Skip to content
August 10, 2013 / ginavoskov2013

A word about sleep training.

There comes a time when parents think about getting their babies to sleep through the night. That time comes shortly after birth, usually coinciding with the baby’s first night at home, and every night thereafter anywhere between the hours of 1 and 6am.

There are hundreds of books and sleep researchers and pediatricians and grandmothers and strangers in check-out lines and neighbors living just above or below you who have their advice to offer and “sure-fire” techniques to have your baby sleeping through the night. Some swear by the “cry-it-out” method, others by the Ferber method whereby the child is alone for predetermined times without comfort that get gradually longer the longer he cries. Some say to start this sleep training at 6 months, others at 9 months, others at 4 months, 2 months, and some say that it’ll work itself out, so don’t bother. There are as many solutions for solving babies’ sleep problems as there are babies themselves. Participating in sleep training seems only to be a kind of practice in parental self-doubt which I’m telling you is the absolute last thing you need on your plate when your baby is crying and your husband is sleeping and you feel the first tendrils of resentment reaching up from your deepest, darkest, most loathsome place in your mind to make you say and think things you never would if you were able to get seven solid hours of sleep. And so after two attempts at participating in sleep training recommended by two different sources, my take on the matter is pretty clear: F*** it.

Any conversation I have with anyone about Edith includes a discussion of her sleep patterns. “Are you getting any sleep?” I am inevitably asked. My answers vary depending on a variety of factors, the most important being whether or not I feel I am going to be in some odd kind of competition with, or have my answer judged by the person asking the question. I find myself keeping my mouth basically shut when I am talking with other moms who have babies roughly the same age as Edith for fear of hearing how the decisions we’ve made about her sleep pattern are inferior to others’. It’s a sensitive subject because no sleep-deprived new mother wants to hear that another sleep-deprived new mother is getting more sleep than she. This sends us spiraling into the dark questions that lead to more dark questions: “What am I doing wrong?” and “Am I being a good parent?” The answers to which are, “Nothing,” and “Yes,” respectively, almost regardless of what we’re actually doing.

Edith has really been f’ing with us. At times she is able to sleep almost entirely through the night–we’re talking eleven hours straight. And other times, such as for the past two nights, she’s like, “Hey! It’s 12:30! What’s happening in the world right now?” and then, two hours later, “Hey! What’s happening in the world now?” and then, two hours later, “Hey!…” and so on and so forth until I am sitting up in bed and punching Dennis who had the nerve to ask what he could do for me as I decided for the fourth time if I should let her cry and for how long and, if I let her cry longer would she feel abandoned, and do I have enough milk to nourish my child and how long is this going to go on for, like, until she’s four years old or something? and why did I think I was ready to have a baby? These are not questions to answer on 90 minutes of sleep at 4:30 in the morning.

When Edith goes for a few nights in a row with major chunks of time spent sleeping, say five or six hours, I think to myself, “Okay! We’ve done it! This is her sleep pattern! I can get good sleep, too!” Just as soon as that thought enters, she responds by saying, “Just kidding!” and does the 2 hours up, 2 hours down, You’re-a-sucker sleep pattern.

I need to remember that she is a baby. She is nine weeks old. The kimchee in our fridge is older than she is and I expect her to learn how to sleep through a night? To understand that if I don’t answer her tiny little cry in the darkest part of night that she can just suck on a thumb and be at peace? She doesn’t even know what a thumb is, let alone the notion of “infant self-soothing” that all these experts think is the first marker of a baby’s independence and maturity. The earlier babies can self-soothe, these experts claim, the sooner they will be good, smart, responsible citizens, and you will earn a trophy for being Good, Smart Parents. “Bullshit!” I proclaim. She’s going to be a good, smart, responsible citizen because of the way Dennis and I raise her for her entire life, not because she can suck her thumb at 3 in the morning when she’s nine weeks old and stop crying so we can get a good night’s sleep, Goddammit.

I need to give her a break, read her cues, answer them, love her fiercely, and we need to move along at our own pace. No pediatrician, sleep researcher, or neighbor can give me all the answers about how to be a parent to this particular little girl. Edie and Dennis and I need to figure things out together.

And in answer to the question about if I am getting any sleep, I will say, “Not like I used to” because that’s about as true as true can be.



Leave a Comment
  1. Melanie / Aug 10 2013 1:57 pm

    Hope you find whatever works for you. (Although, once you do, let me know. Because maybe it will work for me too.) 🙂

  2. ginavoskov2013 / Aug 11 2013 10:48 am

    I should be asking you the same. 🙂 Hard to believe such tiny, cute, smiling little creatures make our nights torture.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: