The Sleep Training ExperienceOct 19, 2020
If you don’t know this about me, I’m a mom of four. My oldest are twins—who just turned seven. My middle guy is three. And my last and final babe is days away from turning one as I write this. It’s been seven years of sweet hugs and kisses and horror show tantrums, C-section recoveries and getting back in shape, and last, but certainly not least, many, MANY, many sleepless nights.
I believe I was blessed with three good sleepers, my first three babes. Well, not always. I started out as a zombie with preemie twins, but by six months or so, I remember we were in a good place and definitely by seven months they were down by 7:30pm and not up again until 7:30am. It was pretty amazing. I was the envy of friends struggling to get their single babies to sleep and then waking up over and over again each night. I was grateful.
My third babe was basically an easy button on so many levels. He was a cute little chunk who ate plenty and had thigh rolls to die for. He slept through the night around the same time, and I never worried he wasn’t eating enough like I did with my twins. He was a delightful passenger along for the ride until now-the threenage years. But, that’s for another post.
My littlest baby is another story. Since day one, I haven’t slept a full night with this still adorably sweet babe. Yes, he is still sweet even if he has been stealing my beauty sleep for nearly 365 days. Maybe I held him a little too much? Maybe I coddled him? He is my last baby after all. I cannot affirm nor deny if any of the above has happened. What I do know though is that this was a different world for me-not sleeping for an entire year!
So, despite my many years of momming experience, I knew I needed help. Something was up. Something wasn’t working. And something had to change because I wasn’t going to for the Guinness Book of World Records for a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. I’d much rather make it in that book for a number of other reasons, like most successful time momager or creator of the best Bolognese sauce, both of which I could see myself winning one day. I digress.
I decided to work with a “sleep consultant”. That’s right, there are people out there who literally help you put your baby to sleep. These angelic blessings are so full of sleep knowledge, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them. The experience of working with a sleep consultant was so eye opening, so enriching, and so freaking successful, I am hesitant to even write about it because I don’t want to jinx my new life, filled with predictable naps and plentiful sleep. But, because I love you and I want you to also get back to sleeping if you’re not, I will risk the outcome and share away. Read on, mombie.
First and foremost, for the skeptics out there, I want you to know, this isn’t just some nice lady who is going to tell you to let your baby “cry it out”. If we all believed that was the way to go, we’d probably be sleeping more. But, most of us don’t. For many moms, hearing your baby cry, at length, in the middle of the night, when you’re exhausted AF, is maybe the most heartbreaking, infuriating, frustrating, and humbling experience you can have. Dr. Sarah Mitchell of Helping Babies Sleep knows that. As a mom, she’s been there. And as a doctor, she knows facts to back up proven methods and systems that work to calm baby and mom alike.
Helping Babies Sleep offers two different types of sleep consulting services: a virtual, go-at-your-own pace course Dr. Sarah teaches that is paired with a private Facebook community and offers access to ask her questions regularly during Facebook Live sessions and a more white glove service of private sleep consultation for a week with either her or one of her associates. After talking to Dr. Sarah, we agreed I should start out my sleep consulting experience via the virtual course and take it from there. “Perfect!”, I thought. “I’m a total self-motivator. I’ll take the course in a few days and be sleeping shortly after; I just know it.”
I started watching and listening to the course each evening while I nursed the baby or cleaned up the kitchen. The course was well done. It was full of useful information and tangible advice. I began implementing some of the tips, but I soon realized, I wasn’t really ‘all-in’. I was caving every time my baby cried for more than five minutes and I wasn’t feeling confident to try other soothing techniques instead of just feeding him. Like so many moms, I have a deep-rooted anxiety that my baby might be hungry every time he cries. Maybe this is because my first babies were tiny, born under five pounds who needed to be woken up every three hours their first month of life to gain weight and ultimately thrive. Maybe this is because my family is European, and if you don’t feel like you’ve stuffed yourself after every meal, you probably haven’t eaten enough. Either way, I knew early on, after taking the course, even after asking Dr. Sarah some questions on Facebook and getting her reassurance, I required more. I needed the sleep drill sergeant to help me sleep train my baby or I was never going to sleep again.
I didn’t get a drill sergeant though. I got Krista, a warm, friendly, reassuring, and yet strict sleep coach who knew what she was talking about and had no hesitation to tell me what to do and what not to do-in a gentle and encouraging way. After a thorough questionnaire and lengthy Zoom call, Krista went through a plan of action. “So, should I start tonight?”, I asked her after our one hour chat. “No.” She said firmly. “You need to be ready to go all in.” “Ok.”, I answered. I could tell this was the real deal. I looked at my calendar, picked a Friday night of a long weekend to start, ordered new sleep sacs, hung up some recycled black out curtains from the twins’ room many moons ago, and mentally prepared for the following week.
Fast forward six days and we were on our first night of sleep training with Krista holding my virtual hand through a Google doc. After 45 minutes of non-stop crying and multiple check-ins, I told Krista I was ready to cave. She helped me not to and within five minutes, my baby was finally asleep. This was the first time in his entire life he had fallen asleep alone in his crib. It had been a nightmare leading up to it, but he did it. Step one-success.
By the third day, I’d gotten into a real rhythm going and was feeling good about this whole sleep training thing. I was putting my babe down for two naps a day, and he was taking ten minutes on average to get himself to sleep. I hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep yet, but I was on cloud nine with the progress we’d made in such a short time. Then, Krista asked me if I would be ok setting an alarm and ‘dreamfeeding’ the baby at 2:30am that night. My first reaction, “WHY?!”. I did not want to set an alarm in the middle of the night and I did not want to disturb my sleeping baby! This seemed very counterproductive. But, after a few minutes of deep reflection, I texted back, “Sure, I will do whatever you tell me to do, Krista” because, let’s face it, she is the expert, and I needed to listen, no matter how strange the request seemed. For the next few nights, I did just that. I woke up to an alarm in the middle of the night, like I’d done with my newborn babes, and fed him. To be honest, I think this feeding was more for my own reassurance that my baby was eating enough, since I wouldn’t be soothing him back to sleep with milk. Whatever the reason though, it worked. By night seven, I got a full night’s sleep and so did my babe.
As I write this, I still cannot believe how quickly this method worked and how much of a different world it is to be in when you’re not stressing about getting your baby to sleep. As someone who likes control, ahem—don’t even front, I’m sure you do too, getting a good handle on your baby’s sleep schedule is such a game changer for your well-being. You know how to help them and you’re not second guessing everything you do (ok, maybe you still are, but you’re not doing it when it comes to their sleep anymore). Taking this course and working with a sleep consultant was such an enlightening experience. If you’re struggling with sleep like I was, hop on over to the Helping Babies Sleep website to get started with your program.
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