Sleep, or the lack thereof, has consumed my thoughts for the last nine months. I knew taking care of a newborn would be tiring, but I got through those early days by telling myself that by the 6-month mark I would see some dramatic improvement. Six months came and went. Then seven months. But when month eight rolled around and my dear, sweet daughter was still having nights when she’d wake up almost EVERY HOUR, I knew something had to be done.
I know cry-it-out methods have worked for bajillions of people. But as I’ve mentioned, I have a need—to a fault—to keep my baby from crying. I even found a study to support my craziness: Breastfeeding has apparently turned on the empathy portion of my brain so much that I MUST SOOTHE. So while I’ve had to let her cry when at my wit’s end, I’ve been unable to just “let her cry” as a method for her to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on her own.
When I finally hit that nine-month-I-can’t-take-it-any-more mark, I knew I needed professional help. I knew that a 9-month-old should be physically capable of sleeping longer than 1- and 2-hour stretches. I mean, people: The longest she’d ever slept in a row had been like four hours, and that was when all the stars in the universe were aligned perfectly and none of them were shining in her bedroom.
Because of my anti-crying stance, I turned to the No Cry Sleep Solution. And sleepless moms: It has been a godsend.
As a breastfeeding, co-sleeping mom, author Elizabeth Pantley had dealt with a baby who wanted to nurse every time he woke up. And while I’m not co-sleeping (most of the time), my daughter refused to fall back to sleep unless she nursed. Most of the time she’d be asleep as soon as she hit the boob, but my sleep was oh-so-interrupted because we’d repeat this cycle again as soon as she woke up and my boob (and, I guess, the rest of me) was missing .
You know how they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? Hello, all. Nice to meet you. I’m Insanity.
The author had me pegged from the get-go. She was all “I get it! You’re exhausted! And you know that part of the problem is that you nurse the baby to sleep, and then the baby wakes up and you have to repeat, repeat, repeat because that’s how the baby has learned to fall asleep. And you do this repetition because it’s the fastest way to get your baby back to sleep. But you must toughen up for the short term and break this cycle because right now, your baby is the boss.” Or something like that.
As Sleep Master Pantley said in the book, it would take time to see results, as this wasn’t a quick-fix method. So I started logging baby sleep in a spreadsheet and being a Nap Nazi. Sleepless people of the world: I saw results in days. Yes, it’s sometimes two steps forward and one back. And yes, she still wakes up a couple of times most nights. But it is a far, far, far, far, far cry (get it? Ha!) from where we were six weeks ago.
We haven’t achieved sleeping perfection by any stretch, and we’re still working out the kinks. (I’ll share my top tips tomorrow, so tune in!) We haven’t yet arrived at the promised land, which is being able to soothe the baby back to sleep without even going into her room. Or the promised-promised land, which is her not waking up until about 7 a.m. But the fact that she’s able to wake up and soothe herself without our help—without endless crying—is nothing short of a miracle. If Elizabeth Pantley is ever up for sainthood, I will write her a stellar letter of recommendation. —Erin