A First-time Mom’s Journey with Sleep Training
There are a few things in life that can completely change your world and becoming a first-time mom certainly tops the list!
Written by Vasti Lourens
We were blessed to receive our little bundle of joy, Ainslie in August 2020 and since day one he was a great sleeper. Seeing as I was breastfeeding he immediately fell into a 4 hour sleep schedule which was great. But all that changed around 5 months. He would start waking up every 2hours and take over 30minutes to feed and once I tried to lay him down, he would just wake up again, starting the feeding and putting to sleep process all over again. Eventually I would let him sleep in the bed with us whilst feeding just to get some sleep. However, this would not happen every night and some nights he would still sleep just short of 4 hours at a time.
Initially we thought he was having trouble teething because there were a lot of teething signs. I googled every possible remedy and tried to relieve the pain as far as I possibly could, but the only thing that really helped was when he was drinking. I took him to our GP twice, who diagnosed a ‘sinus problem’ and prescribed some medicine which only alleviated the problem somewhat for a short while.
By the time he turned 8 months he was only sleeping 30min stretches during the day (some days 2 naps, other days 3 naps) and would be irritable and fuzzy. He was waking up anything from 6 – 8 times a night mostly in the early morning hours. Around 3- or 4am I would be too tired to put him back in his crib and my back was so sore from picking him up from the camping cot night after night that I would just let him sleep in my arms, making it an uncomfortable sleep after a while as well.
As you can imagine by this time, I was exhausted, feeling completely drained of all energy, hopeless and confused as to what to do to get my little one to sleep better and at the same time feel better.
One Thursday morning Ainslie would not stop crying and was sporting a high fever. Having never been sick this was quite an ordeal for me. He was moaning which made it sound like he has stomach pain. We took him to a Paediatrician, who informed us that apart from the teething he had a very bad middle ear infection. The entire time we thought it to be his teeth & sinus problems, it was his ears, and the moaning sound was a pain cry. As for him drinking 6 – 8 times a night, it was because it relieved the pressure in the ears which in turn took away some of the pain.
We ended up in hospital for 3 days and Ainslie received grommets which was the best decision we could ever have made. The following days his development soured, he was finally crawling and talking and sleeping a little better during the day, but still not long enough and in the evenings, he would still insist on drinking 6 – 8 times a night mostly in the morning hours after 1am. Exhausted and desperate for a good night’s rest after months of barely sleeping I turned to Zanda at Brave Little Baby and requested her assistance.
We established that the multiple drinking in the evening and drinking every time for almost 30min to fall asleep has become a habit and a very bad one at that. One that we needed to urgently break, but how? I was so scared that my baby was going to cry endlessly and that he would feel rejected and that the bond between us would be harmed but something had to change, not just for my son’s benefit but for myself, my marriage and for me to be the best mom I can possibly be for him.
After my consultation with Zanda I felt so much more at ease with what needed to be done. Realizing that I am not the only mom going through this has helped so much. Hearing that this is a common problem that can easily be corrected, not by being strict or harming your relationship with your baby but by helping your baby to grow, by helping him reach another milestone on the development chart, by teaching him to self settle and fall asleep on his own. First things first, we needed to make 100% sure that he is not teething, not in any pain whatsoever and that he ate very well that day.
I guess I’m one of the fortunate moms as Ainslie has no problem when it comes to eating his food, so far no allergies, he loves meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, oats and especially yogurt. Which made it quite easy to supplement his diet with more protein so that he would take longer naps. This was our first step in getting him to sleep better in the evenings as he was not getting enough nap time during the day. Having adjusted his food for the day naps I did the same with his supper. Mixing 60% vegetables and 40% protein which most definitely made him fuller for longer.
Within 2 days his day naps went from 30/45 minutes to 1 ½ hours. This helped me tremendously as it gave me time to do some work during the day (I work from home) instead of in the evenings. This caused him to only feed around 4-5 times a night, but the habit was still there. In the early morning hours around 3 – 4am he would wake and want to feed and get in bed with us.
One fateful Friday morning a cranky-me woke up to an equally cranky baby because he also didn’t sleep well. He never slept the full number of hours that is needed for his mind and body to get enough rest and by this time I was at my wits end to put it mildly.
I spoke to Zanda and after some amazing guidance from her I decided that “tonight is the night!” It is time for “sleep training”. The entire day I spent getting my head ready for a very bad night during which my baby would be crying and very upset with us. But strangely enough it felt like my baby boy was ready for what was to come – as if it was the right time for him. Mom’s don’t ignore that 6th sense, we have it for a reason!
That night we started our new routine: dinner, bath, breast feeding and then “winding down” family time with our son. And then it was time – the moment I dreaded for months! Time to say goodnight and place him in his crib and start the “Spaced Soothing” (For more details on this, speak to Brave Little Baby”). The first step is to go in after 5min and sooth if he is still crying however, he wasn’t really crying, he was just making little moaning sounds. I decided to wait a bit and lo and behold around minute 8 there was absolute silence. I waited for the crying to start up again, but nothing happened, still complete silence. Needless to say, he slept for 6hours straight for the first time in months! He woke up at the appropriate feeding time and I would feed him and place him back in the crib – he moaned for a minute or so and then …. sweet dreams! The entire night I kept to the program and by morning he had only woken up twice. Needless to say, I woke up every few hours to check on him #beingamom
The next day I did the exact same thing with his day naps and by nap 2 that day he would go to sleep without one single tear or moan.
This completely changed our lives. I am not spending 30min + anymore trying to put him to sleep with every nap. It gives me more time to work during the day and more time for my family at night. As a mom I am more focused and energized than I have been in months. As for my son, he is smiling all day and has the most cheerful little personality because he is well rested and ready to take on the world. A big thank you to Zanda from Brave Little Baby for guiding me step by step through this process.