My baby was born wired for sleep. But, somehow my husband and I managed to train him out of it. In fact, we’ve been training our baby NOT to sleep all summer.
Now, at 10 months old, his sleep habits are affecting the whole family. Translation: I’m half-dead, and we are all ready to kill each other. As I train him back, using the gradual withdrawal method, I am drying my tears of shame, and thinking about what went wrong in the first place.
It started at the beginning of the summer break. Routines changed. Baby’s bedtime became flexible. He would sleep in the car on the way back from the beach, or in the stroller on the way to the park. And hey- if Mum or Dad were busy with the five year old …well, the baby’s naptime could be pushed a little bit, right? His bedtime could wait.
Soon, baby was waking at night. Once or twice only. I would quickly breastfeed him right back to sleep. It wasn’t too much trouble.
When it became two or three times a night, I became frustrated. Our little darling began waking while we were still up watching television. It felt like an intrusion, especially as the 5 year-old’s bedtime had been stretching into our nights. Where was MY time to relax? My husband offered to help. The first time he plucked baby from the crib and brought him downstairs to watch re-runs of Top of the Pops (old 80’s videos), I was horrified. But- it was cute watching them there, my two boys in the glow of the screen, as I sipped my wine and finally, relaxed.
Three weeks later, we found ourselves exhausted. Struggling to stay up past 8pm, my husband and I were tetchy and irritable. My memory became scattered. I started losing things: my purse, my keys. We were sleep deprived…and baby was now waking regularly- as a matter of routine.
At 4am, one morning last week, when baby had woken for the third time, my husband jumped out of bed, and screamed “I’ve had enough!”.
“Then GO!”, I shouted, “and sleep in the playroom until I figure this out!”.
The five year old, who had found herself in our bed, woke up, gave us a dirty look, and shuffled back to her own room.
That was the exact moment that I began sleep training, too frustrated and too tired to look back.
The rest of the morning was hell. One minute, two minutes, four minutes. You know the formula: double the wait each time, as you listen to blood-curdling screams from your infant who needs you so desperately. Surely it would be OK just to give him one cuddle? Maybe this could wait until tomorrow? And finally, the ultimate primal response: who ARE these idiots who advocate sleep training? That’s my baby in there, and he needs me!! I fought all these thoughts away. At eight minutes, I checked Facebook and resisted the urge to google “sleep training”.
And then at sixteen minutes, silence. Oh my god, he’s dead. Do I check? If I check, and he’s not dead, will he wake up? If he does, do I go back to one minute, or start at 32?
But he was finally sleeping. And then, mercifully, so was I.
Three nights later, he’s down to 2 minutes crying, and I’m not even drawing it out anymore. I kiss him, close the door, and let him cry. Every single time I do it, those same arguments run through my head: Am I damaging him? Am I a bad mother? Am I selfish? But the voices are becoming softer as he begins soothing himself to sleep. Gradually, our family is returning to normal… and I’m never going back!