Three Universal Truths of New Mommyhood:
1. You want to do what's best for your baby.
2. You have no idea what's best for your baby.
3. Everyone thinks they know what's best for your baby, and whooooooo-boy they'll school you on it.
If you have people around you who are like, "Trust your instincts," "You're doing a great job," "This is hard for everyone, you're doing your best," then kiss them square on the mouth.Because that's not what most young moms have, right?
A lot of us have, "You HAVE to do this" and "You SHOULD be doing that," all the live long day. This happens to most new moms, mind you, but when you have a shiny youthful inexperience, people can get even more aggressive with their well-intentioned words of wisdom. Or maybe we just take it more personally. Or maybe we have less peer-like moms to lean on. Or maybe our parents/older relatives still see us as very tall children.
Raise your hand if you've heard one of these:
You hafta put some cereal in that bottle, then he'll sleep!
You need to have some formula in the house, just in case.
Babies NEED pacifiers! // That toddler should NOT have a pacifier!
Cloth diapers?!, said with shock and disgust. Great, I'll have the smelly grandson.
(Dear Family: Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)
Sleep training — or sleep, in general — is like the mecca of SHOULDs and MUSTs and HELPs. To be fair, sleep deprivation leaves us an emotionally raw version of our former selves, where even the slightest breeze could knock us into a full-on breakdown. But it could have something to do with the fact people have been asking us, "How does the baby sleep?!" or "How long is he sleeping at night now?" from the jump — as if hours slept is some sort of performance measure of our parenting.
You have a baby who sleeps through the night? CONGRATULATIONS! A+ to you, mama.
Or maybe it has something to do with the absurd EXTREMES we take in predicting the consequences of our sleep-training decisions. Like, it's not enough to predict what a child might be like in the next few weeks — we have to warn exhausted parents that, sure, go ahead and let a kid cry-it-out (::behind open hand:: If you don't mind raising a sociopath).
Same goes for the flip side. Oh, you still rock your baby to sleep? You're not at all concerned about that life-long dependence keeping him awake at night in his dorm room?
An Early Mama reader recently asked for advice in our private Facebook group about sleep concerns, and it made me remember how much pressure we can feel to make the "right choice" as new moms — especially about sleep.
Katelyn doesn't know that there are other moms out there rocking and nursing their 2-month-old babies for hours before bedtime. She doesn't know if she's doing something right, or something wrong, or whose advice to follow. But after reading so many other member's advice and personal anecdotes, she came to this conclusion:
I think that's such a loving, nurturing conclusion — one that takes care of herself as well as her baby. And I just love that she could get that kind of support from Early Mama readers — women who understand the experience of being a young mom.
Considering not all readers are in our private group (or maybe you missed this thread), I wanted to share some of the advice Katelyn got. I'm also including my own response, from a different perspective.
Lucy suggested bouncing on an exercise ball, Emily suggested the Gentle Parenting International FB Group, Stacy uses a small bed in between her and her husband while she's nursing, and Jessica said to make sure her baby gets enough rest during the day. (I personally found that life got much easier when I made sure baby Noah wasn't overtired — meaning tuning into his sleep cues and putting him down BEFORE he was getting too tired, about every two hours.)
And Liann has recommended the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" on several sleep-related threads, and I totally agree with her.
Here's my two cents on the thread:
Sleep training was brutal on me and it took FOREVER for Noah to fall asleep without needing me nearby. He's an anxiety-prone kid, for sure — looking back, I can see that in him as a baby, too. He had night terrors a lot and exhibited real fear being alone in the dark. Maybe some babies don't have as much of that fear, but Noah definitely did.
And, to be honest, I didn't mind snuggling him to sleep. I CHERISH those moments and memories, even to this day. He's 5 years old now and I still lay down with him every night until he falls asleep. I know that sounds like some kind of failure, but it's one of our most special times in the day. We have some of our best conversations snuggled up together as he's getting sleepy, and a little inquisitive, and the deep emotional stuff comes up. That's when he asks me some of his best questions and we have some of the best talks. It's where we've bonded in a way that he hasn't with anyone else.
I didn't even start thinking about sleep training until 4 months (I think that's the standard time they say to start). After a brief stint sleep training, I still ended up shushing and rocking and nursing him to sleep. I'd even hang over his crib and hold his hand until he fell asleep. It was way more time consuming back then, of course. Now I just cuddle him and hold his hand in a twin-sized bed, and he's out within minutes.
I can see the end ahead, friends. He won't want me in his bed forever, so I'm enjoying this innocence and sweetness while it's still here. I think that "nurturing" and "spoiling" (or "indulging") are two different things. To me, snuggling and comforting and bonding is on the side of nurture. Like whatever helps the kid and family be comfortable and rested is nurturing — maybe that's sleep training. Some kids don't like to snuggle at all, and they need their space to decompress and fall asleep. At 2 months old? Trust your instincts and just love. She'll be completely different in 3 months, and then 3 months after that. You're in such an exhausting time period, but it'll change soon. Just love.
Did you feel pressured to sleep train? Did sleep training work for you? Any tips for Katelyn?
For more advice on co-sleeping, sleep training, and shared sleep struggles, request to join our private group.