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I'm Taking a Break From Sleep Training

Photograph by Getty Images

When my baby daughter was 5 months old, she started sleeping through the night like a dream. We’d put her down at 7:30 p.m. and she’d wake at 6:30 a.m. with a smile on her little, well-rested, cherubic face. Sure, my husband and I worked to get her in a sleep routine, but the truth is she really kind of fell into it on her own. She never put up a fuss. There was no crying it out. Baby girl was like, “You don’t have to tell me twice. I just want some Zzzz's.” And when she was fast asleep, we would look at each other and say, “What an easy baby!” or at least we’d think that as we settled into a glass of wine and something on Netflix. And, we were getting a decent amount of sleep. Easy breezy.

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Fast forward to right now. My eyeballs are burning and have turned that weird flamingo pink color from a severe lack of eyelid coverage. My neck is sore, like I was rear-ended on the freeway by an asshole in a PT Cruiser who just backed up and drove away. My head is pounding as if it were the famous, Jameson-induced hangover headache of 2006. Oh, and I have swollen hands and feet from eating three slices of combination pizza right before bed, but that’s sort of another problem altogether.

It is 4:30 a.m., and I’ve been awake since 2:30 when I woke to rescue my hysterical baby daughter from her prison-crib. She’d been crying nonstop for 10 minutes and was showing no signs of letting up. So I scooped her up from her crib. And now, my daughter is in my bed, draped over my mid-section, and sleeping like a log. And I am sitting up, feeling strung out and achy, with really sweaty thighs.

What the hell happened?

Maybe it’s because she has an 11-year-old brother who grew up in the blink of an eye, and I realize how I’ll turn around and she’ll be 11 before I know it.

I don’t know. No, I do know. There was a lot of summer traveling, a lot of teething, a lot of visitors. There was serious overstimulation, and she was thrown off her schedule. But you know what else happened? She’s older. If she wakes in the night, she wants out. She stands in her crib and rattles the bars. And the kicker? She cries, “Mama.” Her little, bitty voice bleats out like the cutest, little sad lamb.

OK, fine, we all know what happened. Me being a sucker happened. Do I want my baby to sleep through the night? Yes. Do I try to practice co-sleeping parenting? No. Do I realize that I am supporting my baby daughter’s habit of waking up at 2:30 every night for the past six weeks with her only being able to fall back to sleep next to me in my bed? Yes. Does everyone I know tell me I’m doing it wrong? Yes. Most do.

But I can’t help it. I can’t help it, because some nights it just seems so much easier for all of us. When I put her into bed with us, she falls right back to sleep and the rest of the house settles down again. I may not be able to fall back to sleep with the same ease, but once I’m up, I’m up. And the rest of them ought to get some sleep. But, mostly, I can’t help it because she’s my little boo. My little bear cub. And as much as I want to subscribe to a strict method of sleep training, I hate to hear her wail and cry out for me. Yep, I’m taking a break from sleep training.

Maybe it’s because I’m older this time around with a baby, and I am aware of more to worry and freak out about, and it upsets me to not be able to comfort her. Maybe it’s because she has an 11-year-old brother who grew up in the blink of an eye, and I realize how I’ll turn around and she’ll be 11 before I know it. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure if I’ll have another child, and perhaps she’ll be my last baby to snuggle, to smell, to nuzzle up to my shoulder and coo in my ear. Actually, it’s all of the above.

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And although I am going to have to pound coffee throughout the day, and although I’m acquiring permanent bags under my eyes, I’m not going to stress about it for now. This won’t be forever. At some point, and soon enough, we’ll find a way to get her sleeping through the night again. We’ll find a way to get US sleeping through the night again. And even though I’m now watching the sunrise through my bedroom window, and even though that signifies that my sleep window is closing, the early morning light creeps across the room and shines across my baby daughter’s innocent, little face. And I seriously cannot handle the cuteness. I snuggle up to her and close my bloodshot eyes. And as soon as I drift off to a dream about sleeping through the night, my baby daughter high-fives my face and babbles her version of “milk.” Though I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, I’m happy to see her smile. I may not be doing it “right” but I’m OK with it for now. I’m OK with being a sucker.

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