Screw Sleep Training (Alternate Title: I’m Too Tired To Title This Blog Post)

I failed at sleep training.

On my third child no less. As though somehow having two humans before this one some how made me more knowledgeable or qualified. Ha. This experience has been resounding proof that every child is different. So different, in fact, that we might as well be first time parents all over again with each new offspring.

The first two children slept. Not perfectly and not all the time, but enough for me to keep some sanity. Enough for me to believe in “sleep training”.

I should probably clarify, however, that “sleep training” gurus might not totally accept my version of their methods. I was never able to let the “cry it out” method last for more than 5-10 minutes at a time before going back in to comfort and try again. But somehow, it worked. My two oldest two took a couple of days to adjust to the “self-soothing” trend and have mostly slept like rockstars since then.

So why would it ever occur to me that it wouldn’t work with offspring number three?

Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t even worried about it. My older two sleep trained earlier, though I can’t remember why. Probably some book told me it was the “right” time. But with this one, sleep training wasn’t even on my radar. She’s my last baby, was born early so she is small for her age, and she is just so darn snuggly that I was fine to cuddle a lot.

But then the mystical “four month sleep regression” hit.

And suddenly my snuggly sleeper woke up every time I set her down. It didn’t take long for sleep deprivation, both hers and mine, to escalate. So I decided it was time she learned to self-sooth, because how else would she fall back asleep? With a toddler around I couldn’t always spend hours being her comfort object so she could get a good nap. Even if I wanted to, it just wasn’t possible.

So I did what had always worked in the past. Set her down awake and left the room. When she cried I would go back and comfort her. And then I would leave and let her fuss. And then I would go back again.

Sometimes it worked. Just enough for me to think I just needed to buckle down and stick with it. But a lot of times it didn’t work. A lot of times she battled me longer than I had the energy for. Or she would fall asleep only to wake up twenty minutes later. Most of the time it left me feeling defeated, to the point where the sound of her crying would trigger a hormonal response that made me feel like I was drowning in my own body.

After a month of this, after days of hope and even more days of despair, I’ve given up.

It was not an easy concession. Not following through on my goal, not sticking with the plan, feels like a failure. Like I’ve not only failed at my own goal but I’ve failed my child.

By my the third child I should know how to do this, right?


The good news is, I’m too emotionally exhausted to give these feelings of failure much energy. I spent the weekend holding the baby for her naps, or letting her nap in the rock-n-play next to my chair. Instead of taking her upstairs and battling with her about bedtime, I nurse her in the rocking chair in the living room and hold her until she is sound asleep before I take her up to bed. Sometimes she wakes up once I lay her down but it’s not a struggle like before.

It doesn’t feel great to set a goal, to believe that I need to help my child achieve this sleep milestone, and then abandon it when it doesn’t work.

But it also doesn’t feel good to keep burning myself out on something that clearly isn’t working.

The final nail in the sleep training coffin came to me in an article from a friend. It’s called “To the Losers Who Haven’t Sleep Trained Their Babies” and you can read it here. And also another article that crossed my feed this morning from Scary Mommy, which you can read here.

I like to believe that the universe sends us what we need, and today I needed those articles. Because they gave me the permission I didn’t need to scrap my idea of what sleep training was supposed to look like. Baby number three is a different kiddo than the first two, and quite frankly, I’m a different mother than I was with the first two. So it only makes sense that, rather than following the same cookie-cutter rules for sleep training, we need to find what works for us.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

All 100%

Actually cooking lunch (that the toddler won’t eat anyway).

Today was my first day on my own all day with the two littles AND picking up the oldest from school. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my husband and mom around to help for the first three weeks. And now it’s sink or swim time. And sinking isn’t an option.

Since I’m in the newborn-google-everything phase (see previous post), I did some reading about tips for handling a toddler and an infant. This time, google delivered.

First, one mom wrote about how she wished she had paid more attention to the toddler during this phase. The baby can tend to be more demanding of attention (needing diaper changes and feedings more frequently), but ultimately the toddler is the one who will remember the attention (or sudden lack thereof). This tip made me prioritize giving attention to both kids. The housework can wait.

Also, letting me off the hook in terms of stressing over household chores wasn’t even the best part of this revelation. It turns out that, when I made it my goal to focus on my kids and being intentional about giving them attention, I stopped feeling like they were demanding my attention. My attention became something I was giving them rather than something they were taking from me. It may seem like a small shift, but it made a huge difference in the day’s stress level.screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-8-35-42-pm

Another google mom wrote about how she staggers the kids’ nap times so that she can get more one-on-one time with each kid. This was a mini revelation for me. In my mind the goal had always been to get them to nap at the same time so that I could catch a break. And while I would still be thrilled if that happened, I realized two things. First, when you have two littles at home all day, one of them being asleep already feels like a break. And two, when I try to get both of them to nap at the same time, I get stressed when it doesn’t happen. (And three weeks in I’m telling you: it usually doesn’t happen.) But when I let go of that being a goal, I’m not stressed when it doesn’t happen. Instead, I appreciate the time to focus on one at a time. Again, a small shift in the goals for the day made a huge difference in stress level.

To be honest, I felt like I was giving all I had when it was just the toddler. I didn’t know how it was going to work to add a newborn into the mix. But here’s what I didn’t realize: I can’t give any more than 100%. I was doing the best I could when it was just the toddler. And now I’m doing the best I can with a toddler and a newborn. And on the days and evenings when the oldest isn’t in school, I’ll do the best I can with all three of them.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-8-36-02-pmGiving 100% looks a little different in each situation. Sometimes 100% is as simple as snuggling a sleeping baby. Sometimes it is reading Little House on the Prairie on the porch with the oldest. Sometimes it is a tickle fight with a toddler. Sometimes it’s even doing what I need to in order to recharge my own batteries.

And sometimes it’s answering a thousand six year old questions while holding a toddler and changing a newborn diaper and heating a bottle and answering the doorbell.

And that’s okay. Because even on the days that feel like a steady stream of chaos, I love that I get to be here with these little people every day. I can’t think of anything I’d rather give my 100% to.

One Week


One week ago today I had a doctor’s appointment. I was 37 weeks and 2 days along, and still had 15 days until my scheduled c-section.

As usual, my appointment meant a biophysical profile on baby to monitor growth and make sure she wasn’t showing any signs of outgrowing the placenta due to her single umbilical artery. The week before, everything had looked good.

This time, things looked different.

I don’t understand the numbers of what they measure, but when the ultrasound tech sent them to the perinatal specialist, his response was, “Time to deliver.”

That, in combination with my unusually high blood pressure reading, meant a big change of plans. And just like that, delivery was scheduled for the following morning at 7 a.m. Ready or not, we would meet this little baby in less than 24 hours.

I cried. (I like plans and I don’t particularly like it when they change suddenly.) I called my mom and my husband so they would know to make arrangements at work. I went home and packed a suitcase for my girls to stay at grandma’s house. I cried when I stood in their room and realized they wouldn’t come home again until everything was different. I cried because I love our life and change is scary. I cried because I was supposed to have two more weeks to savor these final moments of pregnancy.

I cried because 37 weeks is good but it’s still early. She deserved those two weeks to grow and prepare. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she stayed in. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she came out.

I stopped in my hurried packing to look out the window to the back yard. The flower bed below the window was in need of pruning. We had almost mowed it down in preparation for fall, but we hadn’t gotten to it yet. Big sedum bushes were toppling over, heavy with sun-faded blooms.

And each of the blooms was covered in monarch butterflies. I mean, completed loaded with them. There were probably fifty butterflies in the small patch beneath the window alone.

Butterflies are a symbol of transitions. Of transformations. The entire life cycle of a butterfly, from egg to adult is 30 days. Can you imagine your whole life changing like that, to the point where you are unrecognizable at the end of the transition? Here’s what I read about butterfly symbolism:

“Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body.

This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature – she asks us to recognize the same.”

In other words, there was my sign that all was as it should be.

The next morning we arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. At 6:52 they wheeled me back to the operating room, and at 7:13 a.m., three minutes before sunrise, Lennon Kate was born.

She weighed a whopping 5 lbs 8 oz and was 18 inches long. She came out screaming (just like her sister) and sporting a full head of dark hair (not at all like her sisters). It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows my first two daughters that this girl has fire in her. She will hold her own in this lively group just fine.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-08-59-pm

She was (and is) perfect. And for me, it was my smoothest c-section yet. Even now, a week later, I’m not having any pain and am moving around just fine, though still being cautious. I never even picked up my prescription for pain medicine.

In many ways, it was a perfect experience. However, on Monday, the day we were supposed to be heading home, we had the car loaded and were waiting for final approval from the pediatrician to be released when we got word that her bilirubin levels were high. Not uncommon for a baby born at 37 weeks. But it meant a night in the NICU under the bili lights.

Let me tell you: I had no concept at all of how hard it is to have a baby in the NICU until I was there. And keep in mind–I was there with an otherwise healthy baby with a simple complication that had a relatively easy solution. But still. Watching your tiny newborn be poked and hooked up to monitors and put inside a box with no clothes on except a diaper and a large eye mask for twelve hours while all you can do is stand there and hold her tiny hand through a hole in the box SUCKS. It is one of the single most emotionally exhausting experiences of my entire life.

img_5307My husband and I took shifts standing by her side for the whole night. Because every instinct in my body was to stay with this tiny human that was now ours to love and care for, regardless of how amazing the nurses were. I’ve never been so happy to see 6 a.m. in my life.

And with the morning labs came good news. Her levels were low enough to go home!

But now her platelet count was done.


Everything else had been fine for her entire stay. How could this be happening now? But it was. And it meant we weren’t leaving.

The pediatrician would normally have kept us another night and rechecked levels in 24 hours. But by then I was desperate. I wanted to be home with my other kids. My mama instinct was telling me that there was nothing to worry about–that this was a fluke. (That doesn’t happen very often–normally I err on the side of worrying.) And I didn’t know if I could handle another night in that room. She saw my desperation and agreed to recheck levels later that afternoon.

So we spent the rest of the day waiting. It was better because at least I could snuggle my baby, who was officially free of the light box. But worry over what the numbers might bring that afternoon left a shadow on the day.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-08-20-pm

Another blood draw. And then a blood redraw because of “clumping” in the sample. And finally the news. Her platelets were back up in the normal range. After five days in the hospital, we were going home.

That was two days ago. We’ve spent two days at home resting and reconnecting with our other littles and adjusting to life as outnumbered parents.

And let me tell you–I love this life.

One week ago, nine months ago, I was terrified to let go of the life we had. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.