One of the best things I ever did for my (and my daughter’s) sanity was hiring a sleep consultant. I made so many sleep mistakes with my daughter for the first six months of her life, I still feel terrible about it looking back.
When she was born, we had a co-sleeper bassinet attached to the side of my bed. Being a paranoid, new mother, I had to have a light on so I could check on her and see for myself that she was ok. This meant sleeping with a 15W bulb in the lamp on my nightstand. For the first several weeks this worked pretty well. She woke every three hours or so for a feeding and then would go back to sleep in her co-sleeper. A few rare nights in the first months, she even slept five or six hours. I can count those on one hand.
Then one fateful night, I did something I would pay for until she was almost 6 months old. When I put her back in her co-sleeper, she wouldn’t settle despite my efforts to soothe her. She only seemed to settle if I had my hand on her. I couldn’t sleep comfortably with my hand in the co-sleeper, so what did I do? I scooped her up and put her in bed next to me (in a safe co-sleeping environment). And yes, she fell peacefully and happily back to sleep, and so did I. Do you see where this is going?
We continued to safely co-sleep for months. Quite honestly, this even helped with getting her out of her swaddle (more on the swaddle dilemma in another post). But around the time she was 4 1/2 months old, she began waking every 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The only thing that would soothe her was nursing. I was exhausted and delirious, and so was she. This continued off and on for another month or so until I just couldn’t handle the lack of sleep any longer. I knew she wasn’t getting the sleep she needed, nor was I. I couldn’t function properly was operating on an empty tank most days. I had read so many sleep books by this point, I didn’t know what method to apply. I felt like I had tried all of them, and nothing was working. I would take one step forward and two steps back. One thing was obvious: I had to get her into her own sleep space.
After a couple of disastrous days and nights of trying to get her to sleep in her crib, I started Googling sleep consultants and found one that I wanted to reach out to. Let me say this: I am NOT a fan of crying it out. I did not want to go there and was going to avoid anyone that advised me to do this. It is just my personal preference and the one that would help me stay sane. I wanted gentle sleep help for my daughter and for me.
I immediately scheduled an in-home visit with the sleep consultant. This isn’t necessary for most people, but I wanted to meet her face-to-face and also wanted her to see my daughter’s sleep environment. Turns out I hit the jackpot on the consultant I found! She was a mother of five under the age of 9 with another one on the way. She was empathetic, sympathetic, and gentle in nature. This lady knew what she was doing!
Within a couple of days, Laura (my sleep consultant) had a sleep plan ready for me. The first thing we did was move the crib out of our room into the nursery. We also had room darkening curtains and white noise (which my daughter still loves). So began the very bumpy, but well-worth-it, sleep journey.
The first few nights were pure and utter hell. There is no other way to say it, they just were. I spent most of the first two nights running back and forth down the hallway to her room to soothe her. We got much less sleep than we were getting previously. I wised up and put a twin bed in my daughter’s room next to her crib so she could see I was there if she needed to. Sometimes it was simply her seeing me that soothed her.
By the end of the first week, she was sleeping two to three-hour intervals. It doesn’t sound very attractive, but after waking every 1 1/2 hours previously, it was feeling like I was making some progress. We also discovered she was teething, adding to her discomfort and frequent waking. Oh, if I had a crystal ball . . . I remember feeling so dumb and kicking myself. I kept thinking, how did I miss that? Oh, wait, I was delirious and barely able to function from lack of sleep. Once we got the teething addressed, she was making bigger strides in her sleep. When I say bigger strides, I mean she was sleeping more like 3 or 4 hours consistently.
After 3 weeks or so, I moved out of her room and shortly thereafter she began sleeping 6 hours, waking at 1:00 am to nurse, then again at 4:00 am, and up for the day at 7:00 am. She did this fairly consistently (with the usual teething hiccups along the way) until she was around 10 months old. Eventually, I pushed her nursing session back (by soothing her) until closer to 3:00 am. And then finally, FINALLY, on the night of her first birthday, she slept a full 12 hours, with no night wakings.
I know I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of a sleep consultant. I am the type of person that just needs a plan. I was so overwhelmed by the abundance of information out there, I just wanted someone to tell me what to do and how to do it. And I’m so happy I spent the money to do it. It was surprisingly affordable and a real sanity saver.
If you are a mom struggling with sleep issues, know there is help out there. I wasn’t real sure such a thing existed was when I started Google searching. Turns out sleep consultants are plentiful and many offer various price points, many of which are surprisingly affordable. If that still isn’t an option, many have loads of free newsletters and information on their blogs and some even publish sample sleep schedules by age. Just know that there is help out there.