Sleep Training Regrets and Mom Guilt Mantras
I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my business… Recently I was feeling very overwhelmed by it all. And truth be told, I even considered throwing in the towel! Don’t worry.. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been meeting with a fabulous business coach, getting my head on straight, and figuring out just how I want this all to work for me! But it certainly hasn’t been without low moments. The entrepreneur life is tough.
As a sleep consultant I become extremely emotionally invested in the families I work with, and sometimes that can all feel like too much on top of my own, already emotional spirit, and my own family whom I care very deeply for.
When I started Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts Sleep Consulting 3 years ago my mission was pretty simple. I wanted to help families get more sleep. I wanted to see more people enjoy their time with their new baby, feel less stress and anxiety, and explore parenting as a well-rested, family. And I wanted to give those families a choice in how to do this. Always, a choice. And I believe for the most part I have been able to do this.
It is no secret that I worked with a sleep consultant when I had my first child, and this experience did change everything for me. It moved me beyond the cloud of depression and anxiety I was under, and I began to really love my daughter. Wholeheartedly. Excitedly. Love her. After a full night’s rest I would greet her in the morning happy to see her. And at the time I believed the decisions I had made to sleep train her were absolutely the best decisions I could have made for my family. And I told myself I would have no regrets. But alas, I do.
Something about that decision never felt quite right to me. I was so incredibly desperate for sleep in that moment that I literally would have done ANYTHING for it. I felt like I had tried everything in the process, and if this person had of told me that in order to get more sleep I needed to tap dance up and down, on the roof of a car, dressed like a monkey in a clown suit.. I would have done it! As ridiculous as that sounds. I truly would have done it.
So I “ferberized” my baby. Yup. I put her down to sleep, I walked out of the room listening to her cry from down the hall, and returned at set intervals. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Even extending to 20 minutes. It broke my heart, but I did it. I was told that this was the only way I could have a sleeping baby, and so I followed through as best I could.
There were no other options presented to me at the time. Nothing. No SLS, no camping out, no gradual retreat, no pick-up put down, no parenting to sleep. Nothing. I did not even know other options to get your baby to sleep existed beyond rocking her for 1.5 hours, or controlled crying to teach her to “self soothe”.
The problem for me now is that I know so much more than I did then. Every day I am learning more. Every day I am a better sleep coach than I was the week before. And so, I look back on that time and I really do regret some of the parenting choices I made around my daughter’s sleep. If only babies came with a manual! Argh.
Mom guilt is the real deal.
We all experience it. If I didn’t experience it as a result of sleep training my child, I would have just experienced it in another form. I also have guilt over banging her head on the car door while getting her into her car seat. Forcing her to use the potty before she was 100% ready, and leaving her to cry in the night only to find out the next day that she had a double ear infection. UGH. I am no perfect mom, that is for sure. And I certainly wouldn’t feel right portraying myself as such.
But one of the things I have had to do is come to terms with the mom guilt. Come to terms with the decisions I have made in parenting; including the way I sleep-trained my daughter. And I know I am probably not alone. So here are some of the things that have helped me.
Some Mom Guilt is Good
Guilt doesn’t feel good. It is an emotion that is hard to sit with. It causes us to look inward, to self-reflect, and to right our wrongs. I can tell you if controlled crying sleep training felt great to me, I would have never had a reason to look elsewhere! I would have never had a reason to learn what other sleep methodologies exist, and I would have never found bebo.mia., who offers a highly scientific, research based, approach to infant sleep.
I’ve always liked self-reflection. I have always found it has propelled my business forward. I have felt it has propelled me as a human forward, and without these gross feelings I would never have a reason to look at what’s not working, and why this is so.
I have learned from all my “mama guilt moments”. I have become a better parent as a result of these moments. And in the process, I believe, a better sleep coach as well.
Parenting is a Journey
To know more is to do better. I know more than I did in 2013, and so I choose now to do more with that knowledge I have. If I can parent in a more instinctive, more connected, more conscious way – I am going to do it! And by golly. I am doing it. I love the way I am parenting this little girl now. I look in her eyes each day and know we are in this together. I know my heart is at the focus of all of the decisions I am making now, and I know I am strengthening our bond each day as a result of the knowledge I have now.
Exercises To Help Move Beyond
One of the things I have done is written a letter to my daughter. I have apologized (specifically for the time I let her cry then found out about the double ear infection). I have written this as an apology to her. But also as a promise that from here on forward I will always come when she asks, and she can trust that I will be there for every difficult conversation. I haven’t given her this letter yet. But perhaps some day I will.
One thing I do is set reminders to tell myself the following few things every time these regrets pop into my head.
All of the parenting decisions I have made to this point were done with the best of intention.
All of the parenting decisions I have made to this point were made out of love, with hopes of doing what was right for my family, with the knowledge I had at that point in time.
I can never be a perfect parent. But I will have perfect parenting moments.
Every day is an opportunity for increased connection with my child.
I can’t go back and change what I did when I sleep trained my own child – but I can help other parents make decisions that they feel more comfortable and confident about.
I hope that this blog may be helpful to someone out there. If only for you to know I am not a perfect parent, I have regrets too, and some days the guilt gets the best of me. But I know now that this is just all part of the journey. I am a good mom. My family loves me. And I know I am parenting with heart.
PS - In case you are unaware, I no longer practice controlled crying forms of sleep training. I made this shift over the past 6 months, and I am very happy supporting families using other methodologies. This post is not meant to place any blame or shame on any one. I trust that those who have decided to sleep train their child with a controlled crying approach have come at this decision in a way similar to the way I did 4 years ago. You are the expert on your child, and I know for some families this may actually be the best fit.
Thank you to Astrid Miller Photography for capturing me and my daughter so well.