To the struggling mom, to the mom who decided to sleep train or simply provide her kids with structure, and to the mom who was shamed out of sleep training … this is my journey and why I am an advocate for sleep.
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for investing your time and energy into giving your child healthy sleep skills. They’re not your child's parent. Unfortunately I often see parents online get scolded for choosing to teach their children sleep skills. Why is that? Currently, there is such a huge push to raise awareness for mental health issues. We are encouraged to reach out if we believe someone is struggling… but what about the mom who is EXHAUSTED, but is told, “well they’re only this little once, sleeplessness is temporary” or are misinformed or scared into thinking “sleep training is terrible, suck it up.” Heck, breastfeeding is natural, but it’s very widely known that it’s NOT easy and that babies have to be taught/guided to latch, etc. Sleep works in a similar way- children often need to be guided to sleep. Oh and, yes your child can “sleep through the night” even if you exclusively breastfeed.
In many places of world there are multiple generations living in one household. Childrearing can be balanced between generations of woman and support is not lacking, but for many of us in western society, this is not the case and we spread ourselves thin.
Sleeplessness further exacerbates postpartum anxiety and depression. It actually amplifies everything to be honest. Sleep deprivation affects even the most “mentally stable” folks. It’s true- your children are only this small once. Therefore, I want to make sure that I can be the best parent that I can be, and that can’t happen if I’m in mombie mode 24/7. We all know that kids cannot survive on junk food, so why let our kids function off junk sleep? Sleep is food for the brain! If you are thriving the way you are, don’t change a thing! Don’t fix what isn’t broken. However, if you’re really struggling, you can make a change. You can do something about it! Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty. Heck yes I baby wear, but I also use a stroller so my back doesn’t feel like it’s going to snap in two. I breastfed, but I also bottle fed. My child sleeps independently, but she’s super cuddly and sweet. We found our sweet spot and I am sticking with it! Find your sweet spot!
My life changing moment happened when my daughter was only 3 weeks old. I was already dealing with my 2nd round of mastitis and felt like I was literally going to die. I felt like I was starving all of the time. I remember being so cold with a high fever, that I put every blanket that we had in our house, over my body, then woke up a bit later, completely soaking wet from sweat. My chest was on fire, my left breast hurt so much I could barely hold my sweet newborn. I remember taking a warm shower to help bring down my fever while crying and crying waiting for my husband to get home from a charity golf event, while my daughter watched from her rock n play just outside the shower. I needed help doing the simplest tasks because I was so sick and was in so much pain (it also hurt to stand and it wasn’t until I was 4 months postpartum that I learned I had fractured my pubic bone in labor). I had fallen asleep on the couch with my tiny daughter in my arms- that was the moment I thought, I need to do something about this, I cannot function off of no sleep and I am not going to put my child at risk. I was familiar with SIDS and safe sleep statistics, it’s impossible to ignore them. I thought, well I’m completely exhausted, and if I’m going to be dealing with mastitis frequently, I have to at least get some rest. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding there is no ‘dad takes the next feed’ unfortunately. And that was it.
I got another round of antibiotics, took some ibuprofen and spent hours and hours learning about baby sleep, reading through books, sleep studies, online forums, and combing through Facebook support groups. I quickly saw how much terrifying and inaccurate information was floating around online. I experienced how easy it was to get lost in everyone’s suggestions. That’s when I decided to take a short newborn course ran by another sleep consultant, which was a series of short videos on infant soothing methods, and then pair it with all of my research. Before I knew it, I had a baby that was extending her night sleep by one hour each week NATURALLY until we hit around 12 hours of night sleep at 13 weeks old, with NO crying. This didn’t mean I didn’t feed her throughout the night, but rather that she would nurse, and fall right back asleep. I felt like I had come to know my daughter so well: if she cried or reacted to something I knew when to be genuinely concerned, which removed the “what in the world is going on with my child” mystery that so many parents struggle with, with their new baby during those colicky times. While the beginning weeks are full of feeding, then soothing, then feeding, then soothing, we eventually found our groove. I also learned that if we jump to feed our children every single time they make a peep, it becomes very difficult to navigate between actual distress and non-distressed cries. You might think, oh well you’ll know the difference. That’s not necessarily the case, and many people don’t realize this until they’re wondering why their child is waking to nurse 12x at night but is not actually eating. Before you know it you’re feeding your kid a zillion times a day just to keep them quiet and calm, but that doesn’t allow them the opportunity to learn how to be content and show you what that looks like. Therefore, I learned to pause for a few seconds, and listen first. I saw how happy and secure my daughter was. Yes, there were times I still got to (not “had” to, because every moment with my child is a blessing) rock and sway her and give her extra cuddles, but as the weeks passed, eventually she learned that if I placed her down in her crib drowsy but awake, she could fall asleep and mom and dad would come to her when she woke up. I was able to put my daughter to bed and sit down and enjoy time with my high school sweetheart who I get to call my husband. We were still able to connect and be close even after becoming parents. He is in the military, so spending quality time together is so important to us- it’s also one of my love languages, so when my husband is away, I literally ache for him. My daughter was in our room (in her own sleep space) for almost 8 months. She napped in her room in her crib, but was in our room at nighttime. It worked for us. We transitioned her around 6 months to her crib overnight but moved across the world shortly after and we all shared a room again for the next month and a half until our household items arrived, but we did what worked for us!
Fast forward to now, I decided to help my 0-4 month clients by putting my methods into a short ebook/guide call The Newborn Nest (because let’s be real, what new mom has the time to read an actual book) so that anyone can start their infant off with good sleep habits, preventing them from having to hire a sleep consultant in the future!
While I did not “sleep train” my infant (she was wayyyy too young of course), I educated myself in child sleep, gave her a fantastic routine and the tools to have a great relationship with sleep. Throughout her sleep journey, I proactively worked and still work with her to continue her awesome sleep patterns. I was and am her sleep coach, her sleep cheerleader! Everyday I tell her she’s my tiniest and biggest inspiration.
So mom, or dad, YOU DO YOU. Do what works best for your family. If that’s attachment parenting, cool. If it’s authoritative parenting, cool. If it’s somewhere in the massive gray area between, cool. No matter what, being a parent is the most difficult and important job on the planet! We are all up all night at some point, tending to our kids. We all have sleepless nights. We all experience mombie mode. We all worry and we all struggle at times. No one’s journey is a straight arrow, so let’s be supportive of one another.
one mama bird to another