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.


Sleep Teaching: A Success Story

August 27, 2012

I thought I was done talking about sleep training, but after receiving a dozen or so emails, tweets, and facebook messages about the details of what’s been happening over here, it seems the subject deserves one more post.


The last time Austin and I let Waylon cry it out he was 9 months old. He cried for two hours and then threw up all over his crib. It was terrible and we swore we’d never do it again.

At 14 months, the experience has been much different. Night one was rough, Night two was better, and by Night Three he was basically sleeping through the night.

Here is the schedule we follow:

So far he’s been consistently sleeping 8:30pm to 8:30am following this schedule. Honestly it couldn’t have gone much better, though I’d like to reiterate that every child is different and has a unique timeline for when he or she can sleep through the night. Also, I am not a sleep training expert. We’ve only been doing this for a week! I will, however, answer some of the questions I’ve been receiving via the Internet to be more efficient. As always, sharing is caring. Please feel free to leave your advice and experiences below.

1) Why did you decide to sleep train your son?

The short answer is that we both needed to get more sleep. We had be successfully co-sleeping for about 11 months, but over the past few weeks he was waking almost every hour and having trouble nursing back to sleep. This was frustrating for both of us. After talking to some of my most trusted momfolk about their successes with sleep teaching, I decided to give it another try.

2) I thought you put away your crib. What is Waylon sleeping in?

He’s back in the crib. Our goal is to move him back to the floor bed sometime before his third birthday or when he’s potty trained.

3) Are you still breastfeeding? How often?

Not at night (high five!), but I do still nurse him during the day. On great days we only do it 3 times; once in the morning and then before naptime and bedtime. On teething days like today, it’s more like 10 times.

4) Do you miss co-sleeping?

Yes and no. I miss him sleeping next to me but I do not missing nursing through the night. Austin has probably had the hardest time adjusting to our new sleeping arrangement. He enjoyed the family bed.

5) Is Waylon sleeping through the night?

Yes! Sometimes he’ll make a little squeak in the middle of the night, but he quickly goes back to sleep. This is amazing to me, but I also know it’s all subject to change with sickness, teething, and normal sleep regression. One day at a time.

6) Why do you think it worked this time but not the other times?

I don’t know. I’d like to think it’s because he understands what we’re saying, but my hunch is that it’s purely biological.

7) What about naps?

We started sleep-teaching during naps on day 4. It was, by far, the worst part of the whole process. He cried for an hour and I almost decided to nurse him to sleep permanently for naps. I’m glad I didn’t, though. He now goes down for a nap with only a few minutes of crying. Usually I take him upstairs around 12:45, nurse him, sing a few songs, and then put him into bed. Nap time typically lasts from 1pm to 4pm.

8) Were there any moments of doubt?

The first half hour of the first night, I wanted to quit. The rest of the time, no. Although I will say that I did have a few moments of panic during the first few days when Waylon was much more clingy and unhappy than usual. I tried to blame teething, but in the back of my mind I worried that allowing him to cry without comfort was causing him separation anxiety. Luckily he was back to his old self by Friday (day 5).

9) Do you comfort him at all if he cries?

We follow the 5 minute, 10 minute, 20 minute check-in model. As predicted by most every book I read, it’s much easier for Waylon to fall asleep if Austin is the one who returns to pat his back.

10) Are you a new woman with all this extra sleep?

By far the most popular question.

I do feel different, but it’s not any extra sleep. The most rewarding part of this experience, besides being super proud of my kid, is that I’m able to be more independent. Before, I wasn’t able to be away from Waylon for more than a few hours because I was the only one able to nurse to sleep. Now I’m able to leave him with Austin or my parents for the evening or (hopefully) overnight. This makes us all feel like superstars.

Someone asked me yesterday if I wished I’d done this sooner. Honestly I have no regrets about our first year of sleeping and breastfeeding, but I am excited about this new chapter. Thanks to everyone who gave advice or helped encourage us this past week. It’s been a tremendous support. We feel the love. Waylon, too.

Happy sleeping.


Sleep Training a One Year Old: Night 2

August 22, 2012

For those of you who have already sleep trained your children or have no children to sleep train or who aren’t interested in sleep training, these posts may be a bit boring. But for those of you scouring the Internet, searching for answers, trying to figure out the hows and whens and whys of sleep training (or as I like to call it “sleep teaching”)–this is for you. Out of all the advice, statistics, and facts I found in my research–the most helpful information was real life stories with real life examples.

Continued from Night One

Night Two

Last night we followed the same schedule as the night before, except we started an hour earlier at 7pm. This was not intentional but necessary, he was exhausted.  I also had my mom around to help this time (Austin is swamped this week) so that I didn’t have to listen to the first part of the crying alone (the worst part). I actually left the house during the bedtime routine to hang out with some friends and returned around 9:20 after hearing he still wasn’t asleep. Apparently he cried the entire time I was gone, though it was never a scared or desperate cry. He just wanted to be picked up and nursed to sleep as he’d been conditioned to do.

When I arrived home, I immediately wanted to hold him–but my mom reassured me he was fine and that he was close to falling asleep. She had been staying in the room with him and patting his back every 5, 10, 20 (etc) minutes as instructed. Within 5 minutes of my return, he was asleep and he did not wake up again until midnight. Total crying time: 2 hours, 23 minutes.

When I first heard him awake at midnight, I was prepared for a repeat of the night before (or worse), having to get up every half hour or so to reassure him. This time, however, he simply whimpered for 5 minutes and then fell back to sleep on his own. He repeated this 3 more times until morning, putting himself back to sleep each time. It was amazing.


From the beginning I wanted to keep our morning snuggle and feeding routine, so I decided that anytime after 6 it’s okay to join us in bed and nurse. At 6:01am this morning, he started to cry and so I brought him into bed, fed him, and he slept until 8:15 when I woke him up to start the day.

Things I Know For Sure

If you are deciding on whether or not to sleep train, consider the following:

1) A support system. Get your family, friends, and/or partner involved to help reassure you and hold you accountable. Ask them to bring beer and cookies. Play games. Get out of the house. Listen to 90s throw backs and throw yourself a dance party (but do not under any circumstances listen to sad indie music). Surround yourself with supportive people, otherwise the pain of listening to your child calling for you will leave you in a pit of despair and Oreos.

2) Don’t do it if you’re not comfortable or if you’re baby isn’t ready. Austin and I tried this same method twice before when Waylon was 5 months and 9 months old. Both times he responded with frantic screaming that never changed to a normal cry. He wasn’t ready and I certainly was not ready either. Every child is different.

3) Ask questions and get answers. I texted my trusted mom-friends Candis and Erin a hundred times to ask them about the details. Like, can I still nurse him to sleep for naps? (For now) When can I bring him into bed? (After 6)  What time do I put him to sleep? (No later than 8)

4) Look at the upside. Amidst all the crying these past two nights, I’ve really tried hard to focus on the upsides. For example, goodbye sore nipples! Or the fact that I have much more patience in the morning after being apart all night long. If the pros outweigh the cons, there’s a good chance you and baby are ready.

To be continued.


Sleep Training a One Year Old : Night 1

August 21, 2012

I’ve talked a lot about sleep; about co-sleeping and breastfeeding and Montessori beds. I’ve been honest about my doubts and happy about our choices. Together, as a family, we’ve learned and grown.

I knew it was time for Waylon to stop night-nursing a few weeks ago when he began waking often and sleeping poorly. It was a hard truth to swallow. I’ve been enjoying co-sleeping, but the twilight breastfeeding was becoming a burden, disrupting our sleep, and making both of us cranky during the day. The deal was sealed when I took the baby away this weekend on a trip he shouldn’t have been on just because I couldn’t leave him overnight. The point was further made on Sunday night when he woke at least a dozen times, tossing and turning and kicking me in the stomach. That night something clicked in my brain, something that said: IT’S TIME.

For months I’ve researched different sleep training methods and talked to a lot of moms about their successes and failures. What I learned was that every baby is different; what works for one child will not work for another.

For a while I considered doing the “crying in arms” approach, but dismissed it after realizing Waylon is a strong boy and would never allow me to hold him while he cried out of frustration. I also considered sleeping in his room with him so he wouldn’t feel scared or alone, but decided against that too–worrying it would be like dangling a steak in front of a hungry dinosaur. I settled on the teachings taught in the book Sleeping Through The Night, which is basically an updated Ferber method.

I’ll be honest, all day long I had a pit in my stomach the size of Texas about our new arrangement. I dreaded the night and longed for tomorrow. Mostly I didn’t want to hear my baby cry. I even talked myself out of it a few times, but when I thought about another night of battling the nursing monster, I knew I couldn’t do that either.

When it was finally time to start, I sent out a dozen or so SOS texts for back up because I knew I would need help, reassurance that this is a good thing and to be held accountable to follow through. Everyone responded promptly, two even came over and brought beer, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Here is what last night looked like:

6:30pm: Bath (High needs babies are often stimulated by baths so we don’t ever do it right before bed because he’s very awake and excited after).

7:30pm: Oatmeal and yogurt (to make sure his belly is full)

8:00pm: Diapered, pajamaed, and in his room for stories, songs, nursing, and cuddles.

8:30pm: Lights out, put in pack n’ play awake.

8:31: Utter despair.

I’m not going to lie, he cried a lot. The first 30 minutes was the worst. He screamed so loud I was sure the neighbors could hear. A few times my eyes filled with tears, and yet I never felt like he was scared or traumatized. He just wanted to nurse, as he’d been conditioned to do.

Most of last night is a blur, but I think his total crying time was probably around 3 hours. 45 minutes to fall asleep the first time, and then up multiple times between 12:30 and 3:30 to cry for at least 20 minutes each time. As instructed, I checked on him after 5 minutes, after 10 minutes, and then after 20 minutes. I never picked him up, just simply reassured him by repeating “I love you” and “It’s time for sleep.” I also helped him to lie down again and patted his back.

After the final bout of exhausted crying ending around 3:30, he slept until 7:50am. 7:50! My boobs were the size of watermelons and my heart was full of pride for my big boy.

Surviving night one gives me hope about night two and night three. It gives me hope that someday we’ll all be sleeping through the night and he’ll be back in his floor bed sleeping soundly. It gives me hope for early morning family bed cuddles without the expectation to nurse. It gives me hope for change.

Continue to —–> Night Two