Before I was a certified sleep consultant (for children or adults), a Certified Lactation Counselor, or certified in infant and child mental health, I was a mom. Just a plain old mom, who struggled with the ups and downs of caring for babies just like every other mom I know. Heck, before having my own children I didn’t know the first thing about babies, since I grew up as an only child! Sometimes I wish I knew then what I know now, but then I think about how I wouldn’t likely have this awesome career now if I didn’t go through the struggles I went through. This is a story about my journey to motherhood and sleep training, and ultimately the creation of Sleeptastic Solutions.
Sixteen years ago I had a beautiful daughter named Ariana. I was a young, new mom eager to learn all I could about raising a child. I was incredibly lucky in that she was a “textbook” child. She rolled at 3mos, sat up at 6mos, crawled at 9mos, walked at 12mos, etc (you get the picture). She also slept through the night at 3mos old, even though I used the #1 sleep prop – feeding to sleep – every single time she slept. One night I fed her to sleep like always, but instead of waking up in the night, she slept straight through until morning! Of course I had a slight heart attack when I realized it was morning and she hadn’t woken up, but after seeing she was still alive I smiled happily (and naively) thinking “yes, this is how it should be.”
Fast forward eight years later, and I was now pregnant with my twin daughters. Life would be very different after this birth since I would be bringing home not one but two infants, and I had my first daughter to still care for. I had quit my job after I had the babies to stay home with all the kids, which meant no security of having daycare help me structure and guide these babies! I was totally on my own and a little scared.
Because the girls were born at 36wks (normal for a twin pregnancy), I figured things might take a little longer for them and I was right. Instead of it taking 3mos for them to be able to sleep through the night, I assumed it would take 4mos. So I patiently waited, getting up for feed after feed, night after night for 4mos wondering when they were going to stop waking up. The first few months of night feeds were honestly a blur that didn’t bother me too much, but man by the 4th month I was exhausted! Because my husband was often out of town (and I was a bit picky about things), I just decided early on that I would handle all the night feeds myself. Crazy, I know! Needless to say my husband never seemed to mind.
By the 6th month, the girls were down to just one night feed at 4am. I was pretty darn excited by this great chunk of sleep I was getting each night, and I actually began to look forward to the 4am world news being on (sad, right?). While I was ok dealing with the night feed, it was how I was getting them to go to sleep at night that was really starting to get to me. After their last bottle, I would try to transfer them to their crib while sleepy or half-sleeping, but of course it wasn’t working anymore, and we’d moved on to the dreaded pat-to-sleep. I would stand there for 20mins at a shot having to pat bottoms in two separate cribs. After all that I had to ninja crawl out of the room, trying to avoid every creak in the floor on my way out. It was insane and my back was killing me! I knew that I couldn’t keep that up forever, especially since I was having to do it longer and longer as time went on.
At their 6mo appointment, their pediatrician Dr. Goff asked me how they were sleeping just as she always did. I proudly announced that we were down to just one feed (didn’t mention my aching back), and then she told me 9 little words that would change my life forever…”You know, they don’t need that night feed anymore.” Say what?! What did she mean they didn’t need it anymore? I asked for clarification. I asked her how this could be true since they were clearly waking up because they were hungry. She explained that at this point they were waking because of habit. She went on to say that they were good-sized babies (that’s putting it nicely) and 6mos old so that meant they were physically able to sleep through the night now. I questioned her again about it because they were taking 6oz bottles at 4am so they HAD to be hungry and need it. She shot me down again with a simple answer of, “well, if you’re going to offer it they’re going to of course take it, but again they don’t NEED it.” I was in shock and awe by this news (clearly in my state of exhaustion I had forgotten that babies could sleep through the night at 3mos already – aka Ariana)! But I was excited to hear it, didn’t quite believe it, and scared to death thinking about how to fix it.
I went home that day and during their nap I searched for, found, downloaded, and started reading the parts of the Sleep Sense program that I needed to know in order to start sleep training that night. Yes, you read that right! I am not good with waiting when I know that I might be doing something wrong. I’ll be honest in saying that I didn’t really spend much time researching programs. I saw that this one was downloadable and that was what sold me. I had a pediatrician who just told me that my babies didn’t need to eat anymore at night, so I wanted all of us to start sleeping through the night ASAP. I could’t afford to wait until I could get to a library or a book store (these were my pre-Amazon Prime days), so I just purchased and downloaded it!
I started out with the girls staying together in the same bedroom as they’d been since birth, but after a couple of days I realized that this was an impossibly difficult task. I decided to separate the girls then into their own bedrooms for sanity’s sake. My one twin, Alana, did awesome with the program. After less than a week she was sleeping through the night like a champ. I was so impressed and relieved! Her sister, Giana, however was not having the same good fortune.
Giana really struggled with this new routine of ours where she wasn’t going to get her bottom patted to sleep every night. The more I tried to be gentle, the more she seemed to hate it. She would literally scoot away from me and sit in the corner of her crib crying. She wanted nothing to do with me or my comfort, and I swear she would have thrown things at me if she had anything to throw! It was saddening and frustrating for both of us. I didn’t understand why it wasn’t working for her, when I just saw it work so perfectly for her sister! Truth be told, had I not just watched her identical twin sister do it, I would have probably given up.
I remember sitting there wishing I could just ask someone a few questions. I seriously thought about emailing the author of the book to see if she could help (little did I know I would later meet and be trained by Dana Obleman)! Slowly, I began to do things differently on my own. I began to listen to what she was “saying” instead of just forcing something onto her. Slowly, she began to respond. It would take a few weeks for her to catch on and finally sleep through the night, but she did it. I was beyond ecstatic when it did happen! And I had my happy, loving baby back. She woke up that first morning smiling and happy to see me, which was what I had been waiting for. Soon after both girls were napping better too. Finally, I had 2 babies sleeping 12hrs straight through the night and taking two 1.5hr naps each day on their own without any sleep props and it was AWESOME!
While it was a struggle I wouldn’t wish on anyone, I couldn’t deny those results! My girls were happier and well-rested and so was I. For the first time ever having twins didn’t seem so hard, and I knew that was because I had two good little sleepers. I went around telling all my friends and family about our success, purposefully leaving out the part where Giana and I struggled so much. That felt like a huge mom-fail to me, so I didn’t talk about it much. Even though I didn’t usually tell people about that part, it was always on my mind how I should have listened to her earlier. And please don’t take this to mean that there was anything wrong with the Sleep Sense program, because it wasn’t that at all. Clearly it worked for my other daughter and for many other thousands of children. It’s just that Giana’s mama needed more guidance then the book could give her.
A few years later I went on to have my son, Dylan. You better believe that I got that book back out and read the newborn section I had skipped previously! I didn’t want to have a repeat of Giana’s sleep training mess. While I didn’t exactly follow the book this time, I did try hard to make some of the suggested changes earlier on. I started to notice some not-so-good things happening with him around 4mos, so that’s when I decided I better change things on my end. I made the changes and he adjusted really well. He was sleeping through the night by 5mos old (and exclusively breastfed which is a whole other blog), and I was happy as a clam! Although I never had to really sleep train him, he’s been my toughest child over the past 4yrs! I often say that he’s what keeps me relevant in my field and able to sincerely empathize with my clients.
For those wondering if I scarred my child for life, no, I didn’t. Today, Giana is the happiest, most gentle, sweetest little girl I know. The girls would go back and forth with their sleep issues on and off throughout the next few years, as all children do (ie transitioning to a bed, night potty training, being scared, etc), but believe it or not, Giana is actually a better sleeper than Alana! While I wished that Giana and I didn’t have to go through all we went through, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. In fact, it’s really the motto for my life. Had she been easy to sleep train, I probably wouldn’t have thought much the need for a sleep consultant. But having been through what we had, I thought that the idea of helping other parents so that they wouldn’t have to struggle and figure out what to do on their own was a great concept! So one day when I saw an email from the Sleep Sense company about becoming a consultant, I KNEW I had to do it. I had never been more excited and passionate about a career move in all my life! I believed it was the path I was supposed to take, so I took the leap of faith.
Today, I couldn’t be happier in my choice. There is no other job in the world that could give me as much joy as I get from helping parents do what can seem like the impossible in such a short amount of time (going so weeks like I did is NOT what you want to do). There are many programs and books out there, and yes many will work just fine, but having one work for your family and for your child(ren) is easier said than done. I know that some people will say that it’s ridiculous that they should have to pay someone to get their children to sleep (you know, because sleep is supposed to be a “given” and shouldn’t be that difficult), but if you’ve ever struggled with getting your child to sleep even just one time then you know that there’s definitely a value in it!
Looking back, I would have paid A LOT of money to have someone give me the answers I so desperately wanted and to help me shorten the whole process! The education, the custom sleep plan, the help with naps, and the ongoing support that sleep consultants give to parents is truly invaluable (at least that’s what my clients tell me – wink, wink). But not all sleep consultants are created equally, so be sure to do your homework when researching them. We all have different qualifications and strengths, so again be thorough in your research. If you’d like to talk to ME about your family’s unique situation, please CLICK HERE to set up your free 15min phone assessment today! Sleep well!