Nightmares in Sleep Training


In the past couple of months, I have come to the realization that to be good mother (actually, to be a generally good human) I need to sleep. Period.

I know the newborn time is the time when we need to let go of some of our own needs to serve the greater good—meaning my infant’s needs trump my own–but my infant’s needs will be better met on days where Mama gets her rest. And so we have decided to start sleep training our four-month-old.

I am following the advice of Kim West, also known as “The Sleep Lady,” who I interviewed for a story recently and whom I think has the best method of sleep training. Our problem is not with the going to sleep, though. Our problem is with the waking for food.

He goes down just fine around 8 p.m. after a bath and nursing session. Then he wakes around 11 to eat and then all bets or off. On a bad night, he spends upwards of three hours suckling. This what they call in sleep professional land, “a poor pattern.” Who knew?

Given this reality, last night we commenced Operation Break the Night Feed, but it felt more like Operation Mommy Breakdown.

Because Alan has slept 8 hours stretches some nights, he is capable of doing so. So when he wakes to eat, we simply do not feed him. We rock, we shush, we pat, we swaddle, but we do not feed.

My boy is stubborn. At 2:30 he woke and screamed for a half hour. During that half hour we managed to wake our neighbors, get into a fight over who had “shushing duty”, cry, whimper and end up curled in the fetal position repeating “this is the best thing for him, this is the best thing for him, this is the best thing for him.”

He fell back asleep, but I may be traumatized for life.

Around 4:30 he woke again and after 10 minutes of tears, I gave in. I figured 5+ hours was close enough. Maybe I will be braver tonight. But he is my baby. My daughter (blessed is she) slept through the night at six weeks, which makes me a bit green when it comes to this stuff.

We will make this work. Tonight, I will hang this over my pillow to remind me of when I love him the very best:

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