I clearly remember sitting on an area rug in my baby’s nursery, surrounded by infant-care manuals and sleep guides. My little guy had just turned 11 months old and he and I had reached an all-time sleeping low.
Every night, we did what I called the Rocking Chair Dance. I would rock him to sleep, stand up carefully, tip toe across the room, lean over his crib to lay him down and…. boom! He was awake and crying, and we would start the whole routine over again. After several attempts, I would finally get him to sleep and then collapse in my own bed, only to be awakened a few hours later. Hence the Rocking Chair Dance would begin… again.
I was exhausted. He was exhausted. I definitely needed help. At that time I didn’t know of any sleep experts in my community (like I do now) so I turned to the books. That is when I read the line that made me scream:
Your baby’s sleep habits are a strong predictor of how they will sleep later on in life. Establish good habits now so that your growing child will be a good sleeper later.
"ACK!!!" I cried to my husband, "Our baby sucks at sleeping! Which is all my fault for not establishing good sleep habits to begin with. Which means he is going to be 30 years old and still needing to be rocked to sleep every night. I’ve screwed up my kid for life and neither of us will EVER get any sleep!"
That was a kinda low moment in my parenting adventures.
Can I tell you? They were all lies.
Sure, my baby was not a great sleeper. And sure, it was partially my fault. But now, at a strapping 10 years old, my son goes to sleep on his OWN and sleeps through the night, in his OWN bed. I’m happy to report that he has been sleeping this way for many years. Hallelujah! (We still don’t have sleeping in on the weekends down. But hey, one thing at a time, right?)
How did we get my son to this place of blissful, uninterrupted rest? When he was just shy of a year old, my husband and I co-created a gentle sleep-training regimen that seemed to get him on some sort of track. He then regressed a few months later. And then we got him back on track. And then he came into our bed night after night. And then… you get the picture. It was a challenging few years in our life, but we eventually got through it.
My point is, this WILL pass. If you patiently work with your child, she or he will eventually sleep well and sleep through the night. But don’t feel like you have to wait for it to happen on its own. And don’t feel like you have to figure it out on your own. Reach out for help.
One of my favorite certified sleep consultants is Lori Srong from Strong Little Sleepers. She knows her stuff and she will give you sound advice that will keep you from having a meltdown like I did ten years ago.
Since I am in the self-care and relationship-care business, and not the sleep business, I encourage you to make sure you’re caring for yourself during these trying times. Sleep when you can, reach out for help when you can, and remind yourself that this is all temporary. When your child is a teenager, you won’t be able to get them out of bed! In the meantime, get the help you need so you can rest and be the best parent you can be.