When I was pregnant, I was open-minded about all the big decisions. Breastfeed or bottlefeed? Whichever worked. Epidural? Sure, why not. “Birth plan?” Nah, let’s wing it and see what happens. But on one aspect of parenting, I wasn’t going to budge. My mind was already made up.

I was never going to be one of those awful moms who lets their baby cry-it-out to get them to sleep through the night. 

I thought, like so many mamas, that “Cry-It-Out” was a four letter word.

I mean, seriously–what kind of mom could let their precious baby cry in their crib and NOT go in to comfort them?

Well, I’ll tell you what kind would, because as it turned out, I WAS one of those moms. A Zombie Mom. A worn-out mom whose darling baby DID NOT sleep through the nighteven after 18 months–even though She. Had. Tried. Everything.

A Zombie Mom who hadn’t slept more than a few hours at a stretch in TWO FULL YEARS; thanks to pregnancy, round-the-clock nursing, and bad sleep habits we didn’t realize were bad sleep habits. 

Rocking the baby to sleep? Tried it. Have daddy put him down? Tried it. Adjust bedtime? Tried it. Lovies in the crib? Tried it. Enya playlist? Tried it. Sleep sack? Tried several. Sneak out like a ninja? MASTERED IT.

STILL DIDN’T WORK.

Literally, nothing we tried helped. Our toddler simply decided at 18 months old, that he was officially uninterested in a) going to sleep, and b) staying asleep. It didn’t matter if he was in the crib or snuggled up on our laps in the rocker. If we could somehow miraculously get him to sleep in the crib, we were guaranteed at least 3 or 4 screaming, crying wake-ups throughout the night, and it would start all over.

There was not enough coffee in the world.

Being the “good mom” who always soothed the fussy baby was turning me into a bad mom! All those late night “snuggle sessions” started to wear on me, and took a toll on my daytime attitude as well. I had never felt more frustrated as a parent.

Moms should just know how to help their babies sleep well. Shouldn’t they? Obviously there was something wrong with me!

Finally, out of sheer desperation, I did something I never thought I would do. I ate a little crow and looked into sleep training, after all. I had to try something. . .anything! I saw on social media that a dear friend from school had recently gotten certified as a Sleep Consultant. (AKA: Miracle Worker.) I swallowed my pride and sent her a message.

And you know what? Contacting her was THE single best parenting decision my husband and I have ever made.

In less than one week, our toddler was getting tucked-in wide awake, going to sleep within minutes without crying, and sleeping through the night. 

THE ENTIRE NIGHT.

And the best part? He didn’t hate me! He wasn’t scarred or emotionally damaged–on the contrary–he was healthier! He was rested. He was happy. He had energy. He wasn’t crabby.

And he even started napping better, too.

My son only “cried-it-out” for a total of about 40 minutes (in all) the first night, and although it tore me up inside, he cried less and less each night. He slept through the night (with no crying at all) on night FIVE. So that meant his daddy and I did, too.

The week that I sleep trained my son was literally life-changing. I can’t even fathom how I was getting through life on such little sleep, before we taught him how to sleep. 

I had convinced myself I was doing the right thing, pulling him out of the crib whenever he woke up crying in the night. I now know that I was actually interfering with his sleep! I was the one keeping him from getting a full night’s rest, and ALL of us were suffering because of it. I thought he would learn on his own, eventually, but it just never happened. Once I learned how to teach him, he started to sleep like a pro!

Mamas–if you have a baby or toddler who isn’t sleeping well, I hope you can learn from my hard lesson. My biggest regret is the fact that I waited 18 long months before finally getting help, when I had already run myself ragged. Don’t become a chronic Zombie Mom, like I did, because you think sleep training is “cruel” or “insensitive.” 

What it really is, is MAGIC!

Sleep training your baby does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a rested mom, which in my opinion, is the only kind of mom to be. 

I thank God everyday that I swallowed my pride and asked for help. Some kids are great sleepers on their own, but I learned firsthand that some of them just aren’t. If your child has trouble sleeping, there are experts out there who can help you teach them how to be a great sleeper. 

So do yourselves a favor, tired mamas: find a sleep plan that works for your family, and give it a try. You won’t believe how much better you can “mom” after a good night’s sleep! 

After all–parenting is hard enough when you are rested and healthy. Why parent in Zombie-Mode, when there is such an easy fix? 

Now pour yourself that third cup of coffee–and then go find yourself a sleep consultant! 

Erika Wilson

Erika Wilson is a writer, artist, and author/illustrator of children's books living in Big Sky country, Montana. The only "she" in a family of six, she is never without inspiration for her writing or her artwork! You can find all of Erika's work and her blog at her website ErikaWilsonBooks.com.