A few weeks ago I decided to give away a few free personal sleep consults on Facebook. I fully expected to get a handful of comments and end up doing 1-2 free consults. I ended up with over 400 comments and 13 families to work with.
Thirteen. Not one or two. THIRTEEN.
So that’s what I’ve been up to.
And while they’ve taken a ton of time it’s been incredibly refreshing. When you spend hours typing away on posts, comment replies, etc. you sometimes forget that there are actual people out there. Delightfully smart funny people with adorable squishy babies. With crazy baby hair. And monkey toes.
So I’ve been Skyping, emailing, and chatting with a range of tired families. And they taught me a lot.
What I Learned from Sleep Consults
People don’t really know what a “bad sleeper” is.
ALL of the parents I had the pleasure of chatting with started the conversation by telling me what a terrible sleeper their beloved peanut was. But truth be told, less than half actually HAD a bad sleeper on their hands. What I gathered from this is that ALL babies are HARD. Even the easiest baby is a lot of work. So no matter what is going on with your baby, from your perspective, it is a real challenge.
Put down awake isn’t enough.
Everybody in the baby sleep universe stresses the importance of putting down baby awake. So it’s almost impossible to find a new parent who hasn’t come across this concept and is either currently struggling with it or plans to as soon as they muster up the courage to do so.
But “put down awake” isn’t really the FULL solution. The SOLUTION is to put down WITHOUT SURPRISES. This includes putting them down awake so they aren’t surprised to find you missing later. But that is just one possible surprise. So if you are putting your baby down awake WITH A PACIFIER, you aren’t quite done. Unless your baby is one of those savant babies who can happily find and replace the paci during the night on their own, putting baby down awake with a pacifier in their mouth often leads to waking up all night because they’re a) surprised when they wake up with the paci (mysteriously) missing and b) are unable to fumble about to replace it.
There IS no quick fix.
Everybody is looking for the magic elixir that will fix things. And they want immediate evidence that whatever they are doing is working. Babies don’t work like this. You need to commit to a new plan for a few days or possibly a week. Not a day, or one nap. A week. Too often people try things once or twice and write it off as a failure. When the only failure was not sticking with it long enough to really know.
Desperate measures are for newborns.
Newborns are really really hard. Soothing newborns is tricky business. Getting them to fall and stay asleep can be arduous and relentless. So for a while, you do whatever you need to do. Baby only naps on your lap, baby only sleeps attached to your boob, baby only sleeps while being pushed in a stroller, etc. Sometimes you need to just make it through the day and nobody should look askance because you are doing what you need to.
But eventually you need to work on breaking out of desperate habits. Or instead of being “what we did you survive a particularly bad phase or sleep regression” it becomes “what we do every day.” And this will backfire on you on two fronts. For starters, desperate acts to get baby to sleep are generally not fun and often drain the ever-loving life out of you. It’s just not sustainable. And secondly as your baby gets older (definitely older than 2-3 months) many of these desperate acts lock you into the path to cryitoutsville. And I KNOW nobody wants to go there.
So at some point, ideally sooner than later, you need to develop some alternative methods to help your baby sleep. Which is hard because…
Everybody is absolutely TERRIFIED of change.
Change is scary. People are so exhausted that the thought of things getting worse, even temporarily, is absolutely horrifying. Even people who are so brutally sleep deprived that it would literally be impossible for things to get worse are afraid of doing things differently. This is how they get locked into non-functional sleep situations for months or years. Not because they haven’t read the right books. Not because they aren’t smart enough. Not because they don’t care.
Change is scary. But the key to solving any challenge with your child (and trust me when I tell you that sleep is only the first of a billion you will face) is to be willing to do something different. YOU need to do something different. You can’t wait it out or hope your child will change. It all starts with you. This is scary and uncomfortable. But there is no other way.
Put on your big girl/boy panties. Have faith in yourself. Know that if billions of other parents can figure this out, you can too. What you’re doing isn’t working. Try something new. It’s the only way things will get better. And it will get better. I promise.
Most of the 13 sleep consults are wrapped up and if I can pat myself on the back, successfully so. To those of you who were willing to share your families and challenges with me, thank you so much! As you can see I got a lot out of the experience. I hope you did too!
Has anybody else struggled with finding the courage to make a change? (Please note if you are struggling, there is no shame in it. Just about everybody else is too.) Or do you have some advice or experience that might help those that are struggling?