My son, Tener, who is now nearly nine months old was never a fan of sleeping without a nipple in his mouth. (Note: Please resist the urge to say “well what man wouldn’t love that?!” This joke has been told again and again. Somewhere around my 95,387 straight day/night awake it lost it’s hilarity.)This baby was/is very latched on in every possible way and even though I consider myself to be a pretty hands-on, attachment parent-ish type of person, this level of latched on was getting… pretty rough.
Not only did my son want to sleep with a boob in his mouth and only with a boob in his mouth, he needed complete and utter silence to sleep for more than like seven(?) seconds. No distractions whatsoever. Let me be clear- COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE AND ZERO DISTRACTIONS IS A JOKE WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE A 4-5 YEAR OLD SPECIES FLINGING HER BODY AT YOU EVERY TIME YOU ASK FOR QUIET OR SIT DOWN.
In essence, my son was almost never sleeping, not during the day or the night and it was bad. Real bad. No, he wouldn’t sleep in the car either or wrapped in his ergo/moby wrap/any variation of baby-wearing devices. Yes, I tried them all. Tenny said, via hysterical sobs, “GIVE UP AND GIVE ME YOUR BOOB.” And for lack of a better option, I gave up trying any other means again and again. But then co-sleeping became an endless game of nursing non-stop all night and flailing and rolling and nursing and waking cranky and with red, pathetic eyes every damn day (the baby, not me!… well, yeah, me too). And all hell broke loose. After about 4.5 months of age, this kid wanted to see and do everything regardless of his exhaustion. Some
babies people were just built that way. Wouldn’t you know it, I’d birth that kind of human. I’ve always liked to do things the hard way, I guess (damn, stubborn Aries trait!).
Enter: Dawn Braun, gentle sleep-coach extraordinaire and the well-rested voice behind “Well Rested Family” of the Annapolis, Maryland (and surrounding) area. I contacted Dawn who uses the techniques based on the book “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West, aka, The Sleep Lady when I was absolutely on my last leg, my last bit of patience, energy and had cried all my tears. Tenny was about 7 months at the time and I’d been awake consistently for about three months. I was admittedly, nervous and unsure about any type of sleep-training, even something with the word “gentle” in it. To me, sleep-training seemed unnatural. Babies weren’t meant to be good sleepers. They were supposed to be close to mom all night. They weren’t supposed to be easy. It was an is my feeling that babies need comfort from their parents when they are brand new into this would the same way that they need food. It is as basic a need as any. Sleep training of any kind didn’t really seem natural, but I knew something had to give. Nothing that was going on with my son’s sleep really seemed all that natural, either. He was waking constantly, never sleeping for more than 10-15 minutes and I was losing hope and getting seriously overwhelmed.
Dawn Braun, “Well-Rested Family” with her well-rested family… don’t they look rested?
After talking to Dawn during our consultation, I started to think of sleeping as a skill and one that I would help him learn to embrace and hopefully be able to use for a lifetime. Some of us come by this skill easily, some of us don’t. One good thing about Dawn, that makes her an excellent sleep coach, is that she was willing to work with what I was comfortable with. I credit most of our success to this fact. If Dawn had tried to push me to let my baby cry too long or had given us other techniques I didn’t feel comfortable with, I probably would’ve quit before we started. But I never felt I was doing anything to scar my baby during the course of our training and I never felt pushed, either.
The process was pretty simple. Because Tener wasn’t really comforted by anything other than nursing and we had no real way to get him to sleep and stay asleep, we had to get over this hump to start. We were allowed to hold him, rock him, comfort him in any way we could (which my husband was much better at given his non-functional nipples) but he had to find sleep on his own so that he would learn how. I began nursing him downstairs rather than in his room, then Marshall would take him upstairs and begin a bedtime routine. It only took a couple of nights before Tener caught on that he wasn’t going to be nursed or rocked completely to sleep and he started sleeping better almost immediately. After the first night, it got better and better but I was nervous for when it would be my turn to put him down. I kept a sleep log and checked in with Dawn via phone/text/email so she could help us navigate the days/nights.
Turns out, once the system was in place- nursing downstairs, then going up to start our routine, he didn’t resist me as much as I expected. While we would definitely go back in to re-rock and soothe, we started to have confidence that he was going to get to sleep and it started happening easier and quicker. Full-disclosure- my baby still wakes up in the night and when he does I nurse him back down. I actually really like this because I’m allowed to nurse him to sleep in the night and I get my fix. We also still rock him before bed and comfort him as needed. This program has varying degrees and admittedly, I didn’t want to tackle the full-scale “sleep-training” program but you totally could and should, if you want to!
With Dawn’s help, we did what we felt comfortable with and we have a pretty damn good sleeper to show for it. He still doesn’t sleep on the go, wrapped or in the car or whatever, but he sleeps. And that is an amazing gift. He currently takes two good naps a day and wakes (on average) twice a night. We had regressions (which scared the crap out of me because I thought we were back where we started) but Dawn assured me that these can happen, especially on the verge of developmental milestones (like crawling). But with each regression, we got back to our routine a little easier and a little faster.
Some babies are just tough. Some babies just fight sleep and will keep fighting sleep because it’s their nature and they won’t do anything else until they learn how. If you’re struggling with sleep, if you’re losing your damn mind, I urge you to get help from a gentle sleep coach. It has changed my life in a very short time and I’m happy to recommend Dawn (isn’t it ironic that that’s her name? The Dawn of a new day? The bright, sunny, well-rested morning?) to anyone and everyone who asks. She will absolutely help you create a program that works for you and doesn’t make you hate yourself. I’m even more a believer that you don’t have to let your baby scream relentlessly now than ever. There is a better way.
Mamas… papas, take care of yourselves, guys. You’re important, too.
Good night, sleep tight.
Find Dawn’s page at www.wellrestedfamily.com or on Facebook.