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Challenge: Bedtime Secrets

How I Found Myself Missing 4 A.M. Feedings

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Two nights ago, my five-month-old daughter fell asleep in my arms.

This might not sound extraordinary, but it doesn’t happen often anymore. My husband, Alec, and I bent the rules by sleep training her early.

We moved her into the crib in her own room at the four-month mark, partly out of desperation and partly out of practical necessity. Because my daughter measures much longer than most babies her age, she was outgrowing the bassinet at the foot of our bed.

Et voila—two nights after moving her into the nursery, she was sleep trained. Nowadays she might cry for a few minutes when we put her to bed, but usually she soothes herself without our help.

And suddenly I find myself longing for those quiet (or not-so-quiet) moments cradling my newborn in bed, both of us awash in the gray light of two a.m.

I remember that second night home from the hospital: my mother-in-law and her close friend had come from England to stay with us after the birth. Here Alec and I were two brand new parents, and we were wrestling to keep our daughter asleep so as not to disturb the jet-lagged visitors sharing a wall with our bedroom.

Eventually Alec’s mother popped her head in our door to find me on the floor trying to change a squirming baby’s diaper and Alec pacing by the window about to rip out his hair.

My angel of a mother-in-law shooed us into bed and picked up my daughter off the floor. “Get some sleep,” she told us, and she disappeared into the dark hallway. Around 4 a.m., we woke again and checked in on grandmother and granddaughter.

Of course, our newborn baby still hadn’t fallen asleep and showed no signs of exhaustion.

I cinched my robe around my waist, shuffled to the kitchen, then turned on the coffee maker, and set the tea kettle to boil. We huddled, all five of us together on the sofa at four in the morning, and passed my daughter around throughout that whispered conversation.

I wouldn’t want a repeat of that desperate night, but when my daughter fell asleep in my arms this weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

No one-size-fits-all tips to be found here. No magic tricks for getting your baby to sleep.

I guess I’d tell a new parent two things:

First, sometimes you just have to give up and give in. Like last night, when our now almost-six-month-old baby cried for an hour in her crib and eventually we strapped her into the car seat for a late-night drive.

Second, it doesn’t last forever. For better or for worse, these delirious, sleep-deprived days are numbered. Use that as a comfort on the mornings that you cry in bed because you didn’t sleep last night, and as a reminder to treasure the still, silent moments that your baby falls asleep in your arms.

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