Learning to Sleep

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.”

Any mother with an infant knows what Shakespeare was talking about. After carrying a tiny being inside of you for 9 months and going through labor and childbirth, all a mom wants to do is sleep. She deserves a nap, at least! But between round the clock feedings, 100s of diaper changes and learning how to care of a demanding little human, there’s no rest for new mommies.

As I mentioned in a previous post, sleeping is all I think about – for both baby and myself. All the books said that at 3 months, my baby would start to get into a nighttime routine and sleep longer lengths, but for us, it seemed to be getting worse. Charlotte was waking every 3 hours demanding to be fed. She slept with a pacifier, which put her to sleep immediately, but as soon as it fell out, she would yell until I plugged her back in. We had her in a cradle in our room, and she would wake at the slightest creak of floor, or sniffle of nose. I felt like a prisoner. I was a walking zombie, impatient, cranky, and frazzled.

Enter Ayleen Gelbart, RN. We met through my mom group, Perfit Moms, when she came to talk to the group about sleep learning. At the time, I half listened – Charlotte was 10 weeks old and still in her sleepy newborn stage (silly me, I thought that would continue forever haha). When I began to consider sleep training, I reached out to her and I’m so glad that I did! Ayleen has serious credentials – she’s been a Sleep Learning Specialist since 2006 and licensed Registered Pediatric Nurse since 2000. She’s also taken courses in Child Development, Infant feeding, and Pharmacology (to name a few) and she applies that knowledge when working with families. Through her company, ABCSleepyTime Inc., she’s helped countless families with nighttime sleep learning and daytime nap learning. SIGN ME UP!

First, a few points to make about sleep learning…

  • Charlotte was 3.5 months when we began sleep learning. Contrary to popular belief, this is not too young! You can start teaching good sleep habits to newborns and at 10 pounds, you can start teaching baby to sleep longer stretches of time. At this weight, they have enough reserves to sustain them through big stretches and ultimately, the night.
  • I do not believe in “cry it out.” And fortunately, neither does Ayleen. I wanted to teach Charlotte how to sleep at night without having her go into meltdown mode. I can’t handle the tears, it breaks my heart! Ayleen’s method is incredibly gentle, with minimal crying. Some tears are inevitable though as you are changing the baby’s routine.
  • GET RID OF THE PACIFIER FOR SLEEP! This was the toughest habit to break. We ended up going cold turkey and braced for a few days of bad sleep. But once she got used to the “new normal,” her sleep was so much less disrupted!
  • You have to be prepared to temporarily give up some freedom. The first few weeks were a major adjustment – bedtime was at 6pm and I tracked everything from awake time, sleep time, poops and feedings. The time between awake and asleep can be quite short depending on the age of the baby and requires dedication and routine. This really limited what I could do during the day (temporarily), which I found frustrating at first. But once I saw the results – it was worth it!

The first thing Ayleen did was to do a thorough analysis of Charlotte’s environment and overall behaviour. From there, she gave me a personalized plan to follow as well as daily support during our 3 weeks working together.

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Outfit & hair band from TicTacBow

Charlotte’s main issue was that she wasn’t getting enough daytime sleep, which was accounting for her frequent wakings at night. So my goal in the first week was to get her to nap as much as possible during the day. At the time, this meant limiting the amount of time she was awake. I honestly felt like I was always putting her to bed! We did 4 naps a day until we got the 4-5 hours of day sleep that babies her age need.

The second issue was the multiple feedings at night. Ayleen asked me why I was nursing her each time she woke up and I said it was because I assumed she was hungry. Wrong! Charlotte was waking out of habit, for comfort and because she had not yet learned HOW to sleep on her own or put herself back to sleep on her own. Babies wake multiple times through the night, but they put themselves back to sleep (much the same way adults do). So the goal here was to teach Charlotte how to sleep and fall back asleep without me intervening.

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Creeping on my kid while she sleeps. If you’re going to sleep train, invest in a video camera for peace of mind!

This wasn’t easy, but Charlotte took to the structure and routine that Ayleen offered right away! Rather than rush in as soon as the baby squawked, I waited the amount of time that Ayleen advised. If Charlotte fell back asleep then she wasn’t really hungry. If she started to whine and it built into a certain kind of cry, I could check in but not pick her up. FYI – this is an extremely simplified version of the “routine” – I promised Ayleen I wouldn’t give away all of her secrets 😉

Sure enough, within 2 weeks of sleep learning, Charlotte started doing 10-13 hours nights without waking. Every morning, I was greeted with a big smile and giggles. She’s also learned how to nap very well on her own and typically sleeps for 1-2 hours per nap. Though they can be a bit wonky (damn you teething!), overall, my happy baby is well rested and so am I! My anxiety and exhaustion has decreased and I feel so much more patient and relaxed. Developmentally, at 4 months, Charlotte has cut her first tooth, can roll over, “talks” to us, laughs, smiles, grabs at objects she wants and is learning how to crawl. I attribute all of that to a well-rested child.

Charlotte didn’t come with a user manual, but with Ayleen’s help, I managed to figure out how to hack the sleep game.

 

Need sleep help? Ayleen of ABCSleepytime Inc.  works remotely, so she’s able to help tired families all over the world!

Click HERE to visit her website for more information and LIKE her Facebook page!

 

Are you a tired mom? Want to commiserate? Or, do you have a burning sleep question? Let’s talk in the comments below!