Save me from this hell

Sleep Training Sucks. Here's How I Got Myself Through It.

How to soothe yourself while your baby cries like a banshee, from audio erotica to books about bad parents.

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My son’s middle name is Morpheus, after the god of sleep and dreams. (Full disclosure, we chose it because of a chance run-in with a poster for The Matrix while walking to the hospital. Laurence Fishburne, you are a national treasure.) Of course, our Morpheus didn’t sleep through the night until he was 14 months old.

We lived in a one-bedroom NYC apartment for the first year, so sleep training attempts mainly included dousing my body with an industrial-sized bottle of perfume to mask my natural scent as the baby howled from five feet away and a device called the “Slumber Pod” that tents over a crib, which I’d hoped would trick my boy into thinking he was alone on a peaceful backpacking excursion through Yellowstone.

Alas, with baby number two, sleep training remained top of mind. At around 6 months, we chose a version of the Ferber method — letting our baby girl cry for increasing intervals of time before going in to briefly remind her that she still had parents.

So, for those moms who, like me, aren’t one of those enviable fuckers who can say, “Oh, I didn’t really do anything — at two months, she just started sleeping!” here are ten tips for when you find yourself white-knuckling it through this phase.

01

Use that noise machine for YOU

Many parents purchase a portable noise machine (we liked the Rohm) to replicate the vacuum-level loud shenanigans that happened in utero, mask outside noise, and cue their infants that it’s time to sleep.

If it works for the baby, it can work for you.

Crank that shit up and it’s likely that you and baby will both fall asleep before it’s time to do a Ferber check. (This technique is also useful if you have a snoring partner completely unperturbed by your child’s crying, and you’d rather not chuck a pillow at their head every few minutes.)

02

Take a bath and meditate on your powerful body

Dump half the bag of lavender epsom salts into the tub, let the rushing water drown out baby cries, and consider that incredible body you have — the one that birthed and/or provides for the needs of this creature. I take this time to massage my C-section scar, feeling grateful I live in a time and place that offered a safe alternative to delivering my 10-pound breech baby via vag.

03

Listen to some audio porn

If you’re going to listen to screams, they might as well be fun ones! Sexy-time may not be the first thing on your mind as an exhausted parent, but once you hear Alice talk about how Game Night turned into a threesome with her best friends Lucien and Simon on Audio Desires, you’ll momentarily forget you have children.

Audio Desires offers some great scenarios in the 10- to 20-minute range, and keeping it aural avoids the overstimulation of a TV/phone screen so you can finally get back to bed when everyone has calmed down. You can certainly include your partner, but this also works great solo, or when your postpartum body isn’t quite yet ready for intimacy and you want a more vicarious experience.

04

Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom / dramedy

The 22-minute length is perfect for outlasting a crying baby and offering comforting nostalgia. For me it would probably be Frasier. (The episode where Jason Biggs guests as a veterinarian delivering Daphne’s baby in an animal hospital could be particularly laughable — the birth takes about 10 minutes and causes no visible changes to Daphne’s hair-style or sweat levels.)

And for prolonged crying bouts, I’d go with a 52-minute dramedy like The Great, knowing full well that watching satirical banter between two people as pretty as Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning will likely send me back for more audio porn.

05

Have a snack

Just because you’re teaching the baby to stop eating overnight doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself. If you live in the city, order delivery from a 24-hour diner and put a request in the delivery notes that you’ll tip extra for a little non-baby conversation at the door.

06

Read a book featuring horrible parents

Reading any old book probably won’t drown out your kiddo’s cries, but something like Matilda, Hamlet, or Carrie that details truly pathetic parenting will reassure you that letting your baby cry for 30 minutes basically makes you parent of the year.

07

Have a silent rave in your living room

Perhaps you never got to try doing this in an abandoned Brooklyn warehouse that violated about a million fire codes before succumbing to parenthood. Never fear! Now is the time to put on your headphones and dance away the anxiety to Sam Smith’s How Do You Sleep or The Police’s Every Breath You Take while you creepily stare at your baby on the monitor.

08

Scroll through your baby’s photos

Okay, so there’s a good chance this one will backfire, especially if you’re a breastfeeding parent — the combination of your child’s cries and that adorable pic of him playing peekaboo last week will probably soak your sleep bra. Still, it may be useful to remind yourself that most of your time spent with this small human is net positive.

09

Write/draw it out

Even if you don’t consider yourself “creative,” there is something to be said for having a brain dump on the page, instead of letting those worries remain in your head. Remember, no one ever has to see what you do, and that stick figure drawing of your future teenager who sleeps until noon may help you process what’s happening when no one else is awake to talk.

10

Embrace those cliches

Remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and, as every boomer-lady passerby likes to relate to people with children, "enjoy this time, it all goes by so fast!” (If only this had been the case during my baby’s nipple biting phase.)

Ultimately, unless your child has a medical condition that interferes with sleep, if you wait long enough, they will stop crying. Then, you can sink back into your pillow for a few moments of blissful silence before turning your attention to that other child you forgot you had — the toddler at your bedside kindly informing you, “Mama, I did a poo.”

Julie Kling lives in the suburbs of New York, where she fantasizes about all of the free time she had before becoming a mother of two. She has written for Salon, the Upright Citizens Brigade, and formerly worked as an Admission Officer for NYU. In addition to writing, Julie runs Global Girls Prep, an organization helping women-identified international students attend college in the U.S.