“I was in the National Guard, and I was trained with sleep deprivation, and that doesn’t compare to how little sleep you get after having a baby.” I stared back at my coworker with fear and anxiety in my eyes. My pregnant belly and I were just passing by in the hallway and in return we got this unsolicited story about how little sleep I would be getting in the first year of my baby’s life. I let out a half-hearted chuckled and made some trite remark, “So I’ve heard. I am doing all the sleeping I can now.” Then, I walked away and probably sobbed a thousand tears.
As it turns out, a lot of people like to warn new moms-to-be how drastically their lives will change in the sleep department. Well-intentioned, I am sure, but as if I didn’t have enough (food) on my plate to begin with, I now decided my life mission was to learn all I could about baby sleep.
I bought books. I read sleep experts’ blogs. I acquired DVDs. I took classes. I downloaded music guaranteed to soothe a baby. I took detailed notes. I briefed and trained my husband like we were preparing for battle.
And it worked! Our son was born and immediately we began implementing what we learned. Sure, we had our fair share of exhausting days and even more exhausting nights, but I could not be more thankful for these sleep experts and all the wisdom they bestowed on us.
It became a joke in our household. Our son would have a slight hiccup in his sleeping, or his napping would be off. I would furiously scour the blogs and books, and say, “Well so-and-so says… or (insert sleep expert’s name here) says….” It only took one night of little to no sleep and my husband would be desperately begging to know, “What do the books say?”
The months ticked on, and as our son grew older, the bedtime routine grew shorter. One day, he grew out of his swaddle, and no longer was Mommy needed for those precious minutes of wrapping him snuggly up. Not long after, he learned to self-soothe, and no longer was Mommy needed to pick him back up and rock or bounce him back to sleep. Eventually, he stopped breastfeeding, and Mommy was no longer needed to hold and feed him goodnight.
Now at 18 months, he hands me a book, we read it, say our prayers, sing a song, and I can plop him right down in the crib. We are thrilled with how well the sleeping journey has gone.
But some nights I hold him just a bit longer. Read to him just a bit more. Sing to him just a bit extra. And then I put him down and walk out. I stare at the monitor, watching my baby squirm around as he slowly starts to drift off. Longingly, I crave to walk right back into that nursery and rock him to sleep.
The books and blogs, though, say nothing on this. There is no handbook on what a mom should do when her child no longer needs her to fall asleep. I glance back at my peaceful baby one more time. And on some nights, perhaps when the house is particularly quiet and the moonlight shines in through the window, I go back in, and I rock. And I’m okay with that.