When BabyWise Fails (and what’s not wrong with my baby)

It’s been a long eight months.

I stood and washed dishes at 10pm with tears streaming down my face more evenings than I care to remember. I was held completely hostage by the monitor. Waiting. More anxious by the minute. Is that the baby? Of course it’s the baby. Wait, it’s not the baby. Am I going freaking crazy? Jeez. Breathe already. Five minutes of peace, so quickly ruined because of the fear that he’d erupt into screaming again just as soon as I had a chance to take a breath. Which he did, more often than not.

It was hard. REALLY hard. Like, go get your vasectomy NOW hard…because that angel of a newborn we had last time was a complete and total fluke and this baby is the opposite and I cannot ever do this again. I loved him, but it took me a long while to like him. Guilt. Resentment. Frustration. No longer being able to enjoy my two year old, because I was so incredibly exhausted… emotionally and physically run down. It was all I could do to get through the day.

He didn’t sleep. He never slept. I couldn’t put him down. I couldn’t leave him with anyone else. I was patting myself on the back when my girl slept through the night at seven weeks. Six months into it this time around, I was still up every hour some nights. Where did I fail? What am I doing wrong? How can this be happening? 

Tears. More tears. Anger. Tears.

I am almost nine months out of newbornland. Joy is finally more prominent than exhaustion. I am thinking straight & feeling like the old me. Well, a new version of the old me. I’ve had time to think & process and understand the reasons why this challenge became a part of my life. & I know exactly the reason.

Three years ago I was a new mother of a twelve week old. She slept through the night. She was a dream. I was following Babywise and it was awesome. I thought Ezzo was BRILLIANT. I loved his method (more on how I successfully used it here). This mom thing? Cake walk. I was sleeping seven hours straight at seven weeks postpartum. What is all this nonsense about being sleep deprived? I joyfully recommended Babywise to everyone I knew and was open about how easy it was to implement. I mean Ezzo said it himself:

When your baby starts sleeping through the night, people will invariably say, “You’re just lucky,” or “You’ve got an easy baby.” Neither statement is true. Your baby is sleeping through the night because you trained him or her to do so. You can take the credit for your success.

I used to LOVE that quote. Every time an exhausted friend told me I was lucky, I thought oh no. I was not lucky. I helped my daughter do this. & then I recommended Babywise.

Well. Enter second child. Difficult, insomniac, second child. The kind that sleeps for a four hour stretch ONCE in six months. Who eats and eats and eats. The kind that naps for twenty minutes, TOPS. If at all. The kind that screams if you put him down. The kind that wears you to your core. & all I could think about was that quote.

& now, after failing Babywise, (failing every regimen I could possibly try) I have decided, that Ezzo is still brilliant. He makes successful Babywisers believe in themselves. What better tool for a new mama? But he makes failed Babywisers…well…feel like failures. But some of us will LOVE Babywise. We will swear by it. We will recommend it to everyone we know and judge other mothers who cannot get it to work, because he tells us we can control our child’s sleep pattern. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who are the same parent, if not a MORE skilled parent and cannot get it to work. Then what do we do? There is no eat-wake-sleep pattern if there IS NO SLEEP. Heaven help those first time mamas who just can’t get the Babywise routine to work. Sweet mamas. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

Some babies are just tough. Mine was one of them. Everyone wanted to help, and I really appreciate that. I heard: Put him on reflux meds. Cut out dairy. Use black out curtains. Let him cry it out. Put him to sleep at on angle. Swaddle. Unswaddle. Let him sleep in the swing. Co-sleep. Don’t co-sleep. Use white noise. Put him down earlier. Put him down later.

I had heard them all. I read and tried a bunch of things & I just knew, as a mother always does, that some of them were just not the answer. He was fine when I held him. Totally fine. But the minute I put him down, it was OVER. He was fine sleeping next to me, laying down, for hours, which to me, ruled out reflux.

I refused to medicate. I refused to supplement my breastmilk, so I cut out everything from my diet. The only major trigger I found was chocolate, with onions/tomatoes/peppers/garlic a distant second. He was growing and eating so much and so often. I just knew, above all else, he was hungry. I had a bit of an epiphany when I talked to our doctor one day and she asked me about my sleep patterns. She pointed out that neither my husband nor I routinely get more than six hours a night (and function just fine) and it might possibly just be his genetic makeup that tells him he needs less sleep than we think he should have. Couple that with an insatiable appetite (yet a crazy strong growth curve) and my hungry hippo was just awake and hungry. A lot.

My turning point came at about seven and a half months when I slowly started adding solid foods. I noticed virtually no difference for a good few weeks on just fruit and veggies. Then, I found my miracle food: hard boiled egg yolks. One night I fed him a crumbled egg yolk mixed in with some squash, and he slept. I tried it again the next day, and he slept again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. He was sleeping through the night. HALLELUJAH! The more he slept at night, the more he napped during the day. And all of a sudden, at eight months, my son was joyful. Like giggling, smiling, JOYFUL. I cried again. Happy tears.

But it’s time to have a discussion about the high needs child. We, as mothers, tend to bury our struggles deep down inside because somehow (Ezzo not helping this mentality) we feel our difficult babies are our personal failures as a mother. I will say this as many times, and as loudly as I can (with a hug, if it happens to be in person): IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You can get through it. It will not last forever. Breathe. You are doing a great job. YOU are not a failure.

Some babies are just hard. And hungry. But really freaking hard.

& so I am walking away from this experience with a whole new set of mommy goggles. I am more compassionate. I am kinder. I am so empathetic to the mama who, near tears, tells me she is still not sleeping much. It’s really easy to feel great about yourself when you have an angel baby. I think Caroline was, and in so many ways still is, a ridiculously easy child. Of course, we’ve nurtured her spirit to keep her this way, but she is just easy. And Everett–well. I was unable to “give him the gift of nighttime sleep” (the subtitle of Babywise) despite my best efforts. But this little guy has given me the gift of grace in return. There is no need to boast about parental successes, just as there is no need to judge perceived parental failures. We never, ever know what is headed our way. EVER.

So as I always like to do on my parenting articles, please help me make this a resource for struggling mamas. If you are one, and you need some uplifting during your haze, I will first recommend this: 12 Features of a High Need Baby. When I found this article, I took a deep breath & realized I was not alone. This described my baby–every single thing fit–and I started to learn how to cope and stop comparing him to his sister. It was wonderful. I also recommend every article on the Dr. Sears site about High Needs babies–which you can find here. One of the articles advised we “teach him how to relax” and that thought was on a post it note in Everett’s nursery the day I read it. It was a huge lightbulb moment for me. Teach him. Teach him how to relax, don’t get angry or frustrated, be soothing. Light bulb, I tell you.

So now it’s your turn. Tell me your survival tips. When did your fog lift? How? What was the biggest thing that helped you through it? Let’s help our mama friends who need a pat on the back or a new idea. Or even just to know, they are not alone and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

& just as I sign every one of the stylebabyLOGs that I send out…

…wishing you sleep! :)

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Hi! Hello! I am Shawna, the founder of Styleberry Blog. This creative corner of the internet has become a learning haven for moms and creatives, offering a warm and encouraging nudge to those who wish to be better and do better, but often don't know where to start. From Decorating to DIY to Diapers and Paleo-ish Dishes, I strive to make the complicated simple and empower women to take action beyond their personal comfort zone. I subscribe to the Shine Theory & so strongly believe that we shine when the women around us shine and mutual support—lifting up instead of tearing down--will always be the culture here. Are you in? I hope so! Beyond the computer, I run Styleberry Creativewhere I work with clients to create low fuss, high function spaces that are pretty and practical in San Antonio, Texas and beyond. I LOVE making a house a home. My own studs out renovation is almost complete and I am now back to working with clients. Please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you'd like to work together! I hope you’ll join me on this fun new adventure! Xo.