When I was newly pregnant with my first baby, I was already so nervous about losing sleep as a new Mom. I worried I may never sleep again. What if the baby is up all night for years and I’m an eternal zombie?? Of course, I had many other things I worried about as well, but for some reason this was something that scared me.
During my final trimester of pregnancy, I began researching ways to help your baby learn to sleep from an early age. A friend of mine told me about a book called “Preparation for Parenting”, which basically outlines a day to day routine you will stick to according to the age of your new baby. For those of you wondering about the routine, you may have heard of E-W-S. (Eat, Wake, Sleep) This is the order in which you will do things throughout the day with your baby. I decided that I was going to follow this exactly as it recommends in the book. I was really excited about this. My baby would be sleeping 12 hours through the night between 9-11 weeks old. This did happen, by the way. It was so glorious the first morning that we woke up and Kade hadn’t made a peep the entire night. He was 9 weeks old and slept 12hrs every night from that day forward. It was AMAZING. I did the same scheduling with Tegan, my second child as well. I have two very good sleepers even to this day. (well, the majority of the time) I can put them in their rooms for nap or bed time, close the door, and they fall asleep. No crying, no separation anxiety- they are perfectly content in their own rooms and beds. Sometimes this makes me feel pretty fabulous about myself. Like, I did that. I showed my babies how to sleep well- ME!
But, there is a side to sleep training that I want to also touch on. I am not writing this post to say ‘Hey, look at me! My kids slept through the night before yours!’ Not at all. I want to be totally open and honest about all of the feelings I had from this experience.
When I was following the ‘schedule’ of sleep training my babies, I was a nervous, anxious, stressed out mess of a person. It was almost as if the schedule owned me. I couldn’t stray from it. If the book said ‘your baby should be taking a 1.5 hour nap 4 times a day at 11 weeks old’, I wasn’t happy unless this happened. If my order of daily events was rearranged one day, it made me feel very uneasy. I would even cry if things would go wrong sometimes. I missed outings, events, even just leaving the house! I would not go somewhere if it was naptime on the schedule. I just wouldn’t. I felt very isolated and lonely a lot. I had this battle going on inside of me CONSTANTLY, going back and forth, telling myself to just forget the schedule. Just go with the flow, Kelly for God’s sake! But, my fear of the unknown and an unpredictable baby, made me stick to it.
I think back at times and wish I would have never heard about a schedule. I almost wish I went into Motherhood completely unaware that I should ever do things a certain way. Would I have been able to enjoy more moments when my babies were tiny? Instead of striving for baby sleep perfection? Would I have had a little more snuggle time vs designated nap times?
I have always given my babies SO much love, never did I let them ‘cry it out’, never did I leave them when they wanted me. They have never felt abandoned or alone. These are not the reasons I feel regret about my ‘schedule’. I feel more regret about my experience as a new Mom. The pressure and stress I put on myself to do things a certain way. The expectations I had for my babies… maybe instead of expecting them to fit into my perfect routine, I could have embraced more of the unplanned.
Since teaching my babes to sleep, I have helped a few other Mom friends along the way with how implement a routine in their homes as well. I believe that routines are so great for kids…BUT PLEASE don’t let something like this take over. Enjoy your very short time as a Mama to those tiny babies. It goes by so fast. Only use a routine to GUIDE you as a new mom. Use it to create some predictability for you and your baby. If something is making you stressed out STOP doing it! I wish I would have listened to my own advice here. Coulda, shoulda, woulda- right??
Bottom line, do what makes you and your family happy! Do what will allow you to enjoy your role as a Mom as much as possible. All of you Mamas are amazing and you ALL have made the right choices for your babies- we are all different as Moms and that’s OK.
I hope my openness has helped someone else out there in this situation.
I would love to hear if anyone has had similar experiences. Or if you think I’m nuts 😉
Photo Credit: Megan Dawn Photography