Becoming a parent is a miraculous, yet terrifying accomplishment. I was so ready to have a child. My heart and soul yearned for that little bundle of joy to fill our household with cuteness. I wasn’t worried about breastfeeding. My mom was a certified lactation consultant. I had my own talking textbook to teach me all I needed to know! I knew we would be tired, but my baby would sleep. Right? Of course. Who doesn’t love to sleep? Plus, those late nights would be a lovely bonding time between baby and me as we snuggled in the soft glow of a nightlight together. Afterwards, I’d gentle put baby down to bed and we would both sleep until morning, waking up at a reasonable 7:30am happy to see each other again.
Oh, to daydream….
Reality hit us like a semi-truck when our daughter (DJ) was born. Breastfeeding hurt. I mean, really hurt. Capital, bold, underline, italics REALLY hurt. Despite having a talking textbook, I thought that a little pain was normal. Nothing has ever latched on to me before. So I pushed through the pain, or if I’m perfectly honest, cried through the pain. My daughter was gaining weight and that’s all that mattered. I eventually reached my pain threshold though, and after 5 weeks of what can only be described as torture, I reached out for further help. Otherwise, I was going to raise the white flag. Surrender. Quit. It would have been bliss, but breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. I wanted to give it one more try. Luckily, with the right counseling and soothing nipple cream, we got back on track over the next 2 months. Hats off to all moms out there breastfeeding. It’s hard, exhausting, time-consuming, and sometimes painful work. You have my utmost respect.
With breastfeeding, there was always a backup plan. Formula could provide all the nutrition that little DJ would need without the pain, without the tears, without feeling like I had morphed into a cow. Yet, nothing like that exists when it comes to sleep. You don’t know until your baby actually arrives just how exhausting it is to have a newborn. I certainly did not realize how much of a toll it would take on me or how lacking my skills were on how to help the whole family sleep better and how to cope with sleep deprivation. I struggled to enjoy life during the day with DJ, petrified of how the night would go. I didn’t know how to teach her self-soothing skills. Any book I read seemed to be written in Latin, with no clear direction on how to apply those “guaranteed tips and tricks” (insert victorious music here) to get your baby to sleep through the night. I didn’t know how to establish a routine, let alone what steps to follow. Like with breastfeeding, I needed and wanted help.
I had a vague memory of a coworker describing his 7 month old’s poor sleep habits and the support they received from a sleep consultant. That’s probably what inspired me to first Google sleep training help. Once I researched it, the idea took root. Someone out there had the answers and I wanted their knowledge. When I approached the idea with my husband, he was skeptical. DJ was still very young, only 6 weeks old. We agreed to wait until she was 4 months old for a couple of reasons. First, to sleep train we knew that she needed to be physiologically ready, since we wanted to cut out night feeds. Second, we wanted to give her the chance to figure things out on her own. Maybe she would surprise us and by 4 months she wouldn’t be waking up 5 times a night. Time would only tell.
At 16 weeks, my husband was still getting up with DJ between 4 and 5 times a night. By this point, he was handling most of the overnight wake up calls as he was coping with sleep deprivation better. He’s my hero. We were ready for a change. It was time to get DJ sleeping better. After some discussion, we opted to use a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant located in our hometown. The testimonials on her website were of success stories I dreamed about every night: rested, happy babies peacefully sleeping through the night, and napping predictably during the day.
We started the Sleep Sense Program a week later. It was life changing. Capital, bold, underline, italics LIFE CHANGING. DJ took a nap in her crib without protest on day 1 and slept through the night on night 2. We follow the routine just about every night, whether we are home or traveling and it works. As a person who thrives on routine, this is exactly what I was hoping for. Of course, we’ve had a few hiccups, but that’s to be expected. We enjoy our time with her during the day so much more now and we all wake up happy and well rested in the morning. I have become more confident in my parenting skills and in understanding my daughter’s needs. My dreams became a reality.