Here’s my extremely scientific metaphor for getting your baby to sleep. It’s the Wild West…
- There are no rules.
- You may think there are rules. You may read books that tell you the rules. When you try to follow the rules, it gets hard.
- Every man (mom) is out for him (her) self
- You have to ensure your own survival and your baby’s survival. What works for everyone else might not work for you two.
- It’s desolate out there.
- When it’s late and you’re exhausted, your will is tested. Ideas that sounded great in the daylight now seem impossible.
Our sleep journey:
I got dumber after our baby was born and I have the data to prove it. I was using Lumosity, the brain boosting game app for the last few months of my pregnancy and when I retested about 6 months into motherhood, my scores in memory, attention to detail, and problem solving had dipped.
Sleep deprivation is a raging, nasty B-word. You know my intellectual state, so let’s not even go into the emotional and relational challenges I faced being so tired.
My husband brought home Baby Wise on the recommendation of a dad friend of his. All my attachment parenting bones shuddered, but I read it anyway and told him we could discuss it. To round out the research, I also read No Cry Sleep Solution and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Here’s the bottom line about books: They contradict each other and they are really hard to implement.
Sleep books need to be written like a Choose Your Own Adventure, where if you try A and you get result 1, you follow the path to Suggestion B, but if you get result 2 when you try A, you can try Suggestion C. Unfortunately, they aren’t set up that way and moms read and think, Oh, this will be easy and then night falls, and we’re stuck flipping through pages trying to find the right solution!
I was consumed with the idea that Lillian was not sleeping enough. Mostly because I had read so many books that she should be sleeping 12-14 hours a day. So I tracked every wink of sleep INCESSANTLY. I have a spreadsheet that I built in Excel, and I would input her bed times and wake times, hoping and praying that her natural patterns would emerge that we could reinforce. I have every nap recorded from March of 2014 until this March when I finally found peace with the fact that there was NO detectable pattern. She was doing her own thing and I trusted her caregivers to tune in to her signs and let her sleep when she was tired and eat when she was hungry.
We did transition her from our room to her own room around 6 months and this seemed to give her breathing room to realize that she didn’t need to nurse twice a night. We were down to one night-time feed. And then I noticed that at that for that one feed, she would latch on and nurse for less than two minutes, so I knew it wasn’t about food anymore. It was the comfort of having me ease her back to sleep.
So for two nights, I sent my husband in. We both crack up when we tell this story because she took one look at him and her cry seemed to say, “what the heck are you doing in here!? Go away right now and don’t come back until you have boobs!”
She did let him comfort her and went back to sleep and on the third morning, I woke up at 6 am with a start! Did I not hear her? Nope! She hadn’t made a peep! Nine months in, I slept through the night for the first time.
A month ago, I met Rachelle and Sarah, the brains (and beauty) behind Maternal Instincts. I thought I knew what postpartum doulas can offer, but these ladies are exceptional. I say that because they use nutrition as the basis for gently encouraging night-time sleep. They are insistent that any plan is based on each baby’s unique readiness, not a cookie-cutter time line but for most families, they help 3 and 4 month babies to sleep 8-10 hour stretches.
Say what!? Now I’m not well-rested enough to fully process that six months earlier, I could have been sleeping 8 satisfying hours in a row! I’m a working mom and I work on Denver Natural Mom. It was hard to admit that all the responsibilities of motherhood and work and dreams of building this community of moms was actually making me a little depressed and I have to wonder now how much being tired contributed.
Rachelle’s background as a dietitian and Sarah’s decade of experience as a labor and postpartum doula combine into this dynamic duo. They have helped families in all kinds of situations: multiples, difficult delivery with a long recovery, newborns who come home on oxygen or with medical needs, or how about babies who already have a big brother or sister running around?!
You know that advice everyone gives you that we all ignore: Sleep when the baby sleeps? How does one even attempt this when it’s your 2nd or 4th baby? We are contemplating our timeline for future babies, and in the meantime, we are building our Health Savings Account so we can hire nighttime help TAX-FREE.
In addition to the work they do with newborns, Maternal Instincts does offer sleep help for babies of any age. They stick to their guns about monitoring milestones and doing what is appropriate for each baby, but they give parents a plan. And if implementing yourself gets challenging, they can come to your house and put this plan in action themselves.
It’s been a winding road through the Wild West to get here and let’s just say that next time, we’re taking the interstate!