It’s been 10 months since Corbin was born (!), and as most people who have had children will tell you, one of the biggest changes you have to adjust to with a baby, is the loss of sleep.
Or at least is seems like it.
I will be the first to admit it, we were very very spoiled with Marley’s sleep habits from early on. From 6 weeks old she was sleeping 12+ hours a night, napped pretty well and went down quite easily. There was never (and I mean never) a single night where we were pacing the floor with her wide awake, trying to get her to sleep. When she did wake up, it was to eat and she was right back to sleep easily. But once she hit 6 weeks old, there came that heart-stopping morning where you wake up all refreshed from 8 hours of solid sleep, and you realize that your baby did not wake up.
Cue immediate panic as your heart leaps into your throat. Do you jinx it and peek in on her, taking the chance of waking her up? Or do you calm your racing mind, and ensure that she is indeed ok and sleeping peacefully. She was obviously snoozing peacefully in this case, and from that day on it was extremely rare for her to wake up at night. It was glorious and all my friends hated me.
Fast forward to this past April, when Corbin was born. He was perfect, he was chunky, he was a fantastic sleeper in the beginning, as most of them are. Then around 2 weeks old, things shifted a bit and he was awake more during the day, checking things out, but then he was cranky. Squirmy. Very unsettled almost the entire time he was awake. Getting him to sleep during the day could have been an Olympic sport, and I was working my butt off for the gold medal. But then, once he was asleep it would only last for 20 minutes. Max.
I endured months of horrible nights of waking up every 2 hours, and naps that never lasted more than 20 minutes. I was exhausted, cranky and frustrated, but that wasn’t the worst part: so was my baby. I joked to my friends that he hated life, that he was a grumpy old man and just loved me so much he couldn’t bear sleeping longer lest he be away from me for too long. But deep down, I wasn’t really kidding. Putting my exhaustion aside, I was really feeling like there was something seriously wrong with my son, I was a failure and doing everything wrong. Why was my baby so incredibly miserable all the time?
Really, looking back on it now (hindsight really is 20/20), there are a few things I can attribute to the general mood those first few months: sleep was horrible, my anxiety was out of control, breastfeeding issues, me not really listening to my baby and let’s not forget his personality. I thought I knew it all, I had this parenting thing down pat since it was so easy last time around. I had this, or at least I expected to. I did everything the same way I did it with Marley, never once taking into consideration that he could possibly be and have contrasting needs, and when those methods did not work, I was at a loss and frustrated. Instead of looking at it and trying something else, I took it personally and became so down upon myself and my son, that it was shameful. I rarely spoke positively about him or the motherhood experience the second time around, I did not enjoy him or even really try for a while. I was mad, frustrated and depressed. I was in a funk that had no end, but I slowly started to try and climb out of it when I realized that what I was doing (nothing), wasn’t helping the situation at all.
I reached out for help.
I put my pride aside and asked around different mom groups that I am a part of, someone must have advice for me. Something other than ‘this too shall pass.’, because I was so so so sick of hearing that. One evening in particular, I was venting on my local board about the lack of sleep, I knew that even the slightest improvement in that area would make a world of a difference in both Corbin and I. He was almost 6 months old, and we were still getting very little quality sleep.
I received a private message from Alanna at Goodnight Sleepsite, and she was full of compassion towards my situation and kindness. She said she would help me, if I wanted a different perspective and I don’t think I have typed ‘YES’ faster in all my life. While I was skeptical of the tactics she might suggest, I was really at a point where I knew that whatever we were doing was not working any more. She started out by asking some simple questions about his sleeping environment, nap times, bed time etc., which I answered honestly. She offered a few bits of advice, and asked if we could schedule a time to speak over the phone/Skype or FaceTime to discuss things more in depth.
After having a powwow with Alanna a few evenings later, I had a list of things to do, suggestions to help us both, and my mind felt at ease and I was confident that we would get this sleep thing figured out. I told her right off the bat that I was not interested in letting him cry it out cold turkey (meaning put him to bed, walk out and not check on him again until the morning), but I was also not naive enough to think we could do this without some tears. We figured out a plan of action that I was comfortable with, and I started to feel that glimmer of hope that things would turn around for us soon.
So what did she tell me? What is the magical advice that was given?
I wish it was an easy answer, but as you can guess, every baby and parent is different. I can tell you things that really helped us, though:
- White noise machine. Have that sucker turned on for every nap and all night while he sleeps. None of those timed ones either! I was concerned about this at first, because I wasn’t crazy about the idea of him relying on white noise to sleep, but it works beautifully and he will sleep without it if we are out. I love this one from Munchkin.
- Room darkening blinds/curtains. I have these in my own bedroom, because when I sleep, I like it to be super dark, so why wouldn’t your baby? I purchased ours from Target.
- No soothers! (Corbin basically laughs in the face of soothers, so that wasn’t an issue for us.)
- Early bedtime. This whole ‘keep your baby awake longer to make them sleep later’ is nonsense. Trust me, they want to be down earlier and your evenings will thank you. Corbin is in bed between 6 and 6:30pm now, with no issues.
- Proper naps. This was a big one for us, as I was really expecting Corbin to go with the flow and catch his sleep while we ran errands or took big sister to the park etc. Making sure he was getting a decent nap, in a proper sleep environment was key. Sleeping in a car seat just does not cut it. We are at the point now, where he has 2 good naps a day, but if need be he is ok with having one of those naps on the go. Bedtime will be shifted up sometimes, but it works now.
- Night time is sleep time, not play time. If/when you do go in for a feed or diaper change, keep interaction to a minimum, don’t turn on all the lights and keep things quiet and sleepy. For both kids I had a small night light so I could see what I was doing, and I only changed diapers if absolutely necessary. Otherwise, it’s a quiet cuddle, feeding, kisses and back into bed. Night time is sleep time, and if you help convey that, they will eventually catch on.
So the burning question: are we all getting sleep now? Yes! Nap times are amazing and peaceful now, Corbin is getting the rest he really wants and needs and is SO HAPPY when he wakes up, that my heart just leaps when I walk into his room and he’s standing in his crib, happily calling me. That was the biggest change for us, as it’s made our days much easier and happy. Instead of waking from a 20 minute nap screaming, and then being cranky from the get-go, he is way more laid back and happy. He is sleeping through the night consistently enough, that the odd time that he does wake, I actually kind of enjoy that quiet time we get to snuggle and he nurses back to sleep quickly and peacefully. I don’t feel like I am constantly battling to stay awake during the day, my son is so much happier and we are able to really enjoy each other now.
(Disclaimer: I was not compensated or asked to review Goodnight Sleepsite’s services, these are my own opinions.)