Remember that sleep regression I was so worried about? I definitely had something to fear, because it is so much worse than I imagined. My darling boy used to sleep for long stretches of time overnight, only waking once or twice in a 12-hour span and being easily nursed back to sleep. Now he usually wakes up 3-5 times a night, sometimes for at least an hour. He also seems to have a knack for knowing exactly when I’m entering my REM cycle, waking up at the precise moment I’m finally getting my deep sleep.
I have never been so frustrated with Rowan or myself as I am during these midnight moments. All I want to do is sleep and restore my energy so that I can start the next day at the top of my game. I try explaining this to my son, but as to be expected, he doesn’t grasp the concept yet. Maybe at six months? When he refuses go back to bed easily, I get exasperated with him. And then I feel like a terrible mother for getting annoyed with my helpless infant. Before I know it, the sleep deprivation and the mommy guilt leave me in tears right alongside Rowan. That’s when Arthur steps in with a calm and patient presence. Of course, I had that demeanor too at the beginning of the day when I was fresh on sleep.
This weekend I finally did what I really wanted to avoid—I let Rowan cry it out. After struggling for two hours to get him back to sleep, I had to give in to the part of me desperate for rest. I knew he wasn’t hungry. I knew he was dry. And crying never killed a baby (or so I’ve been told). All it took was ten minutes before he passed out. It was really hard to listen to him whimper and cry out on the monitor, but I had done everything I could to try and comfort him. If he was going to cry at me anyway, couldn’t I at least listen to it from the comfort of my bed?
A lot of people have thrown out unsolicited advice (quelle surprise!), and letting him cry it out is chief among them. This type of sleep training isn’t new to me, although it baffles me as to why babies need to be trained on how to sleep. It seems like the most natural thing in the world. And with all the growing and learning babies do in the beginning, how can they do anything but sleep through the night?
I was pleased that the no-tears method had been working fine for us, because the cry-it out approach isn’t my ideal solution. But I had reached my limit, and something had to give. It worked this last time, although I don’t think I could’ve held out long had his cries been more intense and distressed.
I’ll admit, in the light of day, it doesn’t seem so bad. This weary mama knows it won’t last forever (right?). In the thick of it, though, it feels like it can’t get any worse. I really want to be a supportive and understanding presence in Rowan’s time of need. So in addition to sleep training my son, I need to train myself to be more patient and less aggravated. Any pointers?