I am a wife and a mother to a beautiful baby boy. I am an avid animal lover, with an extreme affection for rescue dogs. I have a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology and a love for studying early childhood development. However, most of what I know I have thrown out the window since becoming a mom (haha). I have worked as a behaviour therapist for Autistic children and as a research coordinator. Running is my therapy, Country Music is my jam, my dogs make me happy, my family and friends mean everything to me, and my son makes my life complete.
Sleep. It’s the hottest topic when you have a child. It is all people ask you about, it’s what you coordinate your day around, and it’s an area of contention for most couples. Do you have your baby sleep in a crib, in a bassinet, or do you co-sleep? Swaddle or sleep sack? Stick to a strict routine or go with the flow? Sleep train or not?
All I have to say is do what is best for you and your family! Whatever works for you, your spouse, and your child in order to get some sleep! If that means you need to swaddle than swaddle, if you need to co-sleep than co-sleep, or if you need to sleep train than sleep train!
From day one, I went with the flow. My son napped on the go and bedtimes were random. I didn’t want to have a strict schedule, but the older my son got the more I realized we needed to stick to a schedule. We, as Moms, know what our children need, and my son needed the predictability of a routine – he takes after his Momma. At first, he also would only sleep when he was held or in close proximity to me. He wouldn’t sleep in a swing, a bassinet, or a crib. So for the first eight months of his life we co-slept and snuggled. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone I did this in fear of judgment because we all are familiar with those fear-mongering, unsolicited advice-givers who like to make you feel incompetent or like a bad mom if your child cannot sleep on their own – excuse me while I roll my eyes.
At one of my son’s check-ups, my doctor gave me the okay to co-sleep, as research showed the benefits of co-sleeping for breastfeeding mothers who don’t smoke. Co-sleeping has shown to regulate and promote healthy cortisol levels1, to act as a protective mechanism for which babies learn to mimic their mother’s physiology (heart rate, breathing)1, and to lower the risk of SIDS2. I was lying to her for months about co-sleeping in fear of being ridiculed, and here she was telling me that it was okay to do so – phew! So don’t feel bad or ashamed if you co-sleep as well!
However, as much as I loved to snuggle with my boy, the bigger, and stronger he got the more unappealing co-sleeping was becoming. I figured it was time he start to sleep on his own when he started to maneuver himself in the middle of the night to a horizontal position, with his feet in my face, and incessantly kicking his defenseless mother. With much anxiety, I tried to get him to sleep in that beautiful décor piece in his room, called a crib. I do behaviour modification with Autistic children for my job so I thought it would be a piece of cake, right? Nope, wrong! Plus, I admit, I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to my son! He would not sleep longer than one-hour stretches. I even tried sleeping on the floor of his room to smooth the transition. All that got me was a sore back!
I know all about the sleep regressions, the developmental leaps, and the teething that affects baby’s sleep, but this waking-up-hourly-thing lasted for months. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. I envied those parents whose children slept well, but mine had serious trouble. I needed help, but emotionally, I didn’t know if I was ready for the change.
I loved to cuddle with him even if it meant I didn’t get a good sleep, but I was holding him back from learning to sleep on his own. A part of me didn’t want him to learn to sleep on his own because that meant he was growing up. That he was already starting to not need me as much, and becoming more independent. It hurt my heart a little even though I knew it was best for the both of us. Pathetic, I know, but he is my first child so give me a break! Our children are only little for a short time, and I just wanted to soak up all those special moments. I knew that one day the snuggles would be a distant memory, but I was hindering him from sleeping on his own.
I shed a few tears – okay, more than a few tears – and decided it was time to say goodbye to my little cuddle buddy. I had to face the fact that he was and will continue to grow up, and I needed to provide him with the tools to succeed to sleep on his own. So I enrolled in a parent sleep-coaching workshop because my previous trials had failed. I needed help from an objective outsider, and also the moral support, accountability, and continuous consultation that I knew a sleep consultant would provide. All it took was a little tweak to our routine, and a little less coddling. He started to sleep like a charm, and I started to feel like a human again! For so long, my husband and I were anxious every time it was bedtime because we knew a struggle awaited us, and now that anxiety is gone!
To those who can’t get their babes to sleep on their own, know that you are not doing anything wrong, you are not alone, and you are not a bad mom! Every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. Just keep doing whatever works for you; co-sleep, cuddle, rock, or sleep train! And always remember that the challenging times will pass, and they grow up too fast so make the most of every moment!
1Beijers, R., Riksen-Walraven, J. M., & de Weerth, C. (2013). Cortisol regulation in 12-month-old human infants: associations with the infants’ early history of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Stress, 16(3), 267-277.
2Hauck, F. R., Thompson, J. M., Tanabe, K. O., Moon, R. Y., & Vennemann, M. M. (2011). Breastfeeding and reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 128(1), 103-110.