sleep to come


It is my veteran opinion that the conscientious art of sleep training occurs to a mother right around the time she needs it. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in other mamas. They get a firm look on their face as they talk about the absurd lengths they’ve recently gone through to get some sleep. And there’s knowledge in their eyes–the infancy period is over and it’s time for the family to have some predictability. There’s a suspicion in the air that everything is being sacrificed for the baby. Dinner, other children, an affectionate marriage, mom’s energy and enthusiasm for life. I personally suffer from a faint sense of bitterness around this time. I don’t ask for it. I don’t want it. But it arrives, lurking in the back of my mind, when one small part of me knows the baby could sleep better, long, harder, deeper, than this. When I know it’s up to me to bring us there. When I know it’s been me that got us into this mess, by feeding willy-nilly at all hours of the day, and letting naps be on the fly or not at all, letting the 2am wakeup slip back in, and then an 11pm wakeup, and shifting bedtimes every day as my calendar demands.

Oh but it’s hard for those few days. When I’m in the moment of it I just want it to end end end. I can tell it is not hunger crying and I don’t want to be counted on to feed at 11pm but my surging hormones want to solve this now. It sounds so wonderful to go in and calm her. But you know if the exact same thing happens tomorrow, and the day after, it will not sound wonderful. And after that heady ten minutes of soothing, I’ll think to myself, what have I done?

And so you have to write a schedule down, or find one in a book, or tell your husband or call your mom. You have do something, out loud, that affirms the logic of it, that reviews and confirms what you’re planning.

With Joan at six months, I’m in this right now. I talked it over with Joe and realized that our day schedule had no predictability for her. As of the beginning of this week, she wasn’t even falling asleep on her own during the day. So I’m fixing that first–paying more attention to the time going by, putting her down for naps, awake, at the same time every day, timing the space between feedings.

And then next week we’ll tackle the nights; and after three or four nights we will all sleep happily ever after. Not really, of course. But I can praise a few of the results for you, from experience: after sleep training you do end up with a baby who can fall asleep on their own, who doesn’t wake up at the slightest discomfort crying out for you, who errs on the side of sleep rather than wake when changes come—like being sick or traveling.



  • Nina

    Loved this post! I wholeheartedly agree. Sending you lots of good vibes and support as you sleep “guide” your little one. 🙂

  • bridget

    beautiful picture. and gosh, yes. i often think of that quote you said to me, sitting at my kitchen table. something about my mothering and convenience (or lack of!). you were right! i often think, “oh, with a second child, i’ll do things differently…” i remember getting frustrated at parker sometimes and thinking, “this is my fault! not his!” the lack of sleep training — what we did, as you know! — doesn’t make sense when you’re getting frustrated at the child! i think i let those surging hormones rule all… i will say, now i have a great sleeper on my hands, but it took a good two years to get there.

    good post, as always.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Thanks for commenting on this Bridget. I almost linked to you anyway…just for anyone who does not want what I described! I love that we come from opposite perspectives and yet can share so many good ideas nonetheless. I admire that you gave everything to Parker. I know I couldn’t do that, myself, but I admire that you did it.

  • bridget

    and of course, good luck with it! we’ll have to introduce mimosas to the next playdate cause you’re gonna need ’em 🙂

  • Blaze

    I think ( for both my boys anyway) 6 months is the pinacle of terrible sleep! “Sleep training” is just not for us but with my second one especially I came thiiiis close to trying it. I felt like I was spending all my time trying anything to get him to sleep, especially during the day & feeling like I was neglecting my toddler at the same time. We co-sleep so nighttime wake ups don’t really bother me but man, the fighting of naps drives me batty. It’s also especially hard maintaining consistent nap times with the second while continuing the the toddlers routines & activities!
    Luckily for me they both were naturally on a good schedule around 9 months…but I am still secretly jealous of people who can just put them down awake & walk out the door! I can’t do that with my 3 year old or 11 month old haha.
    Good luck!

  • Jaime

    We are in a similar boat, though my baby’s nine months — he’d been a wonderful nighttime sleeper until 7.5 mo then started having 1-2 wake ups (not bad, I know). But those night wake ups combined with the fact that I’ve always nursed to sleep for naps and night have turned my baby into one who can’t fall asleep unless he’s eating or moving. I feel so much guilt that we’ve landed in sleep training-ville, as I do believe that he’s naturally a good sleeper (he started STTN at 10 weeks and naps 3-4 hours/day, despite nursing to sleep), but that my poor decisions (naps on the go, etc) have caused nasty sleep habits. Sigh. I wish you all the best in this sleep journey — keep us updated?

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      I don’t think you should feel guilty! I think they always regress, not matter what you did. A big component around six months is the awareness that he’s alone. You can’t help that.
      I will try to write an update but for now—after a week’s time of putting her down awake for naps, it’s going well. Exactly the same at night, but only a minute or two, or none!, of crying for naps. I’m waiting until we get an air mattress for outside our room to try and drop the 2am feeding.

  • beaktweets

    This is a great post. I think a lot of mothering comes to a mother when she needs it. I tell my friends all the time, “You’ll just know!” with so many different things. Sleep is the hardest for me, though. I have two terrible sleepers and I know it’s in large part because of me! Meredith has some other things fighting against her, but I can take almost all the responsibility with Mattias. He slept well early on, but then I got lazy and just fed him on demand all throughout the night. So here we are at almost 16 months and he still doesn’t sleep through the night. Oh, gosh. Once we’re home from holiday travel, it’s time! This mama needs more consistent sleep. Good luck to you! I hope Joan takes to a schedule quickly.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      I thought of you while I was writing this because I know you’ve really fought the good fight to be gentle on your children. (though I thought you did end up sleep training Mattias…that was just from Twitter)
      It’s so tough. I’m a bit no nonsense, as you’ve probably gathered, and I think that helps me here.

  • Erin Clifford

    My children are 10 months and 2 1/2 years and with January came new schedules and more of a routine than they have had (especially at Grandma and Grandpas). So we’re in the sleep training business again. I’m trying to think of it like training for a race. You go out and run because you know the day of the 10K the training will be worth it. (I don’t run, but I think I’d like to – maybe after I master sleep training) You sign up for the second race and the training continues because you don’t want to lose what you started and it is all worth it in the end. Everytime you (re)do it, it gets better and easier. Or at least that is my hope as it still took an hour and a half to get the 2 and a half year old to bed last night.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Haha, ‘maybe after I master sleep training.’ : ) That’s a good metaphor. And so much is about the parent feeling confident that they know what they’re doing. So yes, we do get much much better at it over time. I hope it’s getting easier over there!

  • Caitlin Pelton

    Great post! Sometimes you are just spot on with the timing of these! I found myself almost texting you today but then I checked this! Sleep training, and my hormones are in a major battle with hormones coming out on top. Which in the middle of the night with Finley my sleep deprived mind says…. Stop! You are creating a monster! By Monster I mean that in I love this child so much but I am letting her run my days and nights! So after reading this I am refreshed and motivated to go up against sleep training once again! Thank you! I think we need to have face time happy hour someday! IF only all naps and schedules could allow!

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      How’s this going? The daytime training is going well for me. It’s so impossible to think straight at night. And you feel more cruel, and it’s louder, etc. But I just learned that many experts don’t even attempt nap training until six months. So I’m glad I waited.

  • Hannah

    Sometimes, I feel angry at the mother’s and websites that made me think I absolutely should not ever ever not even a little bit let my child cry herself to sleep. I think of my sleep deprived self, leaving for a 13 hour day of work at 4 am after a tiny sliver of sleep, and I just feel mad. Mad that I did that to myself, mad that I bought so hard into that idea. Our family would have been much happier if I had helped Violet learn to sleep, instead of thinking that I had to be a hardcore attachment parent. I’m trying to let go of a lot of the ideals that I had with Violet, or we can never have another child. I was able to struggle through medical school with the way we parented Violet, but it won’t work for residency. I can’t operate on someone without getting solid sleep. I won’t be able to nurse the next baby for 18 months. And I have to stop being so hard on myself and let that be ok. Anyways, all that to say- thanks for this post! I wish I had listened to logic instead of letting Violet night feed until she was 14 months old. She never slept through the night until I had to work nights during my OB rotation, and then poof- a week with me out of the house, and she slept just fine. You have to say enough’s enough at some point, and do what is best for all members of the family.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Yup. That’s definitely the thoughts I had–if I don’t do this now, I’m never having another baby. This will be it.

      It’s funny–Joan’s not even that into nursing either. So you could end up with a baby who weans at nine months!

      But yes, if you want to have more littles joyfully running through the house in a few years, you have to set a few rules for the family. And oddly, if you don’t, who will?

      And omg it’s so crazy to think that when you get sleep, you’re getting sleep in order to operate on someone!!

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