My first son, Bastien, was a terrible sleeper. I endured months of multiple wake ups, lying with him to get him to fall asleep and general misery. We tried sleep training when I was really fed up at about 10 months. I would say I was not so successful.
It lasted a few nights but soon things were back to their old ways. He just kind of got it at two years old and started sleeping through the night spontaneously.
With my youngest Alex, I could tell from the start that our journey would be different. Biggest difference? Alex refused the pacifier. This meant that in order to fall asleep he would nurse… every time he woke up. I took the route of least resistance and we co-slept for 5 months with me breastfeeding every time he woke. This was around 4-10 times per night. Naps? The classic combo of car seat, carrier or breastfeeding.
I could see Alex was not getting enough quality sleep. He was cranky during the day, twisting and squirming with fatigue. He was getting harder and harder to put to sleep in the car seat or on the breast.
His constant breastfeeding at night meant he drank way too much milk and would throw up multiple times or squirm because he had to poop.
I knew that I had to teach him to self soothe. He could not fall asleep in the car seat with me swinging it forever. I felt bad making him so uncomfortable with the constant milk intake all night. He was cranky and upset during the day, and let’s face it, I was exhausted. I really felt that he was looking to me, as his mother, to put him on a better schedule. To teach him to sleep.
In my head, I would have rather waited until six months but something had to give. We both could not keep up with the craziness another month.
I turned to my good friend Shawna Rose who is a sleep consultant. I wanted an expert opinion and guidance. Plus, when you are hearing your child cry, any bit of doubt about what you are doing can be crushing. I wrote a schedule of his current sleeps and feeds which was insane. I was almost embarrassed to send it as it was so erratic.
She assessed our problems and came up with a solid plan including advice on the sleep environment. She talked to me about the different methods and we decided on the one I was most comfortable with. As I put the plan in place, she kept reassuring me that I was on the right path. I really felt that I was in good hands and was confident. I think it really made all the difference.
The first night, I nursed Alex and kept him up for another 10-15 minutes as he tends to throw up quite a bit after nursing. I changed his diaper, put him in his sleep sack and placed him in his crib to sleep for the first time. I shut the door and crossed my fingers. He cried for 1 hour 50 minutes off and on. The next day he cried 50 minutes.
The next night he did not cry at all for his evening sleep. He put himself to sleep for his naps without crying. And he was HAPPY.
My child is happy, my household is happy and frankly, the lives of our family have changed. I can now spend quality time with my eldest son while my youngest naps or sleeps on his own. When Alex is awake, he is a pleasure. Although I am still breastfeeding at night, it is only once or twice which means the quality of my sleep has vastly improved.
Most importantly, I really feel that I have taught Alex an important life skill.
I know there are a lot of people who are fully against sleep training. That’s fine. That’s what works for you, and this is what works for me. We have to remember to be respectful of decisions which do not mirror those that we personally would make.
If you are in Montreal and you’d like to get in touch with Shawna please email her here. She’s trilingual and she can get your kid to sleep in English, French and Spanish.
ps These sleeping bags from favourite brand Aden + Anais are the best.
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