When Monkey first came home we were so worried about sleep, not so much about our lack of sleep, but about whether or not he had enough sleep, would he wake himself to feed, would he stop breathing… and all the other things you think when you are suddenly entrusted with a life. In the beginning (except for the first night) Monkey was an amazing sleeper. He slept great in his pack and play in our room, he transitioned flawlessly to his crib, and as of the night of his 4 month immunizations he slept through the night 12-13 hours! Those first few nights I thought there was something wrong with him he was so good at sleeping through the night.
At 6 months Monkey had another litany of doctors and public health appointments, I think that week he had at least one appointment every day. At each of the appointments I was asked how he slept. I said “I think he is doing really well with night sleep, but he doesn’t nap… like AT ALL”. When I explained that he went down at 7pm and would wake between 7am and 8am most days I was told that, that was great and not to worry about him not napping. Which sounded reasonable, everything I had read so far talked about how babies his age needed about 15 hours of sleep a day, which if you included sleeping in the car and stroller was pretty darn close. But what these articles and professionals fail to notice is that MOMMY NEEDS A NAP!
The majority of Monkey’s first 8 months Michael was working out of town on a 2 weeks away 1 week home rotation, which meant that I would be solo parenting as I like to call it. This was unbelievably difficult, especially around month 6-7 when Monkey went through a week where he refused to sleep unless he was held or we co-slept. A night or two like that with no one to hand off to in the day time for an hour or so just to catch up was a struggle. I was so exhausted, and there was very little I could do to remedy the situation, I didn’t sleep soundly when co-sleeping, and if I didn’t do that he just screamed.
Thankfully I have a mommy friend, Deanna who’s little went through many of the same struggles as Monkey so she understand very well where I am coming from. After a visit to the park with the kids and explaining what Monkey’s sleep schedule looked like she recommended an occupational therapist who had helped her with sleep training. This was probably the best piece of parenting advice I have been given so far.
I got in contact with the therapist but was hesitant because Monkey has an amazing strong will, and neither Michael nor I was open to cry it out. Thankfully we had learned how to stand our ground with what we thought was best while he was in the NICU, because cry it out is the fastest and most readily prescribed method of training.During our initial consult we were shown 4 methods of sleep training and decided to go with the “pick up put down” method as it was the softest approach with the least amount of crying. What I can tell you is that this method is HARD, but it was so worth the effort.
It took about 10 days for Monkey to really get what was going on and that he would be sleeping in his crib but once he got it things have been amazing! He has continued to sleep for 12 hours a night, and then two naps during the day about 90 minutes to 2 hours a peice. At first I really missed him during his naps because I was so used of playing with him all day, but as time went on I got used to the nap schedule and it has made a world of difference. We have only been on the routine for about a month now and I can tell you I get so much more done, I actually eat 3 meals a day again and I am energized when he wakes up because I either napped or watched a little trashy tv to relax. Not only did I feel better Monkey imidiatly became in amazing eater and his skills started to develop so quickly. Everyone always said that he’s so happy, and now he just glows.
After such a positive experience with sleep training and having been given such awesome advice I need to pass this along to any parents and parents to be out there. If you are expecting, read as many sleep training books as you can now so you can have an idea about what you are comfortable with. You may not know you have a problem sleeper until you are too exhausted to read anything. If your little is new and sleeping great, take some time to do some research about routines.
You always hear about the horrors of babies screaming all night when they first come home from the hospital but from our experience except for that first night new born sleep is great. It falls in 3 hour cycles and they love sleep. It’s when they get a little older and decide that they would rather be with you playing and snuggling or have developed a sleep crutch that you could notice that bedtime is not such an easy thing. And if you were like us and find yourself too exhausted to read the research, talk to your family doctor or paediatrician and they will be able to connect you with resources in your area that will help you. And don’t feel like you have to choose the first method that is suggested, there are so many sleep training theories out there because there are so many different families and they have all worked for some of them. Some are more work than others, but choose what’s right for you and baby. Trust me you will be forever thankful.
The things I have noticed about myself with this change is that I am more relaxed, and confident. I know that if he has one bad sleep we can always make it up with he next one. I know that if we sleep in or have a special event that comes up how to adjust his naps, and which naps NEVER to adjust. I know that I will get the sleep I need or at least a power nap to get me to bedtime if needed and that Monkey will be in a better mood because of it. I am able to read books again, that was something I naively looked forward to when I was pregnant… I even considered starting my Masters because I would have so much time LOL!!! Oh if pre-mommy me only knew the truth. I can cook healthy meals from scratch again and I can relax and take a shower without having to peek around the shower curtain to make sure Monkey was still ok and not crying.
I will say it again, sleep training has been a blessing, and I am forever thankful to Deanna for having the courage to point out that I might need a little support. As a side note, if for nothing else sleep training allows for so many more pictures like these:
(He always sleeps with at least 1 leg in the air!)
Mommy Moment is a weekly post that covers my thoughts, feelings and experiences as a mom. Come by every Monday to read about what it’s like to be a once career focused mom of a premature baby, who sometimes solo parents, loves cloth diapering and often bites of more than she can chew.