Very cute. Very loud.
Q. Dear Jordan,
I was wondering if you ever wrote a post about how you and Kendrick dealt with getting your children to sleep through the night? My baby girl still wakes up multiple times a night, often winds up in our bed, and still needs to nurse to sleep. I don’t think I can handle full-on “crying it out,” but I just started working again full-time and I am EXHAUSTED.
Something needs to change, but I am overwhelmed by it all. It’s hard not to feel like a failure as a mom when it seems like every other baby in the world sleeps perfectly through the night. I know you’re not an expert but I’d love to hear about your experiences. – C
A. Dear C,
Alright, let me start by telling you the point when I could no longer stomach one more page of Bringing Up Bebe. I had already read about how French children need nothing more than for their mother to raise an eyebrow in order to transform into little angels, but when I got to the part where French children sleep from 7 o’clock in the evening to 7 o’clock in the morning because their mothers will it to be so, I was done. No more Frenchie judgment, please; I have enough things to feel badly about without adding “my children’s unspectacular sleep habits” to the mix.
Positive side-effect of not sleeping, ever: you get to take funny puffy-eyed early-morning PhotoBooth photos.
Let me next tell you what my very wise friend Katie told me when I told her that I was worried about the fact that my son was approaching two years old and still using a pacifier.
“Whatever,” she said. “It’s not like he’s going to be bringing a pacifier with him to high school.”
I like this attitude a lot. And think it can be applied to all sorts of parenting situations (sleep training, potty training, speaking, reading, and so on). Devoting time to teaching our children good habits is great, but worrying about whether our children are following someone else’s idea of what these habits should be is stressful…and ultimately unhelpful.
My daughter slept in my bed every single night from the day she came home, because Kendrick was in school and it was easier (and nicer) to have her next to me. Then, at around six months old, she went from waking up two or three times a night to waking up practically every hour, and I couldn’t handle it. So I decided to move her into her crib – and she’s essentially stayed there ever since, sleeping from about 7:30PM to about 7:30AM every night (um…except when she doesn’t).
Why? Because I am French and perfect, obviously.
…Or because I got lucky, despite the fact that I did literally nothing to create this situation (although if someone wanted to give me a million dollars to write down my “tactics” in a book, I’m sure I could come up with something).
Our son appears to be sleeping in this photograph. Trust, he was not; this was a well-timed blink.
Our experience with Indy was opposite in every way: he never slept in our bed, even as an infant – not because we didn’t want him to, but rather he absolutely would not sleep if he could see us. Having him cry in his crib (where we knew he’d eventually pass out) seemed preferable to having him cry in our bed (where he wouldn’t) – and so we tried to let him cry it out…but usually ended up just giving him whatever the F he wanted so that we could sleep for a hot minute.
Obviously this is not what the “experts” would say to do, but in our defense: our son did not react to crying it out like the experts said he would, and he did not react to sleeping in our bed like the experts said he would. Nope, he just did his own very special thing, which mostly involved devising new and exciting ways to keep his parents nice and alert all night long.
It wasn’t the most relaxing part of my life, but you know what happened? Eventually he started sleeping through the night. Because that’s what babies do; hopefully sooner, but sometimes later.
You know what I think the biggest difference between how I dealt with my two children was, though? Obviously Goldie had her rough nights too…except the second time around, I expected them, and so they somehow seemed more manageable. I had episodes of Botched pre-loaded onto my DVR, and so when I had to wander around my room bouncing her at 3AM, I tried to find something – anything – to enjoy about the experience, even if it was only the fact that I could watch reality TV for hours without feeling guilty about it. And just knowing that there was a day coming when I would be able to sleep again – and trust me, I know that it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it – made a big difference.
So. I think that teaching children good sleep habits is important, and I wish I had some concrete advice to give you, but I think the Internet (and other moms) are probably more helpful than I am in this regard. What I can tell you is to remember that all the “rules” are really nothing more than suggestions; things that worked for some people, and didn’t work for others. And if they don’t work for your baby, they’re not for you. It’s that simple.
There is no one right way to handle virtually any aspect of parenting, and what I find it generally comes down to is this: If you’re mulling over this kind of thing at all, reaching out for help and trying to find solutions that work both for you and for your child, that means that you are a loving, thoughtful parent. And you are a rock star for that reason alone.
And if all else fails: Sleep when the baby sleeps! That always works…right?* 😉
*This never works, because all babies everywhere have the ability to immediately sense when their mother has just laid down for a nap, and are programmed to respond by instantly needing All Of The Things, and right now please.