Sure, you've been tired, but have you ever been "nearly-breastfed-the-cat-by-accident" tired?
It was a few weeks after my son was born, and my husband and I were, like most new parents with a newborn, dancing on the knife's edge of sanity. Neither of us had slept more than a few hours since the day I'd been induced in the hospital (my husband, the poor soul, had been forced to sleep on a deeply uncomfortable reclining chair as I worked on exploding our son out of my body — a fact he kept mournfully reminding people of, as I iced my stitches).
WATCH: Here's the truth about newborn sleep. Story continues below.
The exhaustion was like nothing I'd ever felt. I had expected to be tired. I had not expected that my darling baby boy would only sleep if I held him in my arms while breastfeeding, a daily routine that had made me so delirious I tried to nurse my cat on reflex.
My son was just an itty bitty newborn, though, so I told myself it would get better. Eventually, he'd sleep longer stretches on his own, right? RIGHT?! The forums and articles all promised me he would. But he didn't.
For seven months, I tried everything from sleepsuits and lavender baths, to white noise and co-sleeping. Nothing worked. He couldn't fall asleep on his own, and he wouldn't stay asleep for longer than an hour or two at best if I put him down. These seven brutal months were marked by crying, fussing, and accidentally falling asleep in public places.
The baby had it pretty rough, too.
Our parenting video series, "Life After Birth," seeks to bring conversations about the harder parts of mom life out into the open. We've given you the brutally honest truth about postpartum hair loss, postpartum sex, and gross things no one warns you about. Now, we want to tackle what for many is the most distressing part of being a new parent: sleep, or lack thereof.
A few recent British studies have found that new parents can lose anywhere from 44 to 50 full nights of sleep in the first year of their child's life. That is ... not insignificant. The same studies found that new parents get an average of just around five hours of sleep a night over the course of a year.
Still not great but ... five hours? That sounds like a luxury compared to what I was dealing with every single night. (Is it even considered night anymore if no one sleeps, or are you just living in one neverending day?)
Finally, after seven months of knowing what the sky looks like at 3 a.m., I hit my breaking point and decided to sleep train, even though the thought of it broke my heart.
Cue the judgment: People love to shame sleep trainers, telling us we're torturing our helpless babies for selfish reasons, when in reality it's neither torture (studies have shown letting your baby cry a little does not cause emotional or attachment issues), nor selfish (children who don't get enough sleep have trouble functioning during the day).
As I discovered in my own research at the time, there are a lot of myths when it comes to sleep training. Many think it simply means placing your baby in the crib, walking away, and letting them "cry it out," when there's actually a lot more to it, and different ways to achieve your goal.
It's not for everyone — not all babies sleep like crap — and I'm not saying it's a solution that will work for every baby. But guess what? Sleep training worked like a dream for us, dreams which I can now experience because I finally sleep, too.
Anyway, I know why you're really here, so I'll just get to it: breastfeeding the cat.
That particular pre-sleep training night, as our new baby lay wrapped up like a burrito in the bassinet, squawking at us, our cat Milo sauntered over to check things out. My husband picked Milo up and mindlessly passed him to me.
On reflex, I sighed, unsnapped my nursing bra, popped an engorged boob out, and took the cat from my husband’s arms. My husband looked at me. The cat looked at me. The baby ... well, he was two weeks old. He looked up at shadows and squawked.
I screamed. “HOLY HELL, I JUST ALMOST NURSED THE CAT!”
My husband screamed. “OH MY GOD, YOU JUST ALMOST NURSED THE CAT!”
I screamed. “WHY DID YOU PASS HIM TO ME LIKE THAT?!”
My husband screamed. “WHY DIDN’T YOU NOTICE IT WAS A CAT?!”
Anyway, if you’re going to judge me for anything, judge me for nearly breastfeeding the cat. But as for my decision to sleep train? I sleep just fine at night over that one.
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