The Importance of Submitting to Survival Mode

Sometime during the first 12 hours of my son’s life, my brain began to switch modes. My first hours of sleep in the hospital after giving birth at 3:34am were rudely awakened by a nurse asking me if I had forgotten to wake up to feed my baby. I mean, yeah, it’s only been a few hours though, right? Wait, what day is it again? But hey, that lazy baby didn’t wake up to remind me either! C’mon dude, you’re making me look bad, 8 pounds isn’t a lot of weight to pull!

The guilty feeling lingered. Okay fine, this is what a newborn feeding schedule is really like, huh? Got it. No problem, we can just establish a new rhythm, right?  Every 2-3 hours: diaper change, feed, sleep (baby, not me). Oh cool, look! There’s a feeding app that lets me keep track of EVERYTHING. I can even see the pattern of sleep I get in the night. Sure, that seems useful…

But somewhere around the 3rd week, baby threw me for a loop one night. What? You still need to eat?? I’m supposed to be getting at least an hour of sleep right here, man! Ten hours of marathon feeding and lots of tears (from both of us) later, I looked at that stupid app and could see all the sleep I didn’t get.

Shortly afterwards, I deleted it. If I had to think about all the sleep I wasn’t getting, I wasn’t gonna make it. There was no time to think anymore, just DO.  Baby cries, get up, take care of it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Clocks are also pretty dumb. Stop looking at them.

It was a great new mantra: “SURVIVE! If you start each new day with both you and the baby perfectly alive, you’re doing it right.” This thought process would carry me happily through the next few months.

Somewhere along the way, my baby began to sleep longer and longer and I began to settle in to a new “normal.” I even began to prematurely pat myself on the back. Damn, what a good mom I must be to make this happen. I even wanted to gloat like all the other mothers on Facebook. “Baby slept 8 hours!” (Translation: I’m succeeding at motherhood! Ask me how I got to be so hashtag blessed!)

A sleeping baby can give a mother a bad case of hubris. I’ll go ahead and say it, If your baby is younger than 6 months (hell, younger than a year even) and you think he/she sleeps through the night, you’re a sucker. Inevitably, babies go through bouts of teething, illness, and developmental leaps that throw them off again. Oh, and sometimes we make mistakes as parents like making our babies dependent on “props” for sleep (not that I have any first-hand experience with that, oh no, not me). Don’t know what I’m talking about? No worries, there are dozens of sleep books that can explain it and then confuse you all over again about the proper way to “sleep train” your baby.

So suddenly, if you were like me, you’re jolting awake again. My gut reaction to a baby’s sudden night-waking is generally, “Aggghhhh, noooooo, whyyyyyy!” But, by quickly submitting to survival mode instead, you just GO. The next day, you hit the restart button and keep going. Dwelling on lost sleep has the potential to make you miss out on the joy of the day ahead of you and worst of all you begin to resent those that sleep more than you (including the baby).

So, fellow night-waking mom, I’m here to tell you that there is pride in the sleepless nights. The amount you’re able to happily accomplish on less sleep than everyone else in your household is worthy of some sort of pay-raise (if only we actually received some sort of mom paycheck)! And I can certainly tell you one last thing, I’m not wondering how the mom with the sleeping baby “does it all,” that’s easy, it’s while her damn baby is asleep.

(If you’ve read this far and are still looking for a more applicable sleep solution here are my two book recommendations. While they didn’t offer an immediate cure-all, these books did give me strategies and information I could really work with as far as “sleep training.”)

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The Baby Whisperer  – If you’re hesitant about CIO, this book is for you. It uses the pick-up/put-down method and was a very tangible strategy for me and my child. It told me exactly what to do based on age. Something I needed in desperate times.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child  – I like this book because it is research/evidence based. While it doesn’t offer you one clear strategy to apply to sleep training, it gives you the freedom and information to choose a way that might work best for you.

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