A baby’s sleep is the biggest struggle for most new moms and even second time moms all over the world. To me personally, it was the biggest struggle: the breastfeeding I could handle, the crying I could handle, but the lack of sleep was just too much to bare. It was affecting every aspect of my life; my job, my marriage and my overall well being, and I am a strong believer that you cannot be the best mother you can be if you are unhappy.
Asking for help often makes new mothers feel like a failure, it certainly did for me. It felt like I failed as a mother because I was reading and hearing about all these mothers whose babies sleep through the night at the age of 2-3 months old. Immediately I felt like I wasn’t a good mother, I could not even get my baby to have a solid nap once a day.
I finally realized that this is just not true, just like we as grownups are all individuals and all have our own likes and dislikes, so babies do as well. Each baby is unique and we should not compare our mothering to others (which is a very difficult thing to ask of any mother as it is so easy to start feeling insecure and second guess ourselves).
Asking For Help
That is why my husband and I decided to get a sleeping consultant. We were getting up at an average of six times per night to give our baby girl her pacifier so that she would go back to sleep, she refused to nap for longer that 30 minutes during the day (she was a champion cat napper), and she was just a difficult baby overall because of the lack of sleep.
We tried everything you can think of, and although the internet is an amazing thing, it gives broad advice. The advice you get is not tailored to your baby or your specific situation, and that can get confusing. I know that some moms have had great success with sleep consultation, but for us, this just did not do the trick.
My husband and I even started fighting because we each had our own idea about what would work, each confident it their own option. This created so much friction in our marriage, so getting a third party to give advice was the best thing we could have done, not only for our baby, but for our marriage.
We were going insane! My days and nights all seemed to blend together, with no clear distinction. Napping while she slept was not an option as it was only half an hour and I had work to do, which I know a lot of moms would agree with.
I read the other day “Sleep while the baby sleeps, so that means; do laundry while the baby does laundry?” – The whole idea behind sleeping when the baby sleeps basically only works for the first few weeks after birth, no one expects you to do any household chores or cook or clean, but this level of sympathy quickly disappears as your baby gets a little older.
So I was in desperate need of some professional advice, hence; the sleeping consultant.
The Sleep Consultation
A sleeping consultant evaluates all aspects of your lives, and your baby’s, they analyze all information given to them and then they work out a sleep schedule and provide you with the needed information on how to execute this plan.
The changes we were advised to make felt overwhelming to say the least, because it was soothing techniques that we and our baby depended on:
Please note that this was a personalized plan tailored specifically for our baby and our home circumstances, and not recommended for all babies.
- We had to take her pacifier away since she was only using it when she needed to sleep, and this created a problem. She would wake up so many times at night, and we would have to go to her room and give it to her. One of us even ended up sleeping in her room for half the night every night because it was just easier, which in turn was not good for our marriage at all.
- Implementing a bed time routine was crucial. Doing two things every time when she needed to have a nap so that the message is clear to her that it is now time to sleep. We ended up choosing singing and reading a story to her. This was such a big change for all of us as we would usually have to rock her in her pram for about half an hour, and that was our bed time routine.
- We were not allowed to feed her before bed time anymore. This was an association with sucking and sleeping that we wanted to break. We followed the “Feed, Play, Sleep” rule.
- CONSISTENCY – Many mothers hear this, and it is so true. The consultant told us to do the exact same routine every single time she needed to have a nap, no matter what.
- We were told to follow the “fading approach” which entails that the first few nights you stand right next to her when she is crying and you soothe her and pick her up if she is crying and you try again until she falls asleep. The next few nights, you do this from the middle of the room, where your baby can still see and hear you. Then the next few nights you stand by the door of the room and only use your voice to soothe your baby. We ended up not even needing to use this approach as she started to soothe herself during the night very early on in the process.
- Leaving her for 3 minutes at a time to soothe herself, and adding a minute every night before you go to her in order to teach her to soothe herself.
Our consultant did four follow ups and I had to log all activities and sleeping during the day so that we can see if anything improves as we progress. She was very hands on and we talked every day. I was very impressed by the level of commitment on her behalf, and she motivated me every step of the way, even the days I felt like giving up.
Implementing The Plan
The first four days were intense. We changed our baby’s routine, which every mother knows is chaos to say the least and difficult for everyone to adjust to. Since day two she slept so well during the night and only had one bottle and then slept again. Our lives changed, and we got the needed sleep.
But then daybreak came and chaos with it!
My baby girl screamed every time I put her in her bed for a nap. No matter how tired she was, she just would have none of it. We had to resort to an “emergency nap” (which is getting the baby to sleep no matter what it takes).
In these moments it all just felt unbearable, and I would chuck the 3 minute rule out the window and pick my baby up, there is nothing worse than hearing your baby cry or knowing that your child is unhappy, any mother would agree that soothing your baby is non negotiable and leaving your baby to “cry it out” is not an option in our household.
After a few days I started recognizing when she is really unhappy or just moaning, this was such a learning curve as I ended up knowing what she could handle and when to trow in the towel for nap time, I would take her out her cot and we played or did tummy time for 20 minutes to get her mind off of the napping chaos and we would try again, during this time, babies need even more love and comfort than usual as they are confused and do not understand what is happening, this was such an emotional time for me as a mother and especially as a first time mother, doubting whether this was the right decision for my baby.
I honesty almost gave up, and the consultant just reassured me that consistency is key and that she would eventually realize that sleeping is not that bad. My husband supported me and comforted me every step of the way.
Day five, everything started to change. She would sleep when she needed to and sometimes even sleep for 2 hours at once, she stopped crying every time we put her to bed, because she knew what she needed to do and how to do it to fall asleep, she stopped looking for her pacifier and started using her sheep blanket to soother herself (which is a good sleep association) and she was just overall happier !
It took us about 2 weeks to establish a sleep routine and to get into the groove of things, both us and her. Her crying (and mine) came to an end and we have our lives back! I would recommend getting a sleep consultant for any mother having issues with their baby’s sleep.
Do not get me wrong, we still get days where she is difficult and her teeth are bothering her or she just does not feel herself, just like we as adults do, and these days all the routine and consistency is out the window, but for the most part, she is a delight and we have so much more quality time as a family together because everyone is well rested.
There were some days in these two weeks that I could see my baby was struggling and was just not having a good day, whether it be teething or her just not feeling herself. The intense routine went out the window. I honestly believe that we know our babies best, and we know when they need what.
I followed the sleep plan for the most part, but I still believe that babies are individuals and also have “off days” just like we do. We cannot expect every day to go according to plan. And although we would like it to be different, babies are hard work and some days are hard being a mother. No consultant in the world is going to make your life perfect.
There is nothing like a mother’s love!
You and your baby’s sleep is important and worth all the effort in the world. Hiring a sleeping consultant was a game changer for us and, more importantly, for our baby girl. Our nights are now peaceful and a time to recharge for the day ahead.
You may also like: What to Buy (And Not Buy) for Baby From a Second Time Mom: SleepingWas this helpful? Please pin this post on Pinterest!
About the guest author:
I am a new mom of 27 years old, living in South Africa with my sweet little baby girl Paige and my amazing husband.
I love to write and share my experiences of being a first time mom, and all the obstacles that we all face as mothers whilst juggling other parts of our lives.