Why we no longer sleep train (but still get enough sleep).
It's a little bit beyond the pale, I'll admit. And one of those things I swore I'd never do (pre-kids, weren't we fools back then?).
Some people will look down on us, insist we are doing the wrong thing entirely. We're setting ourselves up for a multitude of problems. It's not fair on us. It's not fair on our children.
Others will praise us and feel free enough to admit they do the same.
There's no manual for parenting (well, there's loads that try but they're mostly a bit rubbish) and whatever works best for you and your family is what you should do. No judgement.
So here it is.
We bed-share with our 13 month old and I nurse/rock him to sleep for every nap and bedtime. And I wouldn't change it for the world (at least not until I have to).
Some of you will gasp. Others won't understand the shock, they've been doing it for years, it's nothing new.
But for some people, it's a bit absurd.
People like ME. The one who prepared by reading every book, and who slowly realised that that was a waste of time. The one who sleep trained consistently with her first child. The one who got that damn baby to sleep through the night. The one who drove herself mad wondering what on earth she was doing wrong. The one who would never sleep train another child again. Not like that.
Because he didn't sleep through the night every night. He still had his developmental phases, we had to repeat the sleep training and each time my heart ached a little more. I sat in that bedroom for hours, only to come downstairs stressed beyond belief. How would I do this with two?
Does that first child sleep through the night now? Yes, he does. Mostly, at almost 4 years old. But not every single night and most often with my partner cuddled up besides him as he drifts off to sleep.
And it's his favourite part of the day. Something they both relish and desperately need to bond, with my partner working 40+ hours a week. I used to tell him not to do it, that it would cause problems for us in the future, that it would undo all the hard work we'd done. But what did I know?
I'm not here to preach about what we do or tell anyone how to help their children to sleep (frankly because I'm the opposite of an expert). But I am here to change mindsets, to tell the new parents that they don't have to follow the expert's advice. You don't have to do anything just because the books say, just because that's how our predecessors did it, just because that's the norm. Don't be like me and get so hung up on sleep habits, logging every wake, wondering whether they should still feed through the night, why they're dropping a nap when Google says it's far too early, why they're not getting anywhere near the average number of hours sleep that the experts recommend. Why, why why?
Because your baby is different to every other baby that's ever graced this planet. And the next one? Well, they'll be entirely different to that one. And more than likely, nothing you do this time will work the second time or the time after that.
I spent years driving myself crazy thinking there was a magical cure, something I'd missed, something I needed to figure out to get my babies to sleep through the night. To self-soothe. To not need me.
But guess what? My second and quite possibly last child has just turned one and I can already feel him slipping through my fingers. His body slimming as he walks further than he's ever crawled, his open-mouthed kisses turning into closed-puckered pecks, his mind working overtime as he sails through another milestone, as he leaves the wrinkly newborn skin and involuntary jerky movements behind.
Letting go of the pressure of what he should be doing and what we should be doing has been life-changing. I stopped trying to sleep train and I did what came naturally. Does he still wake regularly through the night? Yes. But I nurse him and he quickly goes back off (as do I). Do we have bad nights? Yes, of course but we have good nights too, and bedtimes are more sleepy snuggles than bracing battles.
And the best thing about it all? I get to climb into bed next to the most adorable squishy little body and wake up to those happy giggles, and I'll hold onto that for as long as is necessary. Because he needs it right now, but what I didn't realise, is that I need it too.