Hey folks, this post is a continuation from an Instagram post that I decided to merge with the blog so that I can get into more detail about this topic. It’s a big jump from my last farm diaries post but I want to share this little failure of ours to help normalize this idea of “sleep training” for mom’s out there that are feeling overwhelmed like I was. So if this topic is of no interest to you, I will be back with a recipe later this week! I also plan to do more “farm diaries” posts that are catching up to where we are today so this is a bit out of order but I have had a lot of mom’s reaching out to me recently so I want to just go out on a limb and share my experience.
Team Sleep training drop outs! Yep, that’s us. And I am 100 percent okay with our failure at attempting to “sleep train” our 8 month old. Am I tired as hell? You betcha. But I feel pretty darn at peace with our new acceptance of knowing that we’re going to be up a lot at night during this season of life. If I’m being honest, I was semi pressured into sleep training our daughter. When I was sharing with friends, family members and a few “experts” on the internet about how often we were up at night (which is a LOT) nursing or rocking Pepper back to sleep I gave into the idea that we needed outside help. Besides, people were saying things like “you just need to let her cry it out.” “She’s 8 months now, she should be sleeping through the night. Have you talked to your pediatrician?” “Did you know that it’s a major NO NO to nurse or rock your baby to sleep? It encourages bad habits and dependence on you. Put her down drowsy but not asleep!! You’ll learn!” I started to doubt myself. As a first time mom was I being too “soft?”
Before I dive into this incredibly triggering topic I want to start off by saying EVERYONE needs to do what is best for them, their baby and their particular situation. No family or baby is the same. And I think we can all agree that every parent is just trying to stay afloat and do the best they can. I stopped judging parents the day I became one and this post is not meant to shame or alienate anyone. This is just my experiences, it’s the only one I know. We are all on the same team. And if sleep training worked for you, HELL YEAH! I’m so happy you’re all getting well deserved rest. For anyone else deep in the sleep struggle trenches, I’m with you and hopefully my takeaway can offer some comfort.
It was out of desperation, self doubt, and a tiredness that was so deep it made my bones hurt that I signed up for a very popular online course with a supposedly (almost) 100 percent success rate. This course and the woman who founded it were praised as a godsend to thousands of families and her “gentle” guide was aimed to “train” our daughter into becoming an independent sleeper. I was encouraged to wean my baby from night feedings–which made me really nervous on so many levels. Would my milk supply drop? What if she really was hungry? And if she wasn’t hungry, wasn’t it still okay to sooth and comfort her with a night feeding? (The answer was a HARD NO). I ignored my gut, paid money (I know….) and dove head first into sleep training. The course promised improvement within the first 3-4 nights (though you’re encouraged to do the full thing for 14 days).
It was on night 6 (after 5 full nights of complete torture) at approximately 2am when I officially quick sleep training. Not only was our baby getting progressively worse every night, but this course went against every motherly instinct I have. It was basically a cry it out method that was packaged as the opposite of that. Needless to say, my daughter wasn’t the only one crying all night long. The night I caved, I went in to nurse my sweet baby for the first time in what felt like a million nights of ignoring her hunger cues and that nursing reunion was one of the best feelings in the world. As a new mom, I question almost everything I do. But I’ll tell you one thing, nursing/feeding and rocking my baby to sleep is the most biologically natural thing I do as her mom. The damn pressure to get these little babies to be “independent sleepers”, “self soothers”, or to simply leave them be to “cry it out” just doesn’t work for me. She’s only 8 months old. She’s barley been earth side. Of course she still needs her mom and dad for comfort and reassurance. Crying is her only form of language. I can’t ignore that.
So why am I sharing all of this? I’m sharing this because I want to normalize that sleep training isn’t for everyone. It’s not a right of passage for new, overly tired moms. Becoming a mom is (shocker!) incredibly tiring. Babies cry. Some are up ALL night long, even at 8 months (that’s us!) But if all the boxes are checked (baby is healthy, mom is mentally stable and dad (or partner) is on board to support, then guess what? This is motherhood. Once I took the pressure off of us to “sleep through the night” getting up with Pepper multiple times a night is just what we do. There’s no good nights or bad nights. There’s just nights that blur together where I’m up with my baby. Sometimes I see her a lot, some nights I don’t see her as much. It just ebbs and flows and I’m more secure in knowing this is how it is. I think society has put so much pressure on new moms and their young babies to “get back to it” and “not skip a beat”. I don’t know many people who go back to work at 6 weeks or 3 months postpartum who feel supported to talk about how god damn tired they are. In fact, they’re terrified to be honest. They just need to pretend they can do it all. Our society and culture is failing us.
I realize I’m incredibly privileged to be able to be home with my young baby. I work from home and straight from my property. I didn’t farm much this season because we hired extra help so I could be with Pepper. However, I was deep in the final edits of my latest cookbook when Pepper was 5 weeks old. I was so tired while editing and staring at my computer screen made me feel like I was on drugs. Nothing made sense. In fact, I was terrified that I didn’t have it in me to finish what I had started over 2 years before. I thought I was going to need to hand back my book advance and say “I know I made it 90 precent of the way, but I just can’t finish this last 10 percent. I’m too anxious and tired. Here’s all your money back.” So I know what it’s like to be so tired, desperate and overwhelmed. It sucks. And there’s not a lot of support around this topic.
I’m fortunate that I was able to finish my book edits, my mom was able to come relieve me and help with the baby so I could finish. But still, I think about this often. That is why so many mom’s rely on programs like sleep training. We’re desperate to hold onto our jobs, our promises, our old selves.
I’m actually bummed at myself for giving into that idea that we needed to sleep train. The best advice (and only advice) I’ll take to heart moving forward about motherhood is this– Trust your baby. Trust your gut. If it feels wrong to leave your baby in a crib “crying it out” go in there! Sooth, nurse, sing, kiss your baby! These “experts” telling us that it’s a hard NO to go in and sooth our crying baby because it encourages bad habits is complete BS. It goes against nature, biology, motherly instinct. Of course I want to raise a strong, independent daughter who has the confidence to tackle the world with grace, courage and love. But at 8 months old, I think I can be at peace and not beat myself up for being too “soft” and comforting her throughout the night. I understand why these programs were created and how they’ve saved so many moms and families in the sleep department. So if it worked for you HELL YEAH!!! I’m so happy for you. For anyone else who is feeling like a failure in the whole sleep department I want you to know this, you’re not alone and it’s actually really REALLY normal to be up a lot these first few months and years with our babes. If you’re up in the middle of the night feeling desperate and alone just know there are millions of us awake with you at that exact moment singing, kissing, and nursing our sweet babies to sleep. We’re in this together! The pressure that society has on mom’s and their babies today is ridiculous. And rest assured all you tired mom’s out there, one day, just like every other human in the world, our baby’s will learn to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep. And when that day comes I guarantee we’ll probably be up all night missing them.
Sending so much love, grace and patience to all of you new, overtired mamas out there.