The Haggard Mother Sleep Training Method

My son wasn’t a sleeper.

I remember going to my Moms’ Group with a woman who had a little boy that was born the day after my son. When the boys were around six-weeks old she came in beaming, “Kai slept through the night last night!” All I could think was, “hallelujah! The light is at this end of this sleepless tunnel!” I went home and told my husband that any day our son should be sleeping all night!

He didn’t.

I read every sleep book out there

I had read a ton of sleep books when I was pregnant so I could be prepared for the long nights. I was under the impression that if I just did it “correctly” my infant would say, “Oh, I see, you need me to sleep. Fair enough” and then fall in line. Except it wasn’t working.

I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I was shush-patting, letting him cry it out, sitting in the room assuring him I was there without making eye contact, and something with the word “extinction” in it, which I can’t remember now because it failed so miserably.

I had ordered yet another sleep book that promised the holy grail of sleep when I just couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I was going to have some kind of mental collapse from the fatigue, the stress and the sheer guilt of not being able to figure it out, so I just tossed him into bed with us and threw him a boob if he woke up. We slept like a bag of hammers.

Still, I had failed because I wasn’t kissing him on his freshly bathed head, swaddled perfectly in his crib, then gently closing the door like a Pampers ad.

What am I doing wrong?!

I was at the Moms’ Group Christmas party and Kai’s mom looked at him and said, “Buddy, are you tired?” She then spread a receiving blanket on the floor, put this slightly cranky child down and he fell asleep. He fell asleep! What the hell?!? Clearly, she’s drugging this kid. No shushing. No patting. No nursing. No driving around the block pleading. The little bugger just fell asleep. I swear to God I wanted to drop kick the fruit tray across the room and scream, “What the fuck am I doing wrong!?”

It turns out nothing. Because I have decided that there are certain kinds of babies.

Types of Smart Babies

  • There are babies that are smart and say, “If it’s really quiet or I’m not moving, that means that they’ve forgotten me and I don’t want to be left under a bush somewhere so, helloooooo!”
  • Then there are some babies that are smart and say, “If I can’t feel a warm body near me then that means I’m unprotected and a dingo is going to eat me so, helllloooooo!”
  • Then there are some babies that are smart and say, “You know what is great? A boob (swaddle, pacifier, rocking, or whatever) because it totally does the trick to get me to sleep. Yet, you seem to have forgotten that so, helllllloooo!”
  • Then there are some babies that are smart and say, “Hot damn, I’m a baby and get to sleep whenever I want. I’m just going to lay into this swaddle sack and catch some serious zzzzs.” I’m also convinced that these were the babies that were historically left under bushes and/or eaten by dingoes.

You’re Not Failing While You Search

All of the sleep books out there? They work. They just don’t work for every baby. You are standing in front of a door with a thousand keys and only one of them fits.

So my advice is this, absolutely keep reading the books. Keep trying new stuff. But don’t feel like you’re failing if you have to hold, swing, rock, move that baby to get them to go to sleep because that just happens to be the type of smart kid they are. That door will eventually unlock and swing open whether you find that magical key or not.

This Too Shall Pass

Think of it this way, babies are constantly changing, so anything you do today can all go out the window tomorrow.  Some people think of this as a negative: “You better be careful when he starts teething because you’ll lose all of that sleep training progress.” Whereas, I think we should think of it as a positive: “Who gives a crap if she sleeps in the swing all night? Next week she may have it totally figured out because she isn’t going to be 22 at college sleeping in her Rock n’ Sway.”

Do what works now and pat yourself on the back for knowing what that is. I refer to it as the “Haggard Mother Method”, although, I should call it the “Haggard Parent or Caregiver that needs to get this kid to sleep Method” but you get the gist.

Mine was strapping him to my chest and bouncing on an exercise ball while humming during the day and co-sleeping at night. My friend’s baby would only go to sleep if the Gypsy Kings were playing while she drove her around the block. My other friend’s baby would only sleep in his rocker in the downstairs shower stall because the echo seemed to soothe him.

Sure, you always want to move in the direction of the goal – whether it be a Pampers ad or just sleeping without a soother – but don’t sweat it in the meantime and if you don’t push the peanut today, well tomorrow’s a new day, another night and possibly a totally different kid.

For the record, my son – the terrible sleeper – now announces that he’s tired and goes to bed, in his room, all by himself. As for Kai, I can only assume he was left under a bush and eaten by a dingo. *

* He’s fine and is still a damn good sleeper but his mother is always asking me what the trick is to getting him to eat because he’s a terrible eater. Go figure.

The Haggard Mother Sleep Training Method. This sleep training method worked like a charm when I was losing my fucking mind from baby-induced lack of sleep.

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  • I am a full-time working mom. I feel like I’ve tried everything. This baby wakes up every two hours. He’s going to be five months on Monday. Even if he sleeps in my bed, he still wakes up every two hours and need something. He also has really bad reflux. So if he sleeps in my bed, that means he is going to spit up everything he ate all over the bed, himself, and me. I am so tired that it’s starting to affect my work performance. I’ve tried to let him cry it out, only at two in the morning he cries and cries and cries and does not go back to sleep. The only thing that makes him go back to sleep, eating. I’m thoroughly exhausted. The only solution I have not tried, is that I sleep in the guest bedroom, and give my husband a bottle to feed the baby. That way I could get four solid hours of sleep. Then I can move back into the bedroom and handle the next several feedings. That makes me feel crappy, because then he’s not getting the boob. I’ve read some books. Nothing works. It really does seem hopeless.

    • Ugh. That sounds beyond exhausting. I can only imagine the level of tired you are hitting. I think your bottle idea is a really good one. Even if you get one solid night of sleep, it would probably make a world of difference. I would recommend pumping right before you go to bed so your boobs aren’t blowing up at 1am. I would also suggest ear plugs so you aren’t just lying there thinking “I should just go get him”. All the best of luck to you.

  • MY CHILD WILL NOT NAP OR SLEEP AT NIGHT! He was born 2 months pre-mature with extreme acid reflux and for a long time could only sleep laying upright on his tummy. He is now 9 months old and up until 3 months ago, was getting up every 2 hours around the clock. Now it is about 2-3x a night. Still a struggle to get him to stay asleep in his pack n play alone, you have to feed him full and walk around until he is too tired to fight the sleep off. ( I would LOVE to go to sleep and here he is fighting it?!) I feel like I am failing every. single. night.

  • This article just totally relieved some weight off my shoulders. It’s funny, my problem isn’t her sleeping through the night (she’s been doing that great since about 4 weeks of age) but more taking her naps during the day. And going to bed at a decent time, lol. But I was stressing the whole, ‘why can’t I get her on a good sleep schedule?’ thing. And when I thought I did, suddenly she got all discombobulated again (especially since she’s teething). I tried the cry it out method a couple times, because that’s what was suggested me to, but I caved after about thirty minutes. I just don’t have the heart to let her cry until she passes out. Putting myself in her shoes, it’s really so sad to cry until you’re so exhausted you have to fall asleep. I 100% agree with the fact that babies are crying out for our protection, safety and comfort as their mother. If she wants to fall asleep on my chest, so be it. I have co-slept her with as well, and many times, she just wants the comfort of falling asleep next to mommy. Once she’s out, I put her in her crib, and no problem. For her naps during the day, I’ve rocked her to sleep to get her on a schedule, but as soon as I put her down, she wakes up. Which tells me, she’s just not actually tired. I’ve learned with her to just watch for the signal that she’s tired and go from there (and sometimes, she’ll still fight it lol… babies.)

  • I know I’m reiterating what a lot have already said, but Thank you!!! I had a horrendous appointment with the pediatrician today and one of the things that made me feel so terrible was when she made me feel like I’m going to kill my child by cosleeping. I tried to explain to her that I’ve done all my research and I’m doing it as safely as I believe I can, but that I think it’s the right thing for us, but she still seemed skeptical. I think it’s so much safer than being so exhausted that I’m afraid I’m going to drop my baby while breastfeeding in the middle of the night. Between that, the concerns over my 15 month old not talking yet and her concerns over my answers to the Edinburgh postparnum depression scale test (which I really thought my answers were pretty normal for me, she doesn’t know me that well), it was a rough visit. I’m just trying to survive as a mommy to a two month old and a 15 month old, and this article (and the comments) were a good reminder that I’m not the only one who is just doing the best I can and making the decisions that I think are best for my family (regardless of the judgement of the pediatricians or the AAP).

    • I’m so glad this article was helpful. I remember that time sooooo well and I found it so hard. Hang in there and raise your hand if you need help. You’re doing a great job. (P.S. I’m also impressed as fuck that you commented. When I was in your shoes I don’t think I knew how to put pants on let alone spell ‘reiterating’.)

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