Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

I am writing this on my phone from underneath a baby who will. Not. Sleep. Unless he is latched on and nursing. It is of the day, following a bedtime that pulled the rug out from under him and left the entire household wrecked.

As I mentioned, The Baby is rocketing through milestones quicker than a greased weasel down a waterslide  (that idiom could use some work, sorry). Anyway, his naps have been shit and I am usually a defeated husk of my former self by Thursday afternoon when I don’t get naptime reprieves. Yesterday I listened to the Sleep Training episode of One Bad Mother, and while I’ve in the past concluded my baby is a tension increaser, crying it out feels cruel and I want to help him gradually transition to sleeping in his own crib, this episode filled husk-me with new hope. Jodi Mindell sounded so reassuring, so convincing. And the host described a sleep training experience of a night or two of brief crying followed by blissful crib sleeping forever and ever, amen.

I didn’t realize it, but the reptile brain that had taken control of me decided, “Hey, you haven’t had time to look further into this or hatch a plan or even let The Husband know you’re considering this, and The Baby is obviously going through sleep regression that makes things 100 times harder than usual, but maybe you should JUST DO IT.” I think the last vestiges of logic snapped when I saw The Baby on the video monitor, standing in his crib about to trip in his sleep sack. His development was outpacing my plan for gradual adjustments.

After a few minutes of him crying (while The Husband looked at me with a look of confusion and concern), I went in his room, shut the door behind me, stripped him out of his sleep sack, spent a minute rocking him, then put him in his crib and settled in to try to help him cry himself to sleep.

I had no clock with me. No plan. I just tried to keep repeating comforting words (“Night night, baby. Shhhh, shhhh. I love you. I’m here. Time for night night.”)  While rubbing his back or tummy. I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, though, because his cries turned into wails and shrieks and coughs. He kept standing and reaching for me and I kept trying to lie him back down and help him settle.

There were a couple times it seemed like he was winding down, but he always wound back up. Yet the more he cried the more on the hook I felt: If I didn’t see this through and help him fall asleep in his crib, I would just have let him cry himself into hysterics before reinforcing the sleep associations I was trying to break. I would have tortured him for nothing.

At one point, poor The Husband cracked open the door to try to figure out what in the hell I was doing and I waved him off angrily.

Finally, after what ended up being about an hour and fifteen minutes of sobbing that still was nowhere near subsiding, I took a quick bathroom break to gather my thoughts and see if my absence did anything to quiet Baby down. It did not. And The Husband was outside the bathroom door with a look on his face that made me feel terrible. I told him I was going in to “end this.”

Which meant I went back in, picked up my tear-soaked kid, rocked him in my arms and put him down asleep, or at least 99% of the way there. I had tortured him for nothing.

Feeling so defeated, I tried to explain my extremely half-baked idea to The Husband. He was upset and yet far more forgiving than I would have been if he’d unilaterally and impulsively tried to do what I had done. I had been high on the hope that this experiment would work.

Or at least that the crying jag would have worn The Baby out and he’d sleep a few hours. But no, after less than an hour he was back up, as usual. The Husband rocked him back to sleep, and when he woke up 10 minutes later I took him to bed and hoped he could absorb my apology through osmosis. We both slept soundly.

I know my biggest mistake was not going in with a plan. And I know there are tons of proponents of the “gradual extinction” method of sleep training who will tell me to climb back on this horse but to saddle up better first.

BUT GUYS. There are so many theories about babies and sleep! About cortisol and negative sleep associations and SIDS! Experts contradict one another at every turn of the page. I’m so tired and so full to the brim with mom guilt I can’t rationally evaluate all the options. Everything sounds hopeful, bit when I’m face to sopping wet face with my difficult sleeper, words on a page don’t feel like they have any power at all.

Ugh. I don’t have a tidy conclusion, let alone a solution, to this episode of The Baby’s Sleep Saga. I need some time to regroup. I need to strategize with The Husband. I need to take a nap myself.

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

9 thoughts on “Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

  1. happywawa15 says:

    Ohh that whole needing-to-be-breastfed-all-the-time phase was the hardest experience of my whole life. It WILL pass without sleep training. I didn’t believe it would, but it did. I couldn’t gather myself to formulate a sleep training plan and promised myself if I got a decent night’s rest I would do the pick-up-put-down method. But when Squeak’s sleep settled I found I was able to cope just as we were. Sending lots of hugs and support x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pammie says:

    Ugh, sleep training is so hard! It sounds like you do have a bit of a difficult sleeper…I’m so sorry for all that you’re going through. I know you probably don’t need more book recommendations, but I loved Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Maybe read it after you get through this bout of sleep regression, or whatever it is! I hope you find some good time for a nap today 🙂


  3. Been there, done that! Motherhood doesn’t mean we’re going to be perfect… It means we will strive through the hardest times, against all odds. Loved your post. Don’t worry about helping your baby sleep alone in his crib so soon. Time flies so quickly, one day he’ll be asking for his own separate room; his own separate space! So enjoy while he’s still in your lap, smiling, one day he won’t fit in your lap. Cheers and all the best 🙂


Leave a Reply to Pro writer Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s