By Halina Newberry Grant
My 5 1/2 month old used to be an expert sleeper-up until about 3 1/2 months. Life circumstances threw us all off schedule and out of our routine, and now we are repairing the damage. Most parents confront sleep training some time in the first year of their baby’s life, and if they don’t, I don’t want to hear about it. Bully for them.
First you have to choose your method, and while doing so, you must weigh the advice and suggestions from friends and relatives, and then go with your gut based on what you know about someone who’s only been alive a few months and who is changing every day and going through growth spurts and sleep regression and teething, to name a few possible obstacles.
Once you’ve chosen your method, you must ignore the doubt and panic that sets in, suggesting you chose wrong. You must also, constantly, tune out the well-meaning advice of others who think you’re doing it wrong, and who find creative ways to tell you that. You must memorize the relevant chapters of the book you’re using, so that at 4 in the morning you remember what to do when she roots to nurse and you’re counting backwards trying to determine if enough hours have passed since the last time you dropped strap, and you’ve left your notes in the other room and you forgot to look at the clock on the way in. You must bury your self doubt beneath weeks of no sleep and loneliness and despair at seeing your sweet beloved cry because she’s even more tired and confused than are you.
The emotional, mental, physical and spiritual work is relentless, and the only reason you trudge through is because there is the hope and promise and evidence that this will work, and that you will, after some time, get a solid and restorative chunk of sleep. You also trudge through because if you’re like me, you’ve never cared so much about a job, and never put so much of yourself, your time, your heart, your patience, your creativity, your stamina, your care, your earnestness into anything else you’ve tried. And, moving forward, I will know which other jobs are worth any amount of this sacrifice, because I will weigh their worth in lost hours of sleep.