Finding out I was pregnant was THE MOST exciting news in the world. I was going to be a mom! ….. I was going to be a MOM?! With all of the excitement, also came so many fears. How am I qualified for this? I leave clothes in the washer for 3 days before I remember they are there, now I’m responsible for remembering to change a diaper?! Life certainly comes at you fast.
As the months flew by, it was time to start figuring out how to be a parent. My husband and I listened as family members shared their stories and experiences, we flipped through the books people generously purchased for us, and we sat in on hours worth of baby classes. We listened as the professionals taught us everything, from how to bathe a baby, to how to hold a baby. We went over car seat safety and how to dress your baby for the weather. There was also a lot of talk about a newborn baby’s sleep, because after all, sleep (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest adjustments of being a new parent.
The concept of “safe sleep” was mentioned, and we listened closely, as this was all so new to us. What was “safe sleep”? The nurse explained to us the importance of allowing the baby to sleep alone in their crib or bassinet. There should be no extra blankets or pillows, no stuffed animals, nothing that could accidentally trap the baby. Co-sleeping was allowing the baby to share a bed with mom or dad, safe sleep was allowing the baby their own space to sleep independently. My anxiety was sky high during pregnancy and especially during that overwhelming fourth trimester. Anything I could do to keep my baby safe, I was 100% on board with. I know some mamas love the idea of co-sleeping, and if you’re doing it safely, and it works for you, then keep at it! I knew that route wasn’t for me, which is okay too.
We came to the conclusion that no matter what – we would put our daughter down every night in her own sleep space, with nothing but her swaddle/sleep sack on. The nights were often long, as newborn babies don’t love the idea of sleeping alone, so they wake up A LOT. Each cry, my husband or I had to get out of bed, get my daughter (who was safely in the bassinet next to our bed) and tend to her needs. While it would’ve made for easier nights, maybe even more sleep, if she was sleeping in bed with us, we knew allowing her to sleep in her own space was important to us.
It was hard to not give in at 2AM, 3AM, 4AM, when we knew all our daughter wanted was to be close to us. We often split the night shift, one of us would sleep for 3-4 hours, while the other held the baby so she could sleep, then we would switch. Some nights, we both stayed up together and tried to figure out this parenting thing. No matter how tired we were, we were confident the decision we made regarding her sleeping on her own, was the right decision for us.
There were many, many nights we did the same song and dance for what felt like hours – put baby down, baby cries, pick baby up, comfort baby, put baby down, baby cries, pick baby up, etc. I cried some of those nights just as much as my daughter did. I knew the tears would eventually stop, but a few tears were worth it, in exchange for the relief I felt knowing I was doing what was best for me and my daughter. Now, nearly 18 months after the newborn phase, my daughter sleeps great, on her own, and in her crib. Do I wish my baby (now toddler) would snuggle me more? Yes. Would it be nice if she NEEDED me to fall asleep? Sure. Did we have a few ‘slip- ups’ here and there? Of course. Welcome to parenthood – it’s slip-up central.
But, if I could give my tired, new mom-self any advice, it’s that you will sleep again. There is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may seem. While you’re making your way through, you do what works for you. If you need to get an extra hour or two of sleep, and your baby is safely in bed next to you, then do it. If your anxiety skyrockets at the thought of your baby laying in bed with you, then safely in the bassinet/crib works just as well.
Now, this was my journey. Every parent’s journey is going to look different, and it should look different. Every baby is different, so what works for you, isn’t going to work for me. The best part of parenthood? You get to do it your way. Because at the end of the day, does your little one feel so safe in your arms? Does their smile absolutely make your heart explode? Then you Mama, you’re doing it right. You’ll sleep again, your little one who needs you now, won’t need you forever. Make yourself a coffee, smile your sleepy smile and know that you… you are doing it right.