Okay, okay. You may be thinking groggily...letting a baby "cry it out" is heartless and harmful. I agree.
BUT I'm totally and utterly weary to the bone. What do I do about that? (Yawn...)
That's a completely legitimate concern. After all, it's hard to be a good parent when you are sleep-deprived.
Here are my top three tips to help you and your family get more sleep...
- Start by cutting yourself some slack. Relax your expectations. There's a lot of pressure in our culture to get your baby to sleep through the night as fast as possible. People started asking us if our baby was sleeping through the night pretty much the day after we got home from the hospital. Silly, people. Don't they know that..."…waking up once or twice a night is really normal during the first two years of life…and until about age three, a great percentage of children wake up during the night needing a parent’s attention”? In fact, “it is perfectly natural, absolutely normal, and totally expected for your toddler or preschooler to wake up in the night and need your help to fall back asleep” (Elizabeth Pantley, The No-Cry Sleep Solution).
- Take into account that your baby is a unique human being. You know how some adults can totally live off of 6 hours of sleep per night, while others need 9+ to avoid becoming a Grump Monster? Well, babies are like that too. Some babies need less sleep than others. Some babies need more nighttime nourishment. Some babies want to be right by your side; others like to have their own special space. Our two daughters are definitely different from each other when it comes to their sleeping habits...and that's okay. All this to say, don't compare your baby to your friends' babies or watch "sleep charts" too closely. Just because your neighbor's 6-month-old baby is sleeping through the night doesn't mean that your baby should be too...or that her baby is a "good baby" and your baby is not. Actually, maybe your baby will grow up to be one of those hugely productive individuals who can operate brilliantly on minimal amounts of sleep. Likewise, just because Dr. SmartyPants says that most babies sleep X number of hours per day or that toddlers still need naps at age 2 doesn't mean your baby will fit neatly in those categories. Babies are people, too, after all.
- Question the current "sleep advice." We, for example, co-sleep with our babies or have them sleep in our room through about age one (gasp!). And we don't own a crib (gasp!). And we let our baby sleep on her stomach (triple gasp!). Oh, and I nurse my babies to sleep and, supposedly, that's a big no-no. But now that my older one is two years old, I can tell you with confidence that it was not at all hard to "transition" her from our room to her room. And she sleeps all through the night now - calmly, peacefully - in her own room, in her own bed. She knows with 100% confidence that we will come to her if she calls.
- Do what works best for your family. You can read more about this in my previous post - How to Get a Good Night's Sleep, but - essentially - I think it's best to talk to your spouse, come up with a plan, and follow your heart. Babies do eventually grow up and sleep through the night. I can assure you of that. I know that it's super hard to imagine right now, but that day will come eventually. And when that day arrives, you will probably miss these nursing sessions and little cries for "Mama" in the middle of the night. You'll look back with a wistful sigh and remember everything through rose-colored glasses. You'll realize it was a brief "season" of life - a beautiful, chaotic, crazy time - full of little sleep...but lots and lots of love.
Best wishes to you and your family!