Tag Archives: Sleep

In Gut We Trust

April 23, 2014


We are given a lot of advice when the first kid comes along. Some of it is helpful, some of it is not. Mostly we just try to trust our gut and not screw up this first, giant experiment.

The first year with Waylon we did a lot of Dr. Sears, trust-your-gut, attachment, no-cry, sleep-in-the-same-bed, millennial kind of parenting. It was difficult but it was good. Good and messy and wonderfully bonding. I do not regret it.

Then the second baby came along and this weird thing happened where past experience was supposed to help, but instead everything was fuzzy and I could not remember what to do for diaper rash.

We are told over and over again to trust our instincts, but there are times when you stare at a three-month old baby who hasn’t napped for more than 20 minutes in three days and good ol’ Mrs. Instinct says nothing. She is mum, she is silent, she is totally gone.

That is when you know it’s time to spiral down the path of most resistance–The Google. The Google has a lot of things to tell you about parenting. For example: 1) Your child has a brain tumor 2) Your child has a concussion or 3) Your child has a life threatening bone cancer.

There are also a lot of opinions on The Google. Like don’t sleep train. Do sleep train. Vaccinate your kids. Don’t vaccinate your kids. Definitely or definitely do not circumcise/co-sleep/bottlefeed/put the elf on the freaking shelf.

Books and humans are no better, no worse. Everything in parenting comes with mixed reviews and a list of side effects lasting until college (unless you don’t sleep train, then your kid isn’t going to college).

It is exhausting.

There is an old latin proverb that says if you sleep train a 3-month-old and potty train a 2-year-old in the same week you will die.

I took a chance anyway a few weeks ago and set aside everything to focus on getting one kid to poop in a plastic bowl and the other to sleep for more than 30 minutes. It was as glamorous as it sounds.

At first it all went very smoothly. Naps were extended and M&Ms were dispensed with copious amounts of praise. I thought, “Look at me! I am doing it! I trusted my instincts and my children are little drunk miracles!”

The whole thing was very tragic. I forgot in my parenting glory the rule that the moment you get cocky about sleep training or potty training or any parenting is the exact moment your toddler will shit on the floor and your baby will stop sleeping all together.

It was sad but inevitable. I tried to act natural but panicked in the eleventh hour and started binge reading books and websites on how to properly parent. I emailed my friends, texted my neighbors, called my aunt up on the phone and cried: MY KID IS SCARED OF POOPING. I read four sleep books cover to cover in 48 hours.

Here is what I learned: It is good to listen. It is good to email your cousin and read parenting books and post on mommy forums and cut out little write-ups in Reader’s Digest. It is good to hear all the information we can humanly handle before we take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of all that parenting jargon about don’t you dare and if you do so we can get down to the real and important work of actually parenting. Because when we let it go, the important things always remain. Instinct takes over and is gently helped along by the words we were supposed to hear.

A few days ago while I was putting my baby down for a nap, the phrase, “Act as if you expect your child to sleep” buzzed in my brain. I have no idea where I read it, but it stuck and I repeated it to myself as I stared at my four month old squirming in her bed. I did not expect her to fall asleep, but I could pretend. And so I patted her back one more time and left the room. She fell asleep within minutes. Sometimes babies, my baby, just needs a little space.

As we continue to grow as parents, our instincts sharpen–but so does our knowledge. Experience is most of it, but sometimes Google helps too. It’s all a big, messy mix.

In gut we trust. Amen.


This Is Not Advice On Sleep Training.

September 4, 2013

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At least twice a week, someone emails me about sleep training. It’s either a sad, desperate mama who is ready to sleep train their baby or a sad, desperate mama who is not ready but just wants to say I’m not sleeping and this is the worst.

I hear you.

I have been both of these moms and I get it. The whole thing is hard and confusing and everyone just wants to do the right thing. I like to think of the first year of parenthood as pure Survival Mode. We’re all just figuring each other out and trying not to die. My only real advice is this: give yourself grace. Plenty of grace. Give the baby grace too. They are not ruining your life on purpose. They barely have enough brain cells to poop properly.

I’ve written sleep training posts before, but after the consistent emails and realizing the sleep posts are some of the most read/googled–I thought I should write another one to let everyone know that 1) it gets better and 2) you are brave.

Waylon was 14 months when we sleep trained him. It was not something we ever intended to do. In fact, it was probably our first major parenting disagreement. I wanted to do it and Austin did not. He thought it was cruel and unnecessary, which was exactly how I felt about getting up 3 to 300 times a night.

For the first year, I didn’t mind nursing all night long. After we switched to co-sleeping and floor beds, the whole thing was remarkably wonderful. Despite some minor sleep deprivation, I felt great about nursing on demand and cuddling all night long. It was very bonding.

But then somewhere around 13 months, Waylon started sleeping poorly and we slept less and less. Finally a switch went off in my brain and my body said ENOUGH. I wanted my boobs, sleep, and husband back at night. I wanted to be able to go out in the evenings, go away overnight, and have more independence. I wanted some of my life back.

You can read all about how it went, but to sum it up in one sentence: It was really, really sad and then really, really wonderful.

Every kid is different. Every parent is different. But sleep training (or as I like to call it “sleep teaching”) worked wonders for us. Waylon is now 2 years old and sleeps at least ten hours at night with a long nap in the afternoon. For the past glorious year I have been able to leave for bookclub and late dinners and overnight beach trips without worrying that my kid can’t sleep without me. So cheers to that.

I’m about to reset this whole sleep dream when baby #2 arrives in December, so if you’re reading this future self—remember it gets better. One year is not one million years. You are brave. You are a warrior.

You are brave breastfeeding through the night and brave when you decide it’s over. You know what’s best for you and your baby.

Listen to your body.

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Tips & Reminders For Future Self

1) Routine. Routine. Routine. I know routine is annoying and you want to be the cool, flexible mom wearing a flowy skirt and watching the sun set in field of flowers…but you don’t have time for that right now because it’s 7:30 and time to start the bath, pjs, snack, stories, songs, lights out process. Sorry. Thank me later.

2) Get support. When you start sleep training, have at least 5 back up mamas to tell you that your baby won’t die and that it’s okay if you ugly cry into your living room pillows. It’s really hard.

3) Regression is normal. Every few months or so, it’s normal for babies and toddlers and kids to fight sleep during the day and during the night too. Deep breaths. It always gets better. Persevere. Guard naps like Braveheart. See #1.

4) Make sleep a positive experience. Talk about how wonderful it is to be rested and how comfortable it is to be in bed. Read lots of stories and sing lots of songs before sleep time. Even if you have work deadlines or fourteen phone calls to return, set it all aside to take an hour to cuddle and end the day on a positive note. If your toddler spits his toothpaste in your face and screams NO BRUSH TEETH–leave the room, count to 10, and remember ice cream and Netflix is within reach in the near future. (Easier said than done).

5) It gets better. Remember when your kid used to throw all his food on the floor or when he used to cry every time you put him in the carseat? That’s over now! You worked through it! It got better! It always does. Phases come and go, and while sleep is often a constant battle–you are strong, you are brave, and you know what’s best for your kid. At some point you and your spawn will sleep through the night and celebrate with brownies for breakfast. It will be a good day.


Happy sleeping.