January 3, 2024

Our Story of Sleepless Nights to Nights Full of Sleep

Babies, Newborns, Personal, Toddlers

Most sleep consultants’ journeys start with a baby or toddler who wouldn’t sleep, then you maybe buy a course, or hire a sleep consultant, or do lots of research. Then once you’re finally on the other side, you can’t keep your mouth shut and want to share the same amazing sleep with the world.

And that’s kind of my story in a nutshell, but there’s so much more to it. So in this post, I’ll be sharing all about our sleepless days and nights and what we did to finally get sleep!

Olivia’s Sleep Story

Pregnant Lauren

I grew up pretending to be the mom of my baby sister (5 years younger) and babysat like a crazy person from age 11 on, and then I taught elementary for eight years, so to say I was comfortable with kids is an understatement. I did a lot of research about pregnancy and labor and couldn’t get enough of it, but I didn’t do much research when it came to newborn or baby life; I was confident in what I knew!

And I knew that sleep was a common challenge in parenting and that a regular question for new moms is, “Are you getting any sleep?!”, but because I was such an “expert” with kids, it would obviously be a breeze for me! Famous last words…

Newborn Olivia

I don’t really know how, but Olivia was somehow an amazing newborn sleeper. Two weeks in she was giving us 7-8 hour stretches at night and it was amazing!

We had to hold her for pretty much every nap until she was around 8 weeks old, but because nights were so great and I was on maternity leave and really had nothing better to do (not to mention who doesn’t love newborn snuggles), I didn’t mind, for the most part!

I knew what overtiredness was and I knew to watch for tired cues, but I didn’t know about awake windows. I eventually learned I could try laying her down “drowsy but awake,” but didn’t actually know how.

So Olivia’s sleep “success”, if you can call it that, wasn’t because of anything we did, she just slept. And we were so thankful.

Until we hit four months…

Baby Olivia

I had never even heard of the four-month regression until a friend mentioned it when her baby turned four months a few days ahead of Olivia. But it became very real very fast and hit us like a ton of BRICKS!

Our precious baby went from waking up once a night to waking up 4-7 times a night and it was WORK to get her back to sleep.

I vividly remember being home for Christmas and nursing Olivia for what seemed like the 100th time that night. As I was walking her back to her pack ‘n play, I fell.

I was so darn tired I literally dropped to the ground.

Praise God for motherly instincts, because it was as controlled as a fall could possibly be and Olivia didn’t actually hit the ground. Jason scooped her up and was able to lay her down, and we all went back to sleep.

You’d think that was rock bottom, right? Wrong. We somehow kept going, thinking this was just how it had to be.

So from about 4-10 months old, Olivia woke anywhere between 3-7 times a night, and I would get her up, nurse her, and lay her back down, hoping she’d actually stay asleep. And if she wouldn’t, I’d re-rock or re-nurse her, eventually stick Jason on her to re-rock her, often having him pass her right back to me to re-nurse her to sleep.

Not to mention putting her to sleep initially! We often tried putting her down drowsy (little did we know that was only a newborn goal!), but it rarely worked.

Sometimes we’d let her cry for 10 minutes, just to feel like we were attempting something, but then we’d always end up rocking her to sleep. Jason and I would often take turns rocking her, re-rocking her, bouncing on the yoga ball, etc., until she was finally down for the night.

I remember we’d try to watch a TV show and eat ice cream, and we’d have to pause the show so many times, and we’d never finish our ice cream, because she kept waking up, or we kept taking turns.

As I mentioned before, I knew overtiredness was a thing and Olivia was a chronic short-napper, so I would often try to explain her rough nights by saying she was just overtired. Or teething!

But after days that turned into weeks that turned into months, at some point you can only explain so much.

I knew enough to know it didn’t have to be that way, but I had no clue how to do anything differently. She must just be a unicorn baby!

My (Perceived) Options

I remember asking our pediatrician for advice and other moms I trusted, and I was given the following advice:

  • You just have to let her cry.
  • I have no idea what to tell you.
  • Just co-sleep.
  • She’ll grow out of it eventually.

While I know everyone was trying to be helpful, I was always left at square one.

Let her cry?? For how long?

Just co-sleep? Neither Jason nor I feel comfortable with her sleeping in bed with us, so now what?

She’ll grow out of it? When???

So here’s what we did…

Summer break hit as Olivia turned 10 months old, so this teacher/mama was home on summer break and I couldn’t blame her poor sleep on overtiredness from how other people were handling her naps.

And we all knew she wasn’t teething for 6 months straight, so I called it our “sleep boot camp”!

The only tangible advice I was given was to let her cry, so that’s just what we did. Jason was heading out for the day and I said, “She’s just going to have to cry herself to sleep.” And then I gave the caveat of, “But once she gets to 20 minutes I’m pulling the plug.”

Well let me tell you, those were some of the most miserable 20+ minutes of my life. She was sleeping in our walk-in closet at the time (small-space living!), so I sat right outside the closet door the entire time. For some reason, it made me feel better about leaving her to cry knowing that I was as close as possible without her being able to see me.

And I texted Jason updates every five minutes or so, saying, “It’s been xx minutes, and she’s still crying. I don’t know how much longer I can do this!” When we got to 20 minutes, I so badly wanted to “give up,” but then what would happen the next day?? She needed to sleep!

So I kept going, and it was around 29 minutes before she finally fell asleep.

I was so relieved and also so emotionally exhausted. By some miracle, she only cried for a few minutes for the next nap and most sleeps thereafter, rarely crying for more than 10 minutes. And within a night or two she was sleeping through the night.

In essence, it “worked!” And believe me, we were soooooo thankful.

BUT, there was a problem…

While Olivia was now a “great sleeper” (meaning she fell asleep on her own and slept 11-12 hours a night), it seemed to only really work at our house, in perfect conditions.

When she was sick, we couldn’t just let her cry, and we had no other tricks up our sleeve to help her. So I’d try to pull her into bed with us to save some of our sleep, which meant Jason would quickly head to the couch, I’d lay in a crazy position trying to prevent her from falling off the bed in any direction, and she often thought that meant party time, so no one would get much sleep.

When we’d travel, she’d scream her head off, and our only options were letting her cry to sleep again or rocking her to sleep (which then left us backtracked once home).

And then she became a toddler…

Toddler Olivia

Right before Olivia turned two, we entered a season of life where we moved five times in seven months, so talk about transitions! Several moves, mom going back to work after summer break, and a toddler about to become a big sister all equaled a recipe for disaster when it came to sleep.

And although we tried, the cry-it-out method just didn’t work with our toddler anymore. She was older and there were so many more dynamics in play (language, fears, stresses, new places, etc.), and we just couldn’t do it again.

But we had no clue what else we could do!

The good news is, I became a sleep consultant during this time. My mom and Olivia came with me for training, and I remember training during the day, and sitting on the floor of our hotel room while my toddler fell asleep at night. And my mom had to do the same for her naps during the day.

Because we kept moved a few times in a month, we just kind of hung in there for a month or so – there was too much change happening to make any really changes with her sleep.

But once we knew we’d be in the same spot for a few months, this new sleep consultant basically pulled a sleep plan on her toddler, just as I would with a family!

But this time, it wasn’t the cry-it-out method. We were able to comfort her and support her, AND also create boundaries. We finally had TOOLS!

And it WORKED! We finally had our great sleeper back just in time for her baby sister to be born. And we finally felt like we had tools to use if her sleep got thrown off again.

Avery and Isla’s Sleep

Then having Avery, talk about a whole new world! She was born three months after I became a sleep consultant, so we knew how to help establish a sleep foundation from the start.

And we didn’t have to officially “sleep train” her because those skills continued to mature as she got older, and again, we knew how to continue supporting those skills and how to adjust with her age.

She’s actually the reason Newborn Sleep from A to Z, and Baby Sleep from A to Z exist. I never wanted another family to feel so stuck in their baby’s sleep and have no idea what their options are.

I want parents to feel just as confident as we did not only understanding why their newborn’s sleep is that way and how it changes when they turn four months old, but also what their options are for supporting their little one in the way that feels best for their family.

And then fast forward three years and we were able to do the same with our youngest, Isla. Now all three of our girls are great sleepers!

It’s not always perfect, they certainly have their off days and nights, like a normal human being does, but they’ve had those sleep skills to fall back on, and we have the knowledge and tool kit to help them along the way.

And what a difference it makes!

Conclusion

I have felt stuck and like there were no real options for us. I have “winged it” without any sort of plan and or knowing if it would work.

And I look back at that exhausted mama and want to tell her there is SO MUCH MORE! It doesn’t have to be the cry-it-out method and it doesn’t have to be a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-this-works.

If you’re reading this as that tired mama, or maybe you have that unicorn newborn sleeper but are nervous about the four-month regression, we want you to feel confident in your approach to sleep!

Our A to Z classes are great if you’re looking to learn about baby sleep, to understand your little one’s sleep and how it’s changing, or maybe you’re ready to sleep train and just want to make sure everything that you do supports that sleep training. If that’s you, Newborn Sleep and Baby Sleep from A to Z would be a great fit, and they’re linked in the show notes below.

Because, spoiler alert, you don’t have to hire a sleep consultant to get sleep! But it is incredibly helpful to know all the pieces that go into sleep so you are set up for success!

If you resonate similarly, but you want that hand to hold, or that step-by-step sleep training plan, or help making necessary adjustments,  that’s what our coaching packages are for.

In all of this, the plan is, YOU CAN HAVE A PLAN! Sleep doesn’t have to be a big guessing game. It probably won’t be perfect, it may be a roller coaster at first, naps may still be hard for a bit longer, and that’s okay.

Your little one CAN SLEEP! You don’t just have to wait for them to figure it out.

With Grace,

Lauren