and offered a bottle, which made him even angrier. I patted baby’s back, hoping for a burp. I administered some gas drops to ease his tummy. I checked that baby had a fresh diaper. Nothing seemed to be wrong, even though bubba’s cries told me everything was clearly wrong. I didn’t know what to do, so I cried, and Husband consulted the almighty internet, which explained that the squish was experiencing his very first witching hour! No big deal, said the internet, babies grow out of the witching hour eventually, and in the meantime you can try walking baby around. Husband took the reigns (since I was blubbering) and walked, swayed, bounced that sweet boy into dreamland in about 10 minutes. “Amazing!” I thought. “Bubba is so low maintenance. All he wants are a few cuddles and love from his Ma and Pa. This phase is going to be adorable. We are the best parents and baby is such a good sleeper, once he’s asleep!”

What has resulted instead is a babe who must be rocked to sleep for every nap and bedtime, and who only likes to sleep cuddled up with mom or dad. Adorable, but oops.

And there have been about a million more sleep mistakes made.

OK, as a boy mom, I still rely a whole lot on my intuition, and of course I am loving and empathetic, and I’m working on my patience and learning hard lessons about my tolerance, and it really is thrilling to be mama to my amazing son, but oh my freaking gawd, I am so tired, and it’s time to sleep train. I’ve done some research – teaching baby to sleep is not mean or unnecessary! Teaching sleep habits is a kindness – in fact, it’s a necessity – because 1) at this point baby is just as sleep deprived as mom and dad, and 2) chronic sleep deprivation is a torture tactic(!!!) and I’d like to stop torturing my baby. Oh yes, sleep will be happening in this house very soon.


Add Yours
  1. Addie Alexander

    I kept my mouth shut. Glad you’ve found this out. Teaching babies and children they can handle separation and anxiety results in kids with wings who live wonderful lives. Too bad you have to go through adolescence but it is so worth it when you see the outcome.


    • shawnalander

      Thank you Addie!! I come from a family that has a hard time watching loved ones suffer, but I’ve started to realize my guy isn’t suffering, he’s LEARNING!! He fusses and then he figures it out. It’s amazing to watch. He’s teaching me so much about life πŸ’•


  2. chrscat

    I think we’ve all been there. At least you’re figuring it out now! I think I finally realized we needed to sleep train around nine months. In other words, I was a zombie for nine months! We had him sleep trained in just a couple days, once we really decided it was GOING to happen!


    • shawnalander

      It seems like there is so much misinformation surrounding sleep training!! I certainly had it all wrong in theory. I love hearing that your experience went well. Thanks for the solidarity!


  3. katemiers

    I found your blog through the link you posted in Respectful Sleep Training/Learning, and just have to say that I love your writing! And I am soooo there with my little girl. I was the best, most responsive, attached, loving mother that would do everything right and baby would magically sleep when she acquired the skills to do so. Nevermind that I need to let her learn the skills in the first place… (We’re ST this weekend) thanks for sharing!


    • shawnalander

      Thank you!😊 Yes!!!! This was me exactly! I studied psychology in college, and I know that learning and behavior do not work that way, but I soldiered on. I really thought it would click one day. Every night a tiny part of me hoped that Bubs would magically sleep until morning, despite knowing that I had taught him to wake every few hours for a sip of milk. Haha, hindsight is 20/20 mama! Good luck ST and stay strong, it’s hard to hear baby crying out, but it’s worth it in the end.


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