Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sleep Solution: Replace Your Mommy Mantra

Image from helpfornewmoms.com

"Will this child ever sleep?"

"I am so tired."

"It's 3:00 a.m. so if baby goes to sleep now I'll get 4 hours of sleep."

"How am I going to function tomorrow?"

"This happens every night."

"I wish baby would just stop crying."

Do these phrases sound familiar? Think about them carefully. What mantra do you repeat to yourself when you are up late with your baby, toddler, or child?

Such mantras add more stress to your life. Positive thinking can go a long way to changing your feelings about difficult situations.

I understand that the solution I'm hinting at seems overly simple. For that reason many of you will dismiss this advice and continue doing what hasn't been working. That is your right. However, ask your self this: what would it hurt to try this out? This method takes little extra time and minimal effort to try out. If you are at the point of considering parenting methods that are not widely considered gentle you might as well give this a try.
Here is the method:

1. Turn your clock around to face the wall.

2. Do nothing physically different tonight (or the next night your sweet child is up all night or having trouble going down to sleep). But keep a pen and paper nearby. When you start feeling overwhelmed write down the thoughts that repeat in your mind.

3. The next day when you are feeling a bit more refreshed read over your mommy mantras. Consider how unhelpful they are. Consider this: In the moment that you are completely exhausted and frustrated you don't have too much control over how the night turns out and thus how much sleep you and baby get.

4. Now replace your mommy mantras with something useful. This may take a bit of thought or a night or two of trial and error. Practice repeating this mantra throughout the day.

5. The next time you have a long night stop yourself when you are repeating the negative mommy mantras. If you must wear a hairband around your wrist and snap it when you start the negative thought process then do it. For some that is effective but most will not need it. If the physical pain of the wrist snap makes you even more frustrated then take a sip of water each time you say something negative.

6. Now replace your negative mantras with your positive ones. Repeat as necessary. Absolutely do not let the negative ones repeat. As soon as you notice it, even the feeling of it, stop it.

Give the method a week and after the week assess how well you have been completing the steps. You can't do it halfway. You must be committed. If you have followed the steps appropriately then assess if it has been working for you. Are you less stressed about night wakings or bedtime? If it has worked for you then fantastic. If not then it's time to move on to more extensive sleep solutions. Or perhaps you just need to find another way to stop the negative mommy mantra.

In addition to replacing your mantra with something positive find other ways to enjoy bedtime or night wakings. Tape a favorite tv show and watch it (you may need to put the caption on), start a painting that you only work on at night, have a night yoga routine, save a special sweet treat for these exhausting nights, record some positive mood music. I know that enjoying this time is difficult but it is possible or mostly possible.

I've been trying to get my little girl to sleep for several hours now only to finally get her down to sleep. She will wake several more times tonight but I'm not worried about that, the worst is over for us tonight. During our difficult sleep session tonight I had a brief moment of reflection that led me to type this out. I thought to myself "wow, I am amazingly calm, why?". Thankfully I could identify the answer. I used to be a sleep freak. I mean I coveted my sleep. Of course I was a huge sufferer of insomnia and plenty of other sleep issues so sleep was a huge commodity for me. What made my sleepless nights most difficult was the negative mantras I would say to myself and the constant clock checking. Once I was able to stop these behaviors I ended up relaxing so much more about bedtime. Now I'm grateful that I've had that experience, it has served me well as a mommy.

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