Where to begin ...
Possibly with the sleep books. I have read:
- Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
- Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Ferber)
- Good Night, Sleep Tight
- The No-Cry Sleep Solution
- The New Contended Little Baby Book
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
I have tried the suggestions in each of these books, to varying degrees, and what I have found is that my child is one of those who will cry hysterically for hours, even if he can see me; even if I am holding him; even if I am patting him gently and murmuring consolingly; even if he is well-fed and has a clean diaper and is sitting prettily in the magic sleep window.
What I know:
- If I let my kid cry, he will eventually fall asleep after many hours. If I let him cry continually for days on end, I am somewhat certain he would eventually get the picture and learn to sleep on his own.
- I cannot let my kid cry for days on end.
Which puts me in a difficult position. And on the receiving end of quite a bit of advice. "He will have to cry." This has been said by my husband; by my pediatrician; by my mother; by many, many friends. Eventually, they say, he will have to cry. If not now, then later. The longer you wait, the harder it gets, etc, etc.
I'd come to accept this, and I chose a method that allowed him to cry but also allowed me to comfort him while he did so (The Good Night Sleep Tight method). This method works, although not as quickly as Ferber's method or the extinction method, which I was OK with because it's supposed to be gentler -- babies tend to not react so terribly when their loving parents are sitting at their crib side. I know many people who have successfully tried this method and none of their children reacted as mine did, which is to say he cried so hard for so long that he began choking and finally choked so badly that he stopped breathing and I nearly called 911. So here's how I now feel about any sort of hysterical crying during sleep training: Hell to the no.
The No Cry book is my last hope, and is, of course, the slowest and most difficult method. Which is fine, except for the fact that in the meantime I am the only person who can currently feed or put this kid to bed without him going totally bonkers. And the nap time and bedtime rituals are very elaborate and time consuming. For example, since the 4-month sleep regression (this is a real thing all parents should fear), I have had to hold Graham for the entire duration of his naps. *insert unamused emoji* For weeks, I tried to continue doing what I'd done previously -- nurse the kid to sleep, then put him in his crib for the remainder of his naps. He wasn't sleeping great, but he was sleeping. Now, whenever I put him down, he immediately wakes and cries.
This is not a child who falls asleep easily, or just anywhere. I see people posting photos of their kids asleep on the floor, in the bathtub, in the high chair, you name it, and I just laugh and laugh. If nothing else, I have learned that what moms all say is true: All kids are different. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. I'd amend that to say: What works for most kids probably doesn't work for mine. And that's OK. He comes from a long line of stubborn buttheads. Stubborn buttheads even marry into the family and produce even more stubborn buttheads. I am certainly a stubborn butthead, but apparently not enough of one to force my kid to cry until this problem is solved. Others in my family have solved this same problem with the cry-it-out method and describe hours of crying and vomiting. Stubborn buttheads for life, I tell you.
All that to say ... I just needed to write this because dealing with this on my own most days is a lot. It's grueling at times. I absolutely understand postpartum depression now. At times I feel very alone and desperate and hopeless. I cling to comments from friends who've been where I am and remind me this isn't forever and there are things that will work and to keep trying and when all else fails, there is wine.