Sleep - part two
Note: the picture above is not my children - it is a stock photo from LoveWhatMatters.
I am blessedly in between jobs right now. So after about a year of wanting to, I finally figured out how to use a “do it yourself” website to create a parenting blog (this site!). I sent one of my posts to the kind people at LoveWhatMatters to share on their site. Within a day, someone responded that they’d read my blog and would post my marriage article and my sleep article.
I winced a bit at the idea of the sleep blog getting posted, since I had an inkling that it was going to be controversial. But I did write it to be helpful and get the information out...so I said sure. My marriage article posted first, and I had a good laugh at the comments about my husband being particular or about how I was in the wrong, but mostly the comments were funny and sweet and there were only a few of them.
Not so with the sleep article! Over 1,200 comments and overwhelmingly negative, judgmental, personal and hurtful. I read through a handful and my heart was pounding. I took a break for a couple days and didn’t look at them. And once I had processed and felt ready, I went back and read most of them.
Here is just a snippet of some of the comments / the most frequent sentiments:
She is selfish as selfish gets. Well she sounds awful. This lady pisses me off so badly!! This woman is horrible. Well, aren’t you little miss perfect! What the actual fuck is wrong with you? Dear god I hope this comes back to bite you one day. Awful! Shame on her for “romanticizing” her need to sleep. It sounds to me like this lady should've gotten a cat instead of having babies. Another example of shitty and selfish parenting. This chick is crazy, her poor babies. I feel bad for her kids. Why have them if it’s all about you???? If you weren't ready to give up certain parts of your life, you shouldn't have become a parent. If you can’t prioritize your children’s needs, please don’t have them and then unleash them on the rest of us. She will regret it in 40 years when the kids leave her in a facility and don't visit her because they lack a deep love for her that was lost early on. That’s neglect! Abusive!
Although I know many of these people who took the time to comment will not change their mind about me (and that is ok), I decided to make an FAQ addressing the questions in the comments that someone who wants to sleep train might actually have.
You leave your children locked in their room for 12 straight hours crying?
OK, let’s be very clear here. I did not say that I leave my kids crying every night for 12 hours straight locked in their rooms. They each cried once for a bit over an hour when they were 4 months old. Other than that, we know the difference between their cries and if it is a “night waking” where they are largely still asleep and do not need us, vs. a cry of terror where they need us.
My older child is a big feeler. She is emotionally intelligent and “spirited / sensitive”. Nothing is wrong with her and it is developmentally normal to cry everyday as a kid. I can't tell you the number of times I've told another parent casually about an intense tantrum or the frequency of tantrums my child has and seen a look of relief in their eyes. Usually they respond "Really? We though it was just us!" Many people with kids who are big feelers (especially toddlers) think there is something wrong with their kids when there likely isn't. In our family we accept all of the feelings without judgement, but that doesn't mean we accept all the behaviors. These night cries are usually like “I want more dessert” cries. I know when to be comforting vs. when to hold a limit she needs for her development.
And also, we have a monitor! This is something I missed and will add to the blog, and if you can afford one it is one of the best baby investments. We can see our children, and we STILL use it since it is adorable to listen to their conversations each night after we put them to bed.
You don’t let a 4 month old eat anything for 12 hours?
I agree I was remiss here in not making the distinction between night weaning and sleep training. I have updated my blog to address this as well. Yes, I sleep trained at 4 months, but I still breastfed both my babies till they naturally weaned at 10 months and 8 months, respectively. The medical advice I received is most babies need to eat till around 9 months at night, and you should check with your doctor for your baby based on their weight, etc. By the time my kids were ready to night wean, they knew how to fall alseep themselves if they woke up, so they just naturally kept sleeping longer and longer till they slept 12 hours straight.
You and your children need 12 hours of sleep?
The Mayo Clinic, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Web MD all clearly state that to be well rested kids ages 1-2 need 11-12 hours at night + a 1-2 hour nap, and a 5 year old needs 10-13 hours per day of sleep.
Aside from the medical advice above, my experience as a mother watching and knowing my children has confirmed this time and again. When my kids aren’t sleeping well, they test more. Tantrum more. They yawn, rub their eyes and are clearly TIRED. Sleep training helped me to ensure they are getting the sleep they need. This is what works in our family. Some kids I’m sure need less sleep than others or sleep better in bed with their parents, which I totally support for those families.
People also seemed to think I was saying that I loved sleep so much that I also sleep 12 hours per night, ha! I sleep usually around 8 hours a night. As noted my kids go to bed by 7pm, and then from 7pm-10pm my husband and I clean the house, run errands, exercise, connect with each other and / or friends, or have time to ourselves. We do all of this AFTER the kids go to bed, so that when they are awake, we get to spend MORE time focused on them and connecting as a family.
You left babies in soiled diapers for 12 hours? You put a diaper on a 4 year old for 12 hours?
By 4 months both my kids were not pooping at night anymore, so no, I didn’t usually change their diapers. At night they'd cry, and I'd go in and feed them and put them right back down. Changing their diaper would have been disruptive and wasn’t necessary. This is not neglect. As one commentor noted, I also highly recommend 12 hour nighttime diapers.
As for when they got older, my first child initially potty trained at 2.5 years old during the day, but at night she wanted to continue to wear a pull up. As noted in my first post, by 3 years and 8 months she asked to remove the door knob cover, and so we did. She didn’t stop wearing night diapers till she was 4. She came home one day from school and said “Mommy, I want to stop wearing pull ups at night”. I said “Ok baby girl, how come?” She responded: “I learned at school today that diapers are bad for the environment and I care about our planet.” My jaw dropped and my eyes teared up. My oldest child is RAD (read, not traumatized). She hasn’t worn a night diaper since and has only had 1 accident in over 8 months.
My younger child who turns 3 in April has shown ZERO interest in the toilet even though we offer, so we are just waiting till he decides he is ready.
Isn’t locking a child in the room a safety issue? What if there was a fire or another emergency, and parents couldn’t open the door for some reason?
To be clear, the door isn’t “locked” it is a knob cover that our older child when she was 3 years old couldn’t figure out how to turn the knob. We are able to open the door as if there is nothing there on both sides.
Won’t letting your child cry it out lead to attachment issues like those kids in the orphanages in Romania?
I am very familiar with the theory of “attachment parenting”. I read about it a lot and generally agree with the principles. But there is a big difference between orphanages in Romania where children were literally not picked up for their entire childhood, and my children who are lovingly attended to all day long and then put safely into bed at the end of the day to get their rest.
When my older daughter was 3 and she was coming out dozens of times when the second was born, I asked her one day why she came out and she said “I just want to know what you and daddy are doing.” Her needs are met - she is just curious. And that curiosity was keeping her up since she knew if she came out she could see what we were doing. Once we got the door knob, she was able to rest her mind and her body and fall asleep, since she no longer could just get out of bed whenever she wanted and wander around the house.
Parenting is HARD. When I became a parent, I was initiated into this land where there is conflicting advice everywhere. “Don’t helicopter your kids! They won't learn to do anything for themselves!” oh but wait, “Attachment parenting! Drop everything all the time for your child or you’ll create a psychopath who isn’t loved!” I have found these polar extremes not useful. Instead, I was very lucky when my first child was about 14 months to have found Magda Gerber’s approach RIE through Janet Landsbury when a friend gave me her book “No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline without Shame”. This approach is firm and holds certain boundaries, but also urges a deep trust in your baby as a whole and capable being. For me, it’s the perfect blend of loving attachment and teaching boundaries and self-sufficiency, and it works so well for our family. Of course I don't ALWAYS agree with everything RIE, but I’m so grateful for the information and all I have learned. Janet doesn’t really cover sleeping that much. It’s more around tantrums, having a second kid, and meal time that she helped me the most. I have also loved the work of Shefali Tsabary around conscious parenting.
I am not a “parenting expert”. I am a mom who has read dozens of books and hundreds of articles as well as been a parent for almost 6 years. For work though, my job is in public policy. I have an undergrad degree in economics and political science and a graduate master degree in public policy. Specifically, my work for the last 10 + years has revolved around taking complicated information and analyzing it for policy makers, so they can make more informed and data driven decisions. So when I became a parent, I devoured all the parenting research; I find the topic fascinating and energizing similar to how I feel about my work.
In addition to reviewing the quantitative data out there, I also now have a lot of qualitative data from my own experience as well as the experience of many of my friends to inform my parenting decisions. I know women who have developed severe shoulder or back pain because they were sitting up all night in a rocking chair holding their babies because they were afraid to lay down with them in bed and didn’t know how to sleep train. I’ve walked many other moms through this process from my perspective (because they ASKED me to) and then celebrated with them once they had successfully completed sleep training and were happy with the change for their family. I also have listened to beautiful stories from wonderful friends who bed share.
To each their own, but I stand by my statement that I have not seen any statistically significant studies that show any adverse effects on kids from sleep training with CIO method. If you have one, please feel free to send to me and I will read it - firstname.lastname@example.org. But please don’t send me articles with people just stating an opinion or with research on kids who were neglected in orphanages because that is just not the same as a kid who has their needs met all day and is lovingly cared for their entire life and is sleep trained with CIO.
Finally, I noticed that many women who were brave enough to comment that they sleep trained prefaced their comments with “I sleep trained because I had postpartum depression” or some similarly challenging situation. I am not degrading these mothers. Good for them for doing what they needed to do to heal, and I support them. But I also want to note that I didn’t decide to sleep train my kids out of desperation or because of postpartum or an unsupportive husband. People with the available capacity and resources can research and determine if this is the best, healthiest course of action for their family, as I did. I wanted to share that clearly and unashamed, so others can feel more informed and less guilty if this is their choice.
Isn’t motherhood about sacrifice? Why did you have children if you weren’t prepared to meet their needs?
I agree that parenthood is about sacrifice. If there was a lion about to eat my kids, I would 100% throw myself in front of the lion, so my kids could run away to safety. Fortunately for me, I live in America in 2020. I am incredibly privileged and although I do often have to forgo my needs for my family, I don’t see it as my job to sacrifice just for the sake of sacrifice. And since I also had someone come to my instagram page to comment that what upset her most about my article was not the sleep training but my “arrogance”, I want to note a couple things. I work hard not to be arrogant. To be humble. To be kind, caring and honest. I read once in a book called “Present over Perfect” this quote:
''It’s easier to be impressive to strangers than it is to be consistently kind behind the scenes.”
I think about this quote a lot with my family and coworkers, and how I’m showing up each day. And after much hard work, I can confidently state that I am whole hearted. I believe I am worthy of giving and receiving love (thank you Brene Brown!), and I have worked VERY hard to achieve this state, which I also believe is incredibly healthy for my entire family, so I don’t constantly operate out of a state of lack and reaction, (which I used to do!)
When I am not sleeping or taking care of myself or when I am peeved at my husband or really anyone, I am a much less good mother. When I am running on empty, I am resentful and angry. My kids do not need me to sacrifice and then spend my time resenting them. My kids benefit from my joyfulness. So if you want to call it “me time” in a derogatory way, I’m cool with that. Glennon Doyle has this very powerful passage in her new book “Untamed”. She talks about her feelings watching her wife relax on the couch, and she resentfully thinks “must be nice” as she judges her and feels she should be busy doing something. But she has also realized through reflection that this is a learned feeling from her childhood, and that she wants to unlearn it since it isn’t serving her anymore...and even more that she is actually jealous and deeply longing for that relaxation herself. I always find her writing incredibly brave and helpful. Here is an excerpt from Untamed that felt particuarly appropriate for this blog post:
"Mothers have martyred themselves in their children’s names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most, loves the most. We have been conditioned to prove our love by slowly ceasing to exist...What if the call of motherhood is not to be a martyr but to be a model?"
My family and I are in Florida for the next few months to live near in-laws during COVID. This very morning (I am writing on a Sunday), I swam in the ocean for a bit of “me time”. My husband was on shore building sand castles and having a grand time with the kids. I got exercise, I floated, I boogie boarded a bit. Felt the sun on my face. I looked up at the sky, I watched the birds, I watched my wonderful husband play with my adorable, very sandy and smiling kids. I was full of joy and gratitude.
I don’t tell you any of this to “boast” or because I think I’m perfect, or to make you feel bad about yourself. I tell you this because I wish this love, gratitude and happiness for you and your family as well, whatever your parenting choices. I see wayyyyyyyy more moms guilty and tired than I see arrogant or selfish. I have lots of amazing female friends who are honest and kind, and we talk often about how we can be better mothers, wives and humans. I wish for all of you relaxation, joy and good friends.
I don't understand why this is on this page? What does this have to do with love?
In the “Genesis of youareagoodmom” post, I recount a story from a few years ago where I was a relatively new mom talking to a younger female colleague without kids about my toddler, and I said “I think I’m a good mom…” and she stopped me and said “wow, I’ve never heard anyone say that before”. I remember feeling momentarily stunned. Was that a stuck-up thing to say? Am I a good mom? I remember feeling the answer rise from within “yes, yes you are”. From that day forward, I have felt compelled to say boldly, proudly and often that I am a good mom and to really believe it, especially during the hard times.
If you took offense to anything I wrote either in my sleep post or above, or felt I was saying that different choices are less than my choices, please hear me now and know that I am not saying that. None of my blog posts are about making any other parent feel less than or bad. This is just my experience that I am sharing. If you don’t like it - you do not have to read it. But just in case it helps someone else, I want to share.
Somewhere in the dregs of the comments section on my article, some kind soul said “wow, there is a lot of mom shaming on this article”, and someone else responded with “yeah, well they put it out there, so it's fair game”. Sure, it is true that we are lucky to live in a country where the internet isn’t censored and that legally allows free speech (aside from hate speech!), so people can disagree on any number of issues. I believe disagreement and debate leads to much better outcomes.
But just because someone is brave enough to share online, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or kind to just shit all over them, judge them, shame them, or assume you know who they are based on limited information. Behind every share is an actual human being who will likely read what you wrote. That kind of commenting doesn’t help anyone, and I’d wager it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself either. And I know this of course from my own personal experience of shaming and judging others (I am working so hard to stop! And yes, it is hard.) Sometimes it seems we have gotten to a place where hearing something we don’t agree with is so offensive that we need to demonize the other. You didn’t like my article? I must be a horrible mom - write me off. I totally get the feeling to do this, and when it happens to me I work hard to breath and focus on staying open, curious.
I follow a bunch of mommies that post things I don’t always agree with. They post about how kids shouldn’t go to school until at least 7 years of age (mine have been in daycare since 6 months old); or about how you should breastfeed into toddlerhood (I breastfed exclusively for 6 months, but I chose to stop when I went back to work); or about how you should bed share. I don’t feel threatened by or angry at these women. I respect them and their willingness to share their experience, and I am genuinely intrigued to learn from them. I can unfollow them at any time.
I started following LoveWhatMatters because I think people are interesting, and I like to read their stories. I don’t want to only read about people just like me or that I always agree with! I want to learn and to grow. My days and my family are full of love. I know in the core of my being that I am a good mom, and I hope that more parents can push aside all the judgement and shaming and know that for themselves too.
It’s been a rough one. I wish you well and I wish all of us more love, grace, listening and learning as we move into the new year and put 2020 behind us.
“This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.”
Glennon Doyle, Untamed