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!

 

 

 

 

No Rest for the Wicked

I am sleep obsessed. I find myself dreaming about a king size bed, with silky, white sheets, mountains of pillows, and a heavy, warm duvet. I spend my whole day wondering when I will get back to bed, how many hours of sleep I will get, and how rested I will feel the next morning.

Alas, sleep has eluded me for the last 2 1/2 months, which has only deepened my obsession. Now I obsess over my baby’s sleep. When to put her down, when to wake her up, how many minutes she’s napping, how many hours she’s sleeping. In the wee hours of the morning, I’ve googled countless ways on how to get your baby to sleep longer and have ordered hundreds of dollars of books. I now understand why they use sleep deprivation as a torture technique…

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Charlotte at 9 days old enjoy a joint nap after feeding.

After we brought Charlotte home from the hospital and got into our rhythm, I thanked my lucky stars that she wasn’t a colicky or reflux baby. Like most newborns, she was very sleepy and very hungry. Every 2 hours she wanted a snack, followed by a long nap. I thought naively, “Yay! My baby loves to sleep, this will be a breeze!” FALSE. Babies lull you into a false sense of security before they quickly change into zombie demons that refuse to sleep, no matter how hard you try.

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The irony of this picture amuses me

After complaining to nearly everyone I knew, many suggested that I pick up “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr Harvey Karp. One of the most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts, Dr Karp developed the 5 S’s to help calm babies and get them to sleep longer. He claims that babies are born 3 months too early and experience a 4th trimester from 0-3 months. During this time, calming womb-like sensations will quiet a baby and get them to relax. These include Swaddling, Side-Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking. I found that using a combo of these techniques, I was able to get Charlotte to sleep and to stay asleep!

My little one seemed to have mutant strength when I attempted to swaddle her and no matter what I put her in, Charlotte would burst out. As a newborn, I decided to try the SwaddleMe Pods. With it’s simple zip-up closure, it provides a cozy womb-like feeling which is ideal for newborns. I lovingly referred to this as a baby condom. After about 6 weeks, Charlotte was getting a bit big for them and I switched to the Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle, a 100% cotton muslin with simple, adjustable snaps. The combination of swaddling with lying her on her side or holding her on her side with her stomach against mine relaxes her immediately.

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SwaddleMe Pods
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Aden & Anais Easy Swaddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems counterintuitive, but babies sleep better with lots of noise! In your womb, they are constantly bombarded with noise like blood rushing through your veins and your heartbeat. Using a sound machine that has white noise reminds your baby of your cozy womb and will quiet them (I also found the vacuum and static on the TV to be quite useful!) I like the Skip Hop Nightlight Soother since you can set it on continuous and play soothing noises all night long. Once I turn it on, it’s Charlotte’s cue to sleep and she’ll close her eyes #babygenius!

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Skip Hop Nightlight Soother, Moonlight and Melodies

Nap times have always been hit or miss. Charlotte is so darn sociable that she gets FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when she closes her eyes, especially during the day. The only way to get her to nap is to put her in her swing. The movement reminds babies of the constant motion in the womb. From the start, Charlotte loved the 4moms Rockaroo Swing (thanks work friends for buying this!) She would do 2-3 hour naps in it and wake up happy as can be.

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4moms Rockaroo Swing

And finally, sucking. My lactation consultant was adamant to not introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding was established, around 6 weeks. YA RIGHT! Have you ever experienced the magic of the pacifier? A screaming infant will go from inconsolable to calm in an instant. I gave in around the 3 week mark when Charlotte’s screams were ear shattering. I liked the Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier because it can be used right side up or upside down – particularly helpful when you’re reaching in the backseat to plug it back in your baby’s mouth.

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Philps Avent Orthodonic Pacifier

The combination of these S’s has helped me immensely! But by far, my most favorite technique of getting Charlotte to sleep is what I call the “off button.” Did you know that if you stroke down ababy’s forehead to the tip of their nose, they will close their eyes? It’s a biological reflex and SUPER helpful when your little one keeps popping their eyes open. #THEMOREYOUKNOW

Wishing you sweet dreams!

 

Want to share your sleep story or comisserate over sleep deprivation? Send me your thoughts in the comments below!