The first night we let him cry, I cried harder. A whole year of running to his room the moment he stirred — of nursing and shushing and rocking him back to sleep — the urge to go to him was so strong I paced the house, cursing myself for forgetting to buy wine. I watched the monitor, forcing myself to listen to him crying as my punishment, trying to hear the timbre of his cries to gauge whether I should go to him. He eventually fell asleep. He hadn’t cried as hard or as long as I’d feared, but that night I cried myself to sleep.
The internet will tell me I scarred him for life. That just because he fell asleep it did not mean he wasn’t still stressed. It will tell me I abandoned him.
The internet doesn’t know how I struggled with the decision to sleep train. It doesn’t know how many forums I lurked in, how many blogs I read and friends I polled. It doesn’t care that I hadn’t shared a bed with my husband in well over a month or that my son was regressing in sleep to the point where if I wasn’t nursing him, he wasn’t sleeping. The internet seems to forget that while a baby might need to be nursed and soothed and rocked and carried, he also needs parents who can function well enough during the day to drive a car or sustain conversation. He needs his parents to nurture their own relationship as well as nurture him. He needs his siblings to get enough time with their parents that they don’t resent his very bones. He needs his mother to be a whole person who engages with the world so she can teach him how to love reading and music and cooking. So she can show him how to value his own needs.
The internet, with its anonymous opinions, paralyzed me with fear. I deduced that no matter what I did, I was doing it wrong. If we let him cry, he’d become a serial killer. If we didn’t teach him to sleep, he’d never learn and I’d still be co-sleeping and night-nursing 15 years from now. In the end, I closed the books and shut the computer and called my mother. She pointed out that I wasn’t a serial killer and she had let me cry when it was time I learned to sleep. She told me to follow my instincts rather than a stopwatch and that we’d all be OK.
So I listened to my mother. Some nights are better than others, and most mornings find me pulling my son into bed to nurse and doze rather than just getting up for the day. But every time I put him in his crib and whisper, “Good night, sweet dreams, I love you,” and he rolls over and goes to sleep, it feels a little like magic.
But I am not the internet (or not that internet). And this is not a post advocating for or against sleep training. I’ll say only this: If you are considering sleep training, think of the whole — your relationship, your work, your sanity — as well as the baby. And then close the computer, put away the books, and pretend the internet does not exist.