Learning how to be a new mom is overwhelming…and when your baby won’t sleep, it’s almost impossible to keep up. I know how hard it can be, because I have been there, done that.
I want to share my own story with you today, to let you know just how much I get it… and to give you hope in knowing it will get easier and you can get through this.
We were living in Greenville, SC when our first child, Ethan, was born…2 ½ weeks early. It was also his daddy’s birthday, so it sure was an exciting day! We had family come up to visit and stayed with for a couple weeks at a time. While very helpful, it was also very stressful. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know how to be a mom, so the anxiety of trying to be Super Mom flared.
My sister suggested one thing, while my mom suggested another…I tried to follow everyone’s advice, but after everyone left and Elliot went back to work…and it was just me and Ethan…
All the advice I had been given just vanished from my brain.
When Ethan would cry, I felt horrible because I was his mom and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted or needed.
For the most part, he sleep all day. But at night, it’s like he put a motion detector in my pillow…every time I laid my head down to sleep, he’d wake up. I tried rocking, singing, swaying, bouncing, paci (which he never took)…
The only way he’d sleep was if I stood there and just held him.
Now don’t get me wrong, it feels GREAT holding your sleeping baby in your arms. The warmth…his cute little chubby cheeks and lips…so peaceful…
Until I tried to lay him down.
So I had to hold, rock, and nurse him back to sleep every single night…3-4 times a night!
I will do anything for my children…but with that said…I knew that I wasn’t being the best mom I could be for him, due to my sleep deprivation…
I also wasn’t being the best wife for my husband!
I cried, snapped, got frustrated, yelled, and cried some more- ALL THE TIME! My anxiety and fear from trying to figure out why my child wouldn’t sleep and why I couldn’t get him to sleep, overwhelmed me.
I started searching reasons why he wouldn’t go to sleep and stay asleep at night, like he did during the day. I knew there had to be something wrong with him. Something that he needed medical attention for- because this wasn’t normal, right?
So I decided to try sleep training and went with a program that my sister used with her children.
But, it didn’t go so well…I started feeling like a horrible mom. Like I was hurting my child physically (because of how much and loud he cried), and emotionally (because I just knew he thought I had abandoned him, once again proving that I was a bad parent)
I felt like a failure at being a mother.
My husband gave up on the sleep training. He wanted no part of it. He didn’t like how our child reacted, nor how his wife reacted to it…so he said no more! He actually went to sleep in the guest bedroom, with earplugs in his ears…(yeah, that lasted only one night!!)
Once again, we were back to the all nighters, causing more exhaustion and frustration for me, Elliot, and our son.
Around twelve weeks old, I knew that this couldn’t continue…I couldn’t continue like this because I had to go back to work FT very soon. So, I hit the internet and started researching- effects of sleep training, crying it out, gentle sleep, co-sleeping- you name it, I researched it.
I found nothing that proved to me that there would be any negative affects to my child if he went through sleep training. The problem was that all the methods I looked at, just didn’t fit my emotional and family needs. I didn’t want to just leave him alone to cry, but I also didn’t want to put him in my bed (because SIDS was a higher risk when co-sleeping).
Then one night (LATE at night…or should I say early morning?!), I came across the Sleep Sense program by Dana Obleman. I immediately was drawn to the techniques and loved how each step was explained thoroughly, with options…YES! OPTIONS! I didn’t want a cookie-cutter program. My son was special (aren’t all kids) and I needed something that fit our family and views (how my husband and I wanted to raise our children).
So I set out to try the Sleep Sense program! My husband was totally not going for the sleep training thing again. He didn’t believe it had any benefits that were greater than Ethan crying.
Now, I’m not saying this was a magic pill and he was sleeping through the night after one night. Nor am I saying that Ethan never cried. He did cry, but I was there with him. He didn’t sleep the first night (and neither did I), but I knew that this was short term.
I could see the light! I knew that a couple weeks of not sleeping was much better than a couple of years without sleep! My emotions couldn’t take that…my marriage wouldn’t have been able to take that! So for me, sleep training was back on the table.
Dana helped me customize a sleep plan that was created according to my own child’s needs and personality. I was determined and stayed 100% committed to the plan, and by night 4, Ethan slept from 10:30 (last feeding) to 5:30 the next morning!
I figured this was just a fluke, but in understanding how much my child (and I) needed sleep for our mental and physical health, I stayed consistent! I didn’t stray from the plan we created, and guess what??
It was not a fluke!!
Ensuring that Ethan felt comfortable and sure about what happened and at what time each day took away his anxiety. Through my research and observation, I knew he was feeding off how I felt at bedtime. And he was confused- because, before Sleep Sense, our days and nights were a crap shoot!
My husband was astonished! He jumped on the Sleep Sense train with me and it was like a night and day turnaround for everyone! Setting up routines and schedules didn’t limit us as a family. What it did do was give us a happier, healthier, rested baby, a better marriage…
And for me? It gave me back my energy and a belief that I was NOT a bad mom…just a super tired one!
Consistency was the key!
Tips I learned along this part of our sleep journey:
- Every parent goes through the same things, the same fears- so I wasn’t alone.
- Finding out why Ethan needed me to sleep and the root cause, gave me the confidence I needed to take that step in trying a sleep training program again.
- I learned that there is no one “magical” program that fits every family.
- It’s okay to listen to advice from family and friends, but don’t feel obligated to use it.
- Understanding what your own limits are hearing your child cry helped me find the right program that didn’t make me feel like a horrible parent.
- There are so many myths out there that were formed out of parents’ fears; researching different sleep training programs for myself, reading pros and cons articles on sleep training, and most of all, understanding how sleep affects our growth and development physically, mentally and emotionally, sealed the deal! There was no way I was letting my child go without the proper amount of sleep he HAD to have.
- Creating a schedule and bedtime routine that fit our family and Ethan’s personality took away most of the anxiety and fears I had.
- Being consistent and not skipping steps was the golden key to this whole thing!
- And finally, realizing that once Ethan began to sleep through the night, this was no longer a sleep plan, but rather my son’s sleep “lifestyle”. He’s 9 years old now, and still sleeps through the night, on his own, and getting 10-12 hours of quality sleep!
So, I’m not one of those consultants out there who talks the talk, but has never been through the steps myself. I was down in the sleepless night trenches with you. I tried many things before I found the right plan for our family.
And once I found a plan that worked and allowed us to stay firm in our values, I knew I wanted to help other parents who are going through the same things I did.
Are you down in the trenches right now? Let’s talk through it a little…I want to help you. That’s what I do! Set up your free 15 minute consultation so we can put our heads together and come up with a plan.