I've mentioned in the past (here and here) that Daryl and I ended up with a horrible sleeper for a daughter; when Margot was a newborn, I answered her chirps and her whimpers and her cries as quickly as I could get to her, and she was always satiated by breastfeeding. It was what she needed, and I was beyond happy to do it for her. To this day, if she asks, I will provide; nursing her is my joy, and I don't plan on stopping until it feels right; and as yet, it doesn't.
When she transformed from newborn to sweet, squirmy little baby, though, our habits didn't change. I knew from things I'd read or been told that maybe I didn't need to keep up with such steady nightly feedings, or that by this age or that age the contents of her stomach at nighttime should be enough to last her through to the morning, but never at any point in time did I feel even remotely certain that her mid-night cries for milk should go ignored; because who was I to say whether or not she was legitimately hungry or not? Granted, there came many occasions on which I'd put my foot down - I'd be in the throes of such debilitating exhaustion and I'd say to Daryl, "I can't do this anymore. We need to sleep train her." But with all the gusto I had mustered up, talking about it and following through with it were vastly different. And as we quickly found out, I can't stand weathering her cries.
We started sleep training her in the beginning over naptime rather than nighttime, and I did some reading and research, but generally attacked the process with a mish-mash of various techniques. I didn't know what I was doing, and I wasn't confident whatsoever. I tried sitting at her bedside, although even with room-darkening curtains, white noise, and pre-nap nursing she just laid there and screamed at me. We shed tears together, and I questioned altogether why I ever thought this was a good idea. Hints of success waxed and waned, and I became a veritable lunatic documenting every single thing that happened, and every single wink of sleep that she got. I kid you not - I kept track of everything. I still (kind of) do - I have notes in my phone that span over a year and a quarter; and although they've gotten far less detailed and I've gotten less diligent, I can't see myself kicking the habit until Margot starts sleeping through the night.
Anyhow, I digress. Here lie Exhibits A through C, demonstrating a fairly roundabout curve of how well sleep training ended up going back in those early(ish) days last summer. These are some particularly noteworthy moments - little snippets from a few different days, out of close to a million of them, I'd say - and please excuse the swears. Also, don't bother telling me your madness has never brought a slew of cuss words flying out of your mouth like confetti. This happens to be an example of me reigned in.
So eventually, if it's not obvious herein, I gave up. You might have noticed how heavily me-centric these notes are - Daryl wasn't involved in this at all. Not because he wasn't absolutely and wildly DESPERATE to have his hand at it, but because a) he was always at work during naptime, and b) my maternal instincts offered a staunch HANDS-OFF-I-DON'T-CARE-WHO-YOU-ARE ruling when it came to both my limits and Margot's. Daryl has an easier time letting Margot cry, whereas I can only withstand it for so long before I'm clambering up to her room on all fours. And in the later days, when I eventually conceded and asked him to help - acknowledging there wasn't a bone in my body that wanted to do this alone any longer - there were many a night were I would either be yelling and swearing at him, or he'd literally be holding me back, talking sense into me, to keep me from running into Margot's room and undoing everything we'd been working on.
Can I say that IT. WAS. HARD. ? That maybe I died a little bit? I hated every minute of it. And here we are over a year later, and I can't tell you with any certainty whatsoever that it was worth our time. Actually, I should give us some credit; even though Margot still generally sucks at sleeping throughout the course of a night, our efforts at sleep training revitalized naptime - and in the long run, eventually bedtime itself. Those long days trying and failing at getting her to be alone in her crib did pay off, in that they taught her that not only was she in a safe place, but she was capable of falling asleep without a boob in her mouth. It was a rocky trip up a steep mountain, but I am ever so grateful that that hardship led to her putting herself down for naps after some chit-chatting to herself rather than screaming so passionately that I'm surprised our neighbors weren't knocking on the door to make sure I was still alive.
The moral of this story? I don't like sleep training. I can't tell you whether I agree with it or not. And nobody but nobody is going to know better about your circumstances than you are. Whether your niece or your best friend's baby or even one of your other pre-existing babies were sleeping through the night after three nights of dreadful Crying It Out, or whether you're like me and spent months not knowing what was up or down and came out with a kid who kind of gets it but kind of basically doesn't, please remember that you're okay; that you're going to be okay, and that you currently are. Seek help if you need it, and rest on your laurels if that's what you need to do. So what if your baby is utter crap at sleeping? You know autopilot? That system that kicks in and makes your legs magically walk into a pair of pants and your hands mysteriously pick up your glasses and put them on your face in the morning (maybe right side up, or maybe upside down. I did upside down once.)? Autopilot. It's there for you and it works and it gets you through all those days that you look back and don't have a single memory of.
So don't ask me what I had for dinner last night, because I guarantee I don't remember whatsoever, but at the very least I hold my head high knowing I'm doing everything - literally everything - that I can possibly do for my daughter and we're both better off because of it.
Trust your gut. Read as much as you feel comfortable doing, listen to the advice of others, but take everything you collect with a grain of salt. It can't be stressed enough that nobody knows your child the way you do, and nobody is going to have a better handle on what your baby needs than you. Your methods and tactics and habits do not ever have to measure up to anybody else's. Those other perfect-sleeping babies are not your baby, and that's a good thing. Because they're really boogery anyhow.