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"Once you teach your child to self-soothe, everyone in your house will enjoy blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep." This is what the sleep training books promise you. And if you are desperate enough for shut-eye that you are reading one, or several, you are also desperate to believe it is true. I know I did.
That is until I suffered through the torture that is letting my baby cry it out only to be rewarded with being woken every two hours instead of every three. My son did learn how to put himself to sleep, but it didn't help his exhausted parents one bit. So if you've found yourself in this same circle of hell I thought I'd share a few techniques I developed to survive sleepless nights when you've already tried everything.
This isn't another list full of suggestions for getting baby down; I'm going to assume you've already read and tried every trick the World Wide Web has to offer. You and I both know a lavender bath isn't going to cut it. Here is how to cope when sleep training fails.
1. Give up. The sleep training didn't work so stop trying. Don't worry about what you should be doing. You are officially in survival mode. Get as much rest as possible by any means necessary. Well, not any means—please don't feed your baby Benadryl—but whatever is easiest for you is what you should do. That might mean skipping the two-hour production to get them asleep and just driving around the block instead. It might mean co-sleeping or filling the crib with 20 pacifiers. Quit trying to figure out the magical system that will change everything. It's too exhausting.
Just order a venti anything, gaze at that mini van ahead of you, and take solace in the fact that you're not alone.
2. Caffeinate. This one is a bit of a no-brainer but really, you can't do this alone. You need the support group of exhausted parents in line at the Starbucks drive-thru. Just order a venti anything, gaze at that minivan ahead of you and take solace in the fact that you're not alone.
3. Tag team. There is no reason for both parents to be up. Develop a system where you each of you get a break. And the very least, the person who gets up regularly should get to sleep in on the weekends. Yes, I am suggesting that dad gets up at 5 a.m. with the baby and takes the little screeching demon out of the house until at least eight in the morning.
4. Avoid operating heavy machinery. Or at the very least give yourself a break. It is impossible to perform at 100 percent when you're running on zero sleep. I'm pretty sure Navy Seal recruits sleep more than you, so do your best to take it easy. Now is not the time to train for a marathon, study for a doctorate, or put on real clothes before going to the grocery store.
5. Don't lose hope. This too shall pass. In fact the only way I can even write this article today is because my little one finally figured out how to sleep through the night. And yours will too, I promise.