Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Train

I’m learning that motherhood is less about technique and more about wisdom and formation.

Almost six months ago, I had my first baby. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about sleep: how long; how deep; whether it’s happening in a car, on a walk, in a lap. And I’ve been thinking about how to achieve that sleep faithfully, honoring both the dignity of my baby and my duty as a mom.

For many new parents, sleep is a controversy, a series of choices that open you up to criticism. Some parents put their baby in bed with them. (Dangerous!) Others opt for a bassinet. (Cold-hearted!) Some use a pacifier. (Problematic.) Others don’t. (Equally problematic.)

In the newborn months, night feedings are necessary. The controversial faith-based program Baby Wise, promising full nights of sleep at only seven weeks, has therefore been condemned by pediatricians. But even as their babies grow, some parents continue to respond to every whimper. Loving, they proclaim. Unrealistic, say their opponents. And ultimately, not good for the baby!

Others choose to “sleep train,” putting their baby down awake so that they’ll learn to fall asleep on their own. This often involves crying. Worth it, parents insist. Selfish, say their critics. And ultimately, not good for the baby!

If you’ve cared for an infant in 2024 and successfully avoided sleep debates, I commend you. I have not. In part, because of Instagram. Also, because I needed information. My baby seemed tired all the time, and yet his eyes simply would not close. How could I help him rest?

I read some curriculum; I watched some videos; I browsed blogs; I talked to friends. Over time, I learned some strategies. We sang lullabies. We purchased blackout curtains and overnight diapers. We used a swaddle, then a “sleep suit,” then a “sleep …

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