It happens around one month, your baby no longer wants to be held close, chest to chest. Most of his time so far has been spent wrapped snugly against you, but now he screams and squirms and scratches you with his baby claws when you try to put him in the wrap. And so you struggle for about a week to find what he likes, trying different holds. You feel awkward, he won’t seem to relax in your arms, and then you remember how your firstborn liked to be held—facing out, upright, 45 degrees. Bingo. That’s what he likes too. You think for a moment that it’s just your kids who like this hold, but turns out it’s the universal way to soothe a fussy baby.
So for the next month you use this special hold to get your baby to sleep. Walking around the house with a little bounce until he falls limp in your arms and you lay him in his crib. It works like a charm until one day it doesn’t. He’s probably two months old now, and while he still likes the special hold, he won’t fall asleep that way. You try, but he squirms and fights again, and the middle of your back tightens, your biceps burn, and your wrists begin to ache. Even if he would eventually yield to the hold and relax, you are no longer physically capable of sustaining his preference.
When did 10 pounds feel so heavy?
You don’t know what to do. Your options are looking pretty slim. You begin to worry that this is going to be like your experience with your firstborn, a constant struggle to get him to sleep. You know you could probably nurse him to sleep like you did her, the way she pretty much slept on your lap the first year, but that’s not realistic now that you have a toddler to look after, and you’re not too keen on being a human pacifier this time around. You can’t hold him peacefully, he won’t take a binky, and so you do the next logical thing: you put him in his crib and see if he’ll fall asleep on his own.
But of course he doesn’t. He cries. And since you’re at wits’ end you let him cry. You pat his back and try to comfort him. You leave the room for a few minutes and come back and pick him up, try the special hold. You tell him you’re sorry, that you wish it was different too, that you could cuddle him to sleep, that you’re doing the best you can. Back and forth you go until eventually he gives in, shuts his eyes, and falls asleep.
Some days it only takes 5 or 10 minutes and it doesn’t seem so bad, but sometimes it’s 20 or 30. On these days you begin to doubt yourself, wonder if you’re doing this right. Is he not tired yet? Maybe he’s overtired? It doesn’t look the way the baby sleep site said it would, or the way you daydreamed of peacefully rocking your baby to sleep. Maybe you should nurse him to sleep after all? Are you being selfish for not? It pains you to hear him crying, to feel powerless in consoling him. This whole sleep thing is wearing you down physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When did 10 pounds feel so heavy?
I know you feel like you’re alone in this, like none of the other moms you know struggle to get their kids to sleep. But you’re not alone, I promise. There’s a whole industry devoted to getting babies to sleep—books, sleep training methods, consultants, special sleep wear. You are not the first and won’t be the last to walk this weary road.
And I’m sorry to say that this won’t be the first time you are plagued with self doubt, wondering if you’re doing the right thing for your child. It’s only the beginning. Is my kid eating healthy enough? Is he getting enough social time, play time, enough attention? Is my form of discipline effective–too loose or too strict? Am I educating him the right way? Am I teaching her the ways of the Lord like I should? It’s endless.
Actually, I think this sleep thing is one of God’s ways of showing us moms from the get-go that we are not in control, a way of conditioning us for future trials. The books, internet, and experts may lead you to believe you are steering this ship, that there’s a science to raising babies, but you can only do so much. You can provide the right environment, you can nurture and guide. You can dim the lights and bounce and rock and swaddle and play classical music. You can do all kinds of things, but you cannot force a child to do what he needs to do or what you want him to do, just like you cannot make a baby fall asleep.
So take heart, dear one. Keep doing the best you can. Pray. Practice surrender while your kids are young, because I have a feeling it will only get harder. So much of life is an exercise in letting go.
And don’t worry, your baby will someday sleep without a fight. It may not be this month or even this year, but it will happen. May the Lord sustain and strengthen you until that day comes.