MY SLEEP TRAINING STORY:
One of the many complaints of motherhood is the communal: I’m tired. I never understood the depth of this statement until I became a parent. I felt quite prepared to be a mother, in fact; I didn’t read many books because it just felt so natural and intuitive. My confidence may have come from being a part time step-parent to a wonderfully kind, loving boy named Dexter who accepted me and allowed me to care for him. One of the beauties and challenges of marrying my husband was his son- it opened me up to parenthood much earlier than I had anticipated. This led me to be part of a strong social circle of wise mamas who loved to talk about their parenting experiences, especially pregnancy. When I was inching (and literally growing) closer to my due date, I was informed over and over again during my last few baby moon weeks to rest up, ‘like seriously rest up, you have no idea what you are up against.’ I now find myself throwing this advice back to every pregnant friend I know, but they give me that same excited new mother look, like I’ll be fine. However, no one could prepare me for the sleep deprivation which was about to take over my life. Just so one can understand more about my sleep history, I was a deep 10 hour sleeper, I loved sleep, I slept through earthquakes! My husband is the same so we were positive that our darling was going to be a great sleeper too… if only it worked that way!
When Coco was born, we were blessed with an angel and to our expectation an incredible sleeper. She ate like a champion and upon her dreamy request slept 5-6 hours every night. I remember boasting about how lucky we were. I felt rested, full of abundance and the deepest, purest love eternally growing over the next few months. My PG-13 family rom-com was about to come to a jarring halt and become quickly a distant memory. At around four months a natural sleep regression occurred, but for some reason Coco never returned to her prior sleeping patterns. It began with naps. I had been pretty good so far in regards to not allowing her to fall asleep while breastfeeding but a new bad habit was forming from all the accidental ‘attachment’ parenting I had apparently been doing. I would go about my normal routine, start to rock, sing and shh her to sleep. In about 15 seconds she would go from 0-10. Coco would scream whilst wrestling her way out of her swaddle, out of my arms. It was relentless but there was no other way other than putting her down to cry it out. I would sometimes be so dehydrated from trying to out ssh her. It was one thing dealing with it behind closed doors but I was going crazy not getting out. So when we would go for walks I would have to stop, take her out of the stroller to rock her while she screamed and fought me, until she fell asleep in my arms and then I’d put her back. It was very embarrassing, everyone would just stare and I felt as if they were judge me. The alternative was letting her cry in the stroller, and then the looks were even worse, as if everyone was trying to say ‘pick up your daughter, she is crying,’ as if I were somehow unaware of my own baby screaming next to me. I couldn’t win and I was fading away into exhaustion. I wish someone would have slapped me in the face and woken me up to the fact that her screaming in her crib was no worse than her screaming in my arms- at least we may have fixed the problem. With my twisted, sleep deprived way of thinking, I believed as long as I was holding her whilst crying she was not being abandoned. The trouble with this concept of mine was, I was slowly going insane. Her nighttime routine was worse, I now began allowing her to fall asleep at the boob because I didn’t have to put up a fight getting her to sleep. She would then wake up every 2 hours, sometimes every hour. Sleeping in her crib or in bed with us made no difference. I was unaware of the practice of letting them work it out for about five minutes before running to their rescue, as if they needed rescuing! My brilliant thinking was if I got to her fast enough she would not wake up completely and I could get her right back down again, after feeding of course. Wrong move. I basically trained her tummy to be hungry every two hours, then she would be pee more waking her up again and loving mommy dearest would always be there to aid her back to sleep.
Having your mother or mother-in-law can be helpful during these times but it can also be another driving force for your insanity. My mother’s obsession was fixated on getting to the route of the problem of her sleep issues. One week she was convinced she was starving. The fact was I had an over supply issue and an over active let down so I didn’t believe this to be the problem. The next week it was because she hated wet diapers, I should wake up and change her before she wakes up was her solution to that one. Hmmm so I should wake up every hour? Then it was because I was comfort nursing, I need to be stronger and say no. The last one was something she read online about how travelling down the birth canal can mess up their alignment and could be a cause for gas or restlessness. Now she needs to see a chiropractor? Which, for the record we did do- I’m unsure of any improving results but I am a dedicated believer of eastern medicine. Over and over this idea of trying to figure it out was driving me nuts. There was not one answer- I’m sure it was a combination of all these things which my mom kindly brought to my attention. Finally I gave in to reading a million sleep training books as I did not want to cry it out. I would try, I really would. I actually got quite far with each method but would hit a breaking point of: a) being too exhausted to get even less sleep that I was already not getting in order to beat her wake up schedule b) the unanswered questions as the books are made to generalize. I had so many questions, so worried I was doing it wrong but no one to ask.
By now at about 6 /7 months my world was upside down, fighting crushing exhaustion on the inside but having the mother’s energy to still keep going strong with a smile on my face 80% of the time. However, my patience level was ice thin, I was becoming increasingly emotionally vulnerable, and if you were to make me angry for any reason, I’d probably cry, while if you woke my sleeping baby I was a ball of fury. I became very controlling about everything around her sleep. I put so much effort into trying to make her sleep that I began to feel convinced that no one else could do it right, and if they did try to put her to sleep, they would do it differently than the book I was following at the time and somehow I would take a giant step backwards in her sleep training. We literally had a “no go zone” once she was asleep because the lightest footstep or creak of a door would wake her up and I’d lose my mind. As you can imagine, my relationship with my husband was not the easiest at this time either. Luckily, with so much love between us, we knew once we both started getting more sleep again we would overcome such petty arguments. We had to work hard sometimes to remind ourselves of this though. It was easy to forget sometimes that such irritability was all rooted in the extreme lack of sleep we were all experiencing, making everyone slightly on edge. During this time I also went through some resentment issues as his work schedule was so hectic. It was unfair for me to put our daughter’s sleep problems between us but I felt so alone in dealing with it- like no one quite understood the suffering I was experiencing. I kept saying to people you have no idea what happens when you have not slept more than 3 hours in a row for over a year; you really start to lose it slowly. On top of all this I’m supposed to run a household and have some semblance of my career back. My husband was always supportive of my efforts; he never expected anything of me during this time as he knew I had nothing left to give, no way was I putting dinner on the table! The resentment came because all I wanted was a different kind of support, one that he was not capable of giving, as he had to work to support us and give me the opportunity to stay home. It was hard to remember this though.
One day out of sheer desperation my mother and I stayed up late scouring the internet for more sleep answers. By some miracle we came across the Baby Sleep Site. I read the intro and skipped straight to the testimonials. I heard so many stories I could relate to. It was amazing to know I was not alone, not being judged for my mistakes and that there seemed to be a solution here. I love a good questionnaire and I sat down immediately to write out my sleep history. It took some time but I put every ounce of what I had left into that letter. I got to explain what I really wanted our sleep training to be like, which for me was the most exciting part as I finally felt some reassurance was on its way. By morning I had a response and we were ready to start my one on one communication with a sleep specialist. I got to share that I was desperate enough to be more drastic in sleep training than I had been before but to know that I also would not be able to stand anything too tough in the ‘crying’ world or I would break. So they found a perfect solution for me which would take a little longer but knowing that in the end I was working toward a better nights sleep with someone holding my hand as I did it made the weeks go by fast. I started slow. It wasn’t too tough and my daughter was responding! There were a few nights that were worse than others. But by week one I was almost out of her room with no crying to go down. The best part was that with all the questions that were cropping up I knew I had someone to go to to answer them. I think this boosted morale and kept me going. By week two I was going in only once to ssh her to sleep and a couple times a night. By week three I had her telling me to ‘go away’ and she started to fall asleep on her own. Week four we had no more night wakings. Rejoyce. It was a different life with just one nights rest, something which previously had seemed would be impossible to experience again. There was peace again. There was time for me again, time for my relationship again. I felt I could breathe. I still thought I may need a year of uninterrupted sleep in order to catch up but let’s not be greedy…
We had moments where we took steps backwards, if she got sick I would make the mistake of giving her bottles in the night to comfort her. Then I would have to start over again. We’re not perfect but we try. The thing is once you know sleep deprivation like I do, it still haunts you. As much gratitude as you may have for a full nights sleep, the moment your little one wakes up on occasion your first instinct isn’t ‘aww poor baby what’s the matter’- instead I go back to the nightmare that it’s starting all over again. I have to remind myself that tonight is just one night and she is growing up, there will be many normal nights of waking up to come. I am still exhausted everyday but my levels have adjusted, and I am back to the old me again: happy, patient, fun loving mom and wife.
I really want to thank The Baby Sleep Site for being an amazing resource of help, providing comfort and a solution. I have shared the site with many of my friends who have since had babies and are dealing with similar sleep issues. The more you talk about it the more you realize most babies have many sleep problems. You have to ignore that one friend who’s baby has slept 12 hours since they were born… they are really amongst the blessed. I really wanted to share this personal story with you because I didn’t know there was a solution for me out there and I hope this may help someone. We have since transitioned into a toddler bed and some issues are creeping back up again with our bedtime routines and night wakings. However, I am not worried or loosing my mind because I know exactly where to turn!!
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This whole process was so important to me , The Baby Sleep Site and I have collaborated to bring you some special pointers about sleep next week!! And if you didm’t think it could get any better, as a major thank you we will be offering one subscriber a three month membership to the site!! All you have to do is subscribe to my blog and if you are on social media please follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook to help get this solution out there to other parents in need!!