We have gone 17 months of sleepless nights and with few naps mixed in. The earth has circled the sun 517 days, which means we have had 517 sleepless nights.
There have been 73 weeks that have gone by and at the end of those weeks I would say "Next week will be the week my baby boy will sleep.", but next week never came.
If you have worn these shoes before and sleep walked the many days of no sleep like me, then you get where I am coming from. You feel exhausted. You feel defeated. You feel helpless. You feel unfit. And in all of those feelings, you have little Johnny's (random name example) mom telling you about the sleep trick that helped their baby sleep at 4 months. (Insert eye roll)
As a mom, you are naturally happy for them because you do not want anyone to experience this kind of lack of success like you. But at the same time you are jealous as you are human to wish/ want/ dream of your baby sleeping at 5 months. And then when the mom starts telling you how refreshed she feels and how much her baby is thriving and hitting milestones you just feel like the other mom is bragging and not being respectful of your feelings.
So if you are anything like me, I know there are things you wish people would understand when you are talking to them about your sleep struggles:
Something a mom just doesn't want in that moment is for someone to share a baby product they should try to help their baby sleep, because they most likely have already tried a dozen products.
Something a mom just doesn't want in that moment is someone to share another sleep training article, because she has already read them all.
Something a mom just doesn't want is for another mom to share how she succeeded in sleep training their baby as a newborn, because her child is not a newborn anymore - her child is a toddler and still not sleeping.
Something a mom just doesn't want is for another person to suggest to hire a sleep trainer, because that mom may not have the funds to hire one.
Something a mom just doesn't want is to hear someone say "Maybe your baby isn't getting enough milk from you." "Maybe you should try formula." "Maybe your baby isn't eating enough solids." Using responses like that, a mom doesn't want to hear it because you don't know how much she produces. You don't know if her baby will take a bottle or not. You don't know how much solids she feeds her baby. You don't know if hear baby has a milk allergy.
When you just don't know the full story, but you can tell a mom wants to talk, just let her talk because
Sometimes a mom just wants to cry to let go of the emotions of defeat.
Sometimes a mom just wants to hand her baby to someone else so she can take a shower to regain her strength and faith in herself.
Sometimes a mom just wants to vent her feelings to let go of the feeling of helplessness.
Sometimes a mom just wants to hand her baby to someone else so she can have a 30 minute nap.
Sometimes a mom just needs a hug of silence, so she feels loved and supported.
The feelings of a sleepless mother and the words from others who just want to help are hard to navigate, because every mother and every support person is different. But I think we need to be mindful of how we approach this topic. We need to be mindful of a mothers feelings, and emotions. To be a great friend, is to be a great listener and to feel out what the mother needs.
As one mother struggles through the sleepless night and you want to understand a little bit about where she may be coming from so you can help support her - think back to a time you lived through the days of sleepless nights (even if it was just for the first 4 months). Those nights and days are not easy. And I'm sure, when you think back to those days you can vividly remember these days when you were new moms.
You most likely had read books that said our babies should be napping every X hours.
You most likely spent the day obsessing over how many hours your baby slept (or didn't sleep).
You most likely had some brain fog about what that book said or what the doctor said.
And you most likely wished you could be like that Instagram mom who has it together with their perfect home and sleeping baby (believe me she most likely doesn't.)
As we are all human, we go through so many emotions in the first few months (or years). I'm sure you too had those feelings of failure because you couldn’t get your babies to sleep, until you eventually got them to sleep. There's a possibility you missed out on enjoying so many things in those early days because you were trying to do things “right” instead of just enjoying where they were in that moment.
For me, I spent so much time trying to control something that was not fully within my control. This was a huge light bulb moment that a sleep doctor at Boston Children's Hospital told me:
Being able to fall asleep is an extremely vulnerable moment to be in and it’s not within our conscious control. Just like us adults, falling asleep is not something we can command our brains to do.
Someone can't walk up to you and say "Go to sleep" and you fall asleep right then and there. It takes time for your brain to go through the circadian rhythm process for you to eventually fall asleep. Also everyones rhythm is different. So all of those sleep books that create these schedules for you and tell you your baby should go to bed at 7PM or 8PM for them to sleep through the night; yea that is not true for every baby.
It turns out my son doesn't need as much sleep as another toddler his age. Bed time at 9:30PM works for him. And with that bedtime change in his schedule, I am happy to report that we went from waking up every 2 - 3 hours, to sleeping through the night from 9:30PM - 5AM!
I'm sure you're wondering if I did anything else to help him sleep - I did! We started using Gentle Baby essential oil. Ya'll this stuff works. We dilute it and roll a little on him. How do we know this works?
A.) He started sleeping through the night the first time we used it.
B.) We tried to do a test run without it for a night and he didn't go to bed until midnight.
So now, I am happy to report that we are 1 full month of sleep-full nights!! Thats 30 days of sleep, 4 weeks of sleep, and 1 month of sleep. I feel like I am still adjusting my brain to feel like this is our norm. But my brain fog is gone. I am not as emotional talking about this topic. I am not as easily frustrated. And I feel like I am becoming me again.
So what I can tell any other momma who is wearing those sleep-less night slippers - it sucks and it's hard, but you're body will adjust to this temporary norm little sleep and you're body will adjust back to your old norm of good sleep. Just think about this - the more we feel like we can control our babies' sleep, the more we can easily fall into this pattern of feeling like we're doing it wrong or failing. When we start to second guess ourselves and start to stress about sleep, it becomes increasingly more difficult for our babies to go to sleep, because how could you sleep if the person you depend on for everything is not feeling right?
The truth is though, that sometimes, our babies just need us more than they need sleep. And for my son, I think that is what he needed in that time of sleep-less nights.
For the first 12 months of his life he had so many colds and bugs, so of course he wanted his momma. Then he went through these growth issues, so maybe his body and mind just needed me some more. But now we found something to help soothe him with the essential oils. He still wants his momma a lot, but at least he is slowing learning to sleep by himself.
When you take a step back and realize that this will be the case some days, you can rest and enjoy the days as they come. I hope this blog post of my experience gives other mommas a little piece of confidence to enjoy every single snuggle, every little moment and focus on you your baby and not what others say on the sleep topic. You do what you feel is best for you and your baby.