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I am all about the sleep. Our family functions much better when we are all getting quality sleep in our own safe spaces. Not sleeping well is a huge contributor to postpartum anxiety (read To The New Mama with Anxiety: You Are Not Alone). When it came time to handle sleep for our own family, I muddled through sleep training with every book I could find, all the google searches, and some tear streaked wine in my closet. The anxiety of sleep training was way worse than the actual process. My oldest went from waking every hour to a seven hour stretch in about ten days time with a modified Ferber approach. I am sure I am a lot to blame for his frequent wakings as a newborn. I lived in such fear that something terrible would happen that every grunt sent me flying out of bed to check breathing probably teaching him to wake every 45 minutes. Thankfully,
I learned to calm down a bit by my second kid my daughter was naturally a better sleeper.
When Sleep Smugness Bites You Back
I was what I will refer to now as cautiously “sleep smug” my kids both slept through the night from relatively young ages with some interventions. I thought I was home free. Well we were until my son climbed out of his crib. Our beautiful time of everyone sleeping 11+ hours left the building like Elvis. His new found freedom of a toddler bed caused panics for which I was unprepared and he was unable due to age to articulate. So take this as an open letter to anyone struggling with any phase of sleep. You are not a bad mom/dad because of it. They are not a bad kid. It’s a phase.
So I waited a few weeks. I bought six kinds of night lights. Tried earlier bedtimes, later bedtimes. No nap. A late nap. Meanwhile I was becoming an (even more) emotional version of myself because I. was. not. sleeping. My darling boy was struggling with tantrums and meltdowns (see the difference here) because he was just plain exhausted. I swallowed my mama pride and asked for help.
Cue the Expert
I contacted Lexi of Little Bird Sleep Consulting. My email went about as follows. “I’m not even sure if you can help me, but I am really tired.” Clicking send triggered a wave of guilt that I could not parent on my own without help that had #momguilt written all over it. Lexi’s response shifted all of that fear and guilt off of me. I figured because I had read all of the books I could find that there probably was not that much she could do for me. But even in choosing the simplest intervention plan with her, I was able to add in some changes that really helped turn sleep around for our family.
A few things that I really loved in particular about working with Lexi were that she was very adamant that we followed safe sleep guidelines. This is a passionate subject for me from my background in pediatric nursing, but more than that I loved that she also helps families move from unsafe environments to safe ones. So often we hear experts say “Do XYZ” but the actual how to we get from what we are doing to that point is unclear. I also really liked the different types of packages that she offered for different family’s needs. We were well on the path to good sleep after one week of email support!
Interventions We Implemented
For us personally, our sleep consulting contract covered the transition into daylight savings time. I would highly recommend getting tips from a certified pediatric sleep consultant if you are already struggling with your child and are going into a time change. We also were really struggling with no naps, fearful night awakenings, and extremely early risings where he would come into our room. Naps are still not perfect, but with the script we have adopted the night awakenings are extremely rare. He sleeps from 7:30/8pm to 6:45am which is a huge improvement over the 5 am we were getting. The addition of a baby gate on the door, or his “horse gate” as he calls it combined with the Hatch Alarm Clock/Night Light we already keeps him in his room until wake up time. Over all things have drastically improved.
Specific Ways A Consultant Can Help With Toddler Sleep
Many people, myself previously included, are of the impression that sleep consultants are for infants only. Older children are more complex because they can communicate and have very set feelings about the routine of sleep, but they can also participate in the plan. Families with toddlers can really benefit in the following ways:
- Families that are bed sharing with a toddler and want to end that arrangement
- One parent sleeping with child in room for fears
- Families dealing with multiples night awakenings
- Night weaning toddlers from breastfeeding
- Children who go into their parents room with fears multiple times a night
How a family sleeps is ultimately up to the members of that family. I would encourage you to look at your family and ask are we getting the quality rest we need? Could I be a more patient parent if I slept a little more? My belief is that sleep is as important as nutrition for children so setting them up with healthy sleep habits is part of our jobs as parents. When we are out of our depth calling in an expert may be the best move. The strongest mamas ask for help. A lesson that is taking me a while to learn. Maybe I’ll sleep on it.
The Happy Sleeper
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems