If you're reading this, you may be feeling hopeless that you'll never sleep again. I'm sorry. I know. It sucks. It really, really sucks in the not funny, losing-your-mind kind of way. But good news: there is hope.
Even if you've tried everything, even if you've read every book and tried every sleep training method under the sun, there is hope. Though all the branded sleep-training strategists will try to convince you that their system is best, there is no right or wrong way to teach your baby to sleep. You are the expert -- all you need is permission to throw the books away, and believe that you're in charge. If you haven't seen what happens to parents who read every baby sleep expert book, in a nutshell, here's the (hilarious) story.
Though I'm adamantly against all of these branded baby sleep books, with their confoundingly complex sleep-training methods and systems (which lead nearly every desperately sleep-deprived family to repeated failure), I reluctantly wrote my own new e-book.The title, "Three Vital Steps To Help Your Baby Sleep", cracks me up because it's really the antithesis to everything else you will read and very different than a simple 3 step cure. I just wanted people to read it (therefore the annoyingly catchy title). Though it actually DOES include 3 Vital Steps, they're not what you think. It's all part of my evil plan to actually provide something useful that won't make families feel like crap, but actually help them sleep. I'm reserving some free copies for my community, so send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with E-BOOK in the subject bar, and I'll send you a copy - my gift!
Meanwhile, I give you permission to burn all your other books. Henceforth, you will have no need for them. :)
In this video, I share some of my tips for parents of babies and toddlers about sleep -- and how to get more of it. (Newsflash: It's probably not what you think!)
Real question from a real mom: "Will it ever get easier traveling with a baby and a toddler?" Me: "Yes, in about 4 years."
I wish I were kidding, but it's true. Before kids, I swore I would schlep my kids with me to exotic places like India, South Africa and Scotland. But then I learned the harsh, ugly truth. One trip to Seattle with a baby and a toddler waking at 3am cured me forever. And we're much happier now vacationing in big tacky all-inclusive Caribbean resorts where we can "Dump & Run" at the Kids' Club...So if you’re traveling with wee ones during the holidays, be prepared for sleep regressions and to need a vacation when you come home. Yes, it really will suck, but here are my Top 3 Tips to make it feel less painful:
- Go with the flow. Your sleep schedule will get messed up when you travel. If you let your baby nap on the fly, you will have more fun.
- Stress less; sleep more. Drink extra wine, give yourself permission to co-sleep, take turns on the couch (with earplugs!), and deal with sleep regressions when you get home.
- Accept support. Allow well-meaning family and friends to help, and give them jobs! Whether you need a nap, a date or a shoulder rub - delegate, accept, and ye shall receive.
You both have jobs, but only one of you gets paid. There’s a common myth that the Bread Winner has a harder job, but it's just not true. I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and I guarantee that childfree office work is a trillion times easier. I was shocked when my former boss tap-danced into the office on Mondays, openly giddy to be free of diapers and tantrums. I get it now. The harsh truth is that parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.
I don’t care if you're a banker or lawyer or candlestick maker, you Bread Winners get to leave, you get a break, you can pee whenever you want, your work has material value, and you don't feel like a loser when you can’t manage a shower or finish folding massive mounds of laundry.
So the next time you wonder why your spouse is so stressed when you come home from your relaxing office job, think twice before you ask why. Instead, I dare you to swap jobs for a week and see how it feels to be needed 24/7, to have your work focused exclusively on naps, puke and poops. You will learn a lot, and your marriage will benefit, because you will finally understand what it feels like to walk in your partner’s shoes.
You lovingly rocked and shushed and soothed your newborn, and have likely enjoyed many peaceful moments while she slept in your arms. You learned to ever so gently to lay her down, and it worked – for a while. Then sometime between 4-7 months, you find that you can’t get her to fall asleep so easily, and your previously peaceful sleep routine turns into a 45-90 minute ordeal. Suddenly, no amount of nursing, rocking, bouncing and shushing works, and no matter what you try, she wakes up screaming the minute you put her down. Repeat 8-12 times, night and day, and you end up feeling like you’re in a bottomless pit with no way out. I've been there, I know.
First of all, you haven’t done anything wrong. You’ve been helping your baby sleep, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if it stops working and you find that your entire life revolves around trying to get your baby to sleep, then maybe something needs to change.
I’d like to invite you to think about how your baby sleeps, and be honest with yourself. Do you really think you’re helping her sleep with all the bouncing and shushing and nursing and rocking? Is it helpful to go in and out of the room, pick her up and put her down, over and over again, while she’s trying to fall asleep?
If any of this resonates with you, maybe you can give yourself permission to simply DO LESS. I’m not saying you should send her off to boarding school at 5 months old, but can you simply pull back a little bit, and empower her to feel 100% secure and safe falling asleep without all your help?
You're a new parent, and you're trying to roll with all the constant changes. One day you think you have it all under control, the next you feel like you've totally lost it. You can barely get out of the house and shower daily, and the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on you. This is unfortunately one of the hardest parts of your journey, and an impossible problem to solve. The only way to really cope with all the changes is to embrace it, and know that every time you get into a good groove, something else will change. If you’re emotionally prepared, it might feel a teensy bit easier, but not much.
If you like predictability and routine (like me), you will spend much of your time trying to organize and control everything. That’s fine if it makes you feel better (it does for me), but one thing that will NOT change for the foreseeable future is that you no longer have control over most aspects of your daily life. You will try your best to be the Perfect Mom, to have everything in order so you feel more relaxed; you will have good days and bad days, and few of them will feel totally successful.
The more you allow yourself to let go, accept that your new life is chaos, know there's nothing you do to make it Perfect, the better you will feel. Embrace it, because basically, you have no other choice!
Yesterday, I spoke with a new mom who’s having a rough time. She’s at home with her 7 month old, breastfeeding, doing all the childcare, night parenting, and guilt-ridden for not feeling very happy. Naturally, she loves her son, grateful for the opportunity to be with him, but she feels trapped, lonely, and like every other mom is having more fun. Sometimes it’s so bad she gets into the shower at the end of the day and just cries. She’s crippled by sleep-deprivation, her husband works 12 hours a day, and doesn’t get how awful she feels. He gets to go to work, which is by far the easier job.
A few years ago, when my kids were 2 and 4, I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 10 years. He was divorced with no kids, and was so genuinely excited to hear all about my family. “Wow, you’re a Mom,” he said. “That’s amazing! What’s it like?”
My response was a shock, like a bucket of ice water thrown at my face. “I don’t like it at all,” I said, with far too much honesty.
His face fell. His jaw dropped. And I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. Moms aren’t allowed to feel this way, certainly not allowed to say it out loud.
I began dog-paddled backwards,“Of course I love my kids, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but…Diapers? Mopping up vomit? Bleeding nipples and breast pumps? Being awakened repeatedly through the night and at 5-6am daily for four consecutive years?”
No, the truth is that I like nothing about the actual job, yet I love my kids more than anything else in the world. So I do it anyway, even if I hate it sometimes.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I urge you to be honest with other moms. Write about it. Go on camera and tell the truth. Perhaps if we didn’t expect that mothering would be the most joyous time of our lives, we wouldn’t feel so blindsided and guilt-ridden.
If you're a parent, you probably have strong opinions about how babies and/or toddlers should sleep. You may even feel hostile about what other parents do to get their babies to sleep, if you think it's wrong. I wish I had shot this myself because it shows how judgmental and downright nasty some moms can be about sleep.
My strong opinion is that all of this is bulls#it, and there is no "right" or "wrong" way for families to sleep. As long as you and your kids are sleeping, there's no problem. But if your family is chronically sleep-deprived, maybe you can consider this:
Can you give yourself permission to unlearn everything you've heard or read about sleep, and focus on what you really want? Not what you or anyone else thinks you should or shouldn't do, but what YOU truly want for your family.
Can you turn off all the voices in your head, and allow yourself to change something that isn't working, even if you think it might be "wrong"?
Whatever you believe, try to keep your opinions about what other families do to yourself, and focus on what's right for your family. You will have more friends, and can feel smug that you've chosen the higher road!
As a new parent, you will do anything to shush your baby's tears. You feed and rock and bounce and pat and change your baby, in an effort to comfort and ensure that all of their precious little needs are met. But sometimes, in your rush to instantly stop the crying, you might miss the opportunity to learn your baby's cries, understand their different tones, and respond accordingly.
Around sleep, there's a lot of controversy about whether or not you should let your baby "cry it out" and help them learn to fall asleep independently, or cuddle, nurse and soothe your baby at every opportunity, round the clock. There's a lot of judgment about this, so as best as you can, try to ignore all the theories and opinions that don't work for you and your family. If you want to co-sleep and you're all sleeping well, who cares what your mother-in-law says?!? Alternately, if your 6 month-old baby is waking every hour, and you're becoming suicidal, you shouldn't rule out some form of sleep training because your best friend thinks it's bad.
Now I’m not saying that you should ignore your baby's cries. I’m just saying that crying is a normal and healthy behavior, and though it's excruciating to hear your baby cry, it’s really nothing to panic about. I cried like a baby the other day because I was tired and hormonal and frankly, I just needed to get it out!
Our cultural-adult tendencies are to squelch tears, but sometimes we just need to cry, and so do our kids, despite our attempts to stop them. My kids (4 and 6) still cry when they're hungry or tired, or need to pee but don't want to stop playing, or simply because I won't let them have candy for dinner. Eventually, as our babies grow into kids, we become accustomed to crying and realize that it's just part of parenting, and sometimes, our kids just need to get it out, just like we do!
The first time I rode a horse as an adult was with my husband in Prospect Park, shortly after we met. My horse was jumpy, and I was worried I was going to get thrown. My husband, a native Texan and super-calm guy, told me to hold firmly on the reins and take control; otherwise the horse would sense my fear and be nervous. Sure enough, I did what he said, and instantly the horse and I relaxed.
As new parents, we're fearful and under-confident. It takes a while for us to not be scared, and simply get to know our babies. Over time we build confidence and come to really know our children; what makes them laugh or feel secure.
Of course when we have newborns, we respond to them round the clock and there's a lot of guess-work about what they need because they can't talk. There is no routine or structure for weeks or months, (or years), and it's fine for some families indefinitely. But at some point, we can decide to take charge and hold the reins. Our own fears may prevent us from holding firmly, but even if they protest, our kids want us to be in charge, because it makes them feel secure.
My kids (4 and 6) still cry when they're tired or hungry or don't get what they want, but they know we're holding the reins firmly at bedtime, and when we don't let them have candy for dinner.
The question is, at what point do you take the reins?