You've been warned. You've read all the books. You've listened with intent to veteran parents spout off advice about how to get your baby to sleep. You've even been told, "You'll never sleep again". Which by the way – no mom-to-be ever wants to hear, so stop saying it! What new moms need to hear is the truth. Yes, there will be nights you won’t get any sleep and there will be days you’ll feel like you’re part of a zombie apocalypse, but those moments will fade and a new normal will set in. It’s inevitable. The key to making it through is to surrender yourself to the all-encompassing role of motherhood. Once you do this – your mind and body will eventually adjust.
When your first child is born, make no mistake, your life will be turned upside down. You’ll try to keep a regimented schedule and do virtually anything to mold your little one into a sound-sleeper. But I hate to burst your bubble moms – babies don't sleep in long increments. They’re not programmed to. They’ll wake up to eat, if they’re uncomfortable, if they feel ill, if they’re hot, or in general, if they feel like it. This is what they do. You trying to control the situation will not help you or your baby. I learned this the hard way and even when I did finally get my baby to sleep, I was sleeping with one eye open watching his chest rise and fall for hours at a time. Guess who got overwhelmed, burned out, and felt like a complete failure pretty quickly?
Anytime I thought I had discovered the magic trick to getting him to sleep through the night, he’d go through a growth spurt or begin the teething process – and here we go again. Ground zero. I tried everything: drove around in the car, left him in the car seat inside, turned on the vacuum, put on a sound machine, sang lullabies, begged him, and even prayed to the sleep Gods nightly. Not much worked until I decided to let go – and go with the flow.
Then once he got a little older, I’d let him sleep in the bed with me if it meant I could get some sleep, too. People told me this was the biggest mistake and he’d never leave my bed. But guess what? He did at 3 ½ years old when his brother was born. As it turned out I loved the cuddle time, having him close to me, and I knew he would go back to his bed when he was ready – and he did. Sure, I had the obligatory knee in the back or foot in the face a few times a night – but it was much better than getting woken up every few hours when he’d realize he was alone and cry. Looking back now, I actually miss those days.
With my younger son, I was completely different. I slept when he slept, even if it was in the middle of the day. The laundry, cleaning and showering could wait. I also didn’t schedule my life around his naps. I had a life to live, errands to run, work to do, and another child to take care of. If I did experience a long awful sleepless night, I’d continue to tell myself it was temporary and move on.
Ultimately, you have to do what works best for your family. None of us really know what we're doing. Use advice as a suggestion rather than the rule. And on the really rough days when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, sneak into your baby’s room when they’re sleeping and stare at their angelic face for a few minutes. This is guaranteed to make you realize – the sleepless nights are totally worth it.