Folk Tales | Sleep

There are certain things that mothers around the country – probably around the world – argue about.
Vaccines.
Education.
Co-sleeping.
Organic food.
Television.
{In comprising this list, I realized that these are very affluent issues. I’m guessing mothers in the Australian bush argue about very different things.}
One of those controversial topics is the issue of purposely letting a child cry, or the “cry-it-out” method. I have heard extremes on this issue. Mostly on the “no” side. One mother condemned other moms for letting their babies cry even when they are driving. She advised pulling over and doing… whatever they want you to do I guess. I’m not sure how that would play out if you were, say, in LA style traffic on the freeway. I think the extreme on the “yes” side would be a mentally unwell mother who never held her children or attended to their needs. We can all agree that that is not healthy.

Anyway, some friends of ours had implemented this method – in a non-extreme way – and their baby was sleeping through the night quite happily (and is not emotionally damaged in any way!). Now I understand that sleeping through the night is not a litmus test for parenthood. I also understand that not all moms even want their babies to sleep through the night, but Gabe and I were intrigued. We really thoroughly enjoyed having RJ in bed with us, but we were also not getting the quality of sleep that is required for basic human function. I was battling some hormonal depression that was not being made any easier by the fact that part of me was on high-alert during the night so that RJ would not be rolled on top of and so that she could be fed at any moment.
We wrestled hard with the idea, but after a lot of prayer and deliberation we decided that it would be healthiest for our family to teach RJ to sleep in her crib. Actually, Gabe really made the decision and I – grateful for my kind and strong leader – followed with wobbly knees. A part of his decision was that he would be the one to stay up with her at night to listen to her cry and soothe her (a variation on “Ferberizing“). He decided that since he was going to be in school in just a few weeks he wanted to do this for me while he could. So for several nights in a row he would sweetly kiss me goodnight, shut our bedroom door and begin the long, long cycle of listening to his baby girl scream for a period, soothing her, and putting her in her crib. He was incredible. My hero.
Gabe says that it was easier for him to do because he knew that she was okay. Where my hormones would go crazy hearing her cry, he would instead hear her “vent.” He said, “You know how sometimes you don’t want me to fix your problem, you just want to tell me about it? I think it’s like that. She’s okay, she just needs to tell us that she’s not happy.” And that she did. But after a few nights she would cry less. And then she wouldn’t cry at all. I think it took 6 nights total, the first 3 being the worst.
We learned that we humans have sleep cycles and that during one of the phases you actually wake up! In adults, this phase goes unnoticed because we have trained ourselves to go right back to sleep. Some people do get up and have a snack, use the bathroom, whatever. If we lived in some remote part of Africa, this would probably come in handy so that we could check our area and make sure no lions were about. Anyway, it’s normal and it’s a learned skill to get oneself back into Dreamland. RJ now knows how to soothe herself so that when she does wake up in the middle of the night she isn’t scared because she knows that she will go back to sleep and Mommy and Daddy will be with her in the morning. 
For us, getting RJ to sleep through the night in her own room has been a huge blessing (I think she was 6 weeks old). Gabe and I can count on her going to sleep and having some one-on-one time with each other in the evenings. We are also able to get good rest so we can all tackle the day with energy. And if she wakes up in the middle of the night in distress we know that something is wrong so it helps us figure out how to help her. We absolutely loved sleeping with her in our bed, but it just wasn’t going to work long term for us. When she needed to nurse every couple hours and when she was still figuring out that she didn’t belong in Mommy’s womb it was a wonderful thing. I anticipate our next babies staying in our bed during their adjustment periods, too, but as of now we want to teach the next ones how to sleep through the night as well. And maybe RJ will even help soothe them! <3

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