An Honest Letter About Sleep Training

I reached out to some past clients to see if they would be interested in providing their honest feedback with their experience of sleep training their little ones. My hope is that reading Lauren’s story will shed some light onto the entire process and answer questions you might have before embarking on the journey yourself. Enjoy.

Kandra
CEO/Pediatric Sleep Specialist

The Good the Bad and the Unexpected…

It was just after 3am. I had been up for over two hours for my son’s second waking of the night. I hit my wall. I made a post on a local mommy Facebook group. As you are reading this, I can practically hear your groans, but things took a surprising turn. 

To give a little background, I have a just turned 3-year-old daughter and 15-month-old son. I work full time, but do so from home. Both my children are at home with me full time as well. In other words, I have not slept a full night in over three years. My son has never been a big fan of sleep. For his first 10 weeks of life, he woke up every 1-1.5 hours. His naps were always unpredictable. Up until he was 14 months, he still woke up between 3-4 times a night, sometimes more if he was having a particularly rough time. Sometimes it would take me hours to get him to fall back to sleep in his crib. Half the time he would sleep in our bed, which made for poor sleep for my husband and me. At his one-year old pediatrician wellness visit, the doctor referred us to a sleep center. My husband and I essentially scoffed and rolled our eyes. We figured he’d grow out of it, once he was weaned from nursing during the night, once we did a couple of weeks of sleep training, so many once this or that happened. It never did…

I was always tired. I felt on edge, I lost my patience easily, and I was irritable. I could not understand how to get him to sleep more or longer. This was a huge switch for me since my daughter was like clockwork and slept two 3-hour naps a day, plus 11-hour nights. Even now, she still sleeps 2.5-3 hours for her nap plus 11 hours at night. The loss of sleep was impacting my work. I could not keep up with my workload and as a public health professional, my workload increased dramatically with the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of sleep was also impacting my ability to parent with compassion and patience. And it even impacted my marriage. Intimacy went out the window first. I wanted sleep! And then feelings of resentment came as well. My husband could sleep through the kids screaming in his ears. If he ever complained about being tired, I would seethe since the night before I would have likely gotten about 4 hours of unbroken sleep. 

Back to that post! For six weeks, I consistently tried sleep training techniques. Cry it out, modified cry it out, check backs for a certain time, you name it. Nothing worked. So one night, I was laying on the floor with my little one fast asleep laying half on me, already feeling the crink in my neck, and I started to cry. Every time I moved to bring him to bed, he immediately cried. I was just so tired. I don’t think I can adequately describe just how tired I felt. No random nap would fix this. It was part of me. So I made a post on this mommy group’s page pleading for help. What was I doing wrong? How can I fix this? And a few posts recommended Kandra and Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby. The next morning, Kandra herself even posted on it saying she would be happy to talk to me.  

I made an appointment for the free discovery meeting. I described what problems I was having and Kandra asked a lot of questions. She asked a lot about me and our family. She was asking lifestyle questions. I later learned that she was tailoring her approach with what would best fit with us. The more I talked to her, the more I realized just how much the disrupted sleep had been impacting our lives. Before I had called, I was mostly nervous about the money. I am not one to go into spending a large amount of money lightly, especially if I were unsure if it would really work. But after talking with Kandra, I felt optimistic for the first time in over a year. I decided to take the plunge and hire her during that call. 

The Sleep Training Process

Kandra set up our next call, we met virtually due to social distancing, a few days later and we went over the sleep plan. The plan was organized and easy to understand. We discussed the “what ifs”, how to deal with disruptions to the plan, which was particularly important to me since working from home can make things difficult, and answered any questions. I was surprised since it seemed easy. There were not any gimmicks like buy this or that and this will be your silver bullet if you just spend an extra four easy payments of $999.99. She discussed creating a good sleep environment, which thankfully I had been doing, and how to approach the first night. It was methodical and in a strange way, that was comforting. I also knew that I could reach out to her for help at any point. I was not alone in this anymore. And someone literally has the answers! I remember reviewing over the plan before that first night and was reminded of that joke where you wished you had a manual on how to raise kids. I had a literal manual now! 

That first night, I was nervous about how it would go, but I was actually really excited to get started. I felt like I had my marching orders and I could do this. The technique used for several nights (and naps) was to comfort using voice and then touch. He would cry so hard and when I would touch him, he would cling to me and try to get as close as possible to me. This was heartbreaking. All I wanted to do was to pick him up and hold him in my arms. I knew that would calm him down. I felt like I was abandoning him and that he just could not understand why I was not helping him as he cried. That feeling did not go away for several nights. Each time, my heart broke. But each night, he was sleeping for longer periods of time and even able to put himself back to sleep when he woke up. This was amazing to me. It felt freeing because he was gaining that little bit of independence. I stuck with the plan even though there were times when I just wanted to hold him. As he was adjusting to the new sleep schedule and techniques, I was gaining more confidence in all of us. My husband was able to put him to sleep for the first time ever, my daughter was getting more attention from me because I could tuck her in bed too, and I did not feel like I was tethered to him all day and night. 

After that first night, I met with Kandra again for a follow up. She went over the sleep log and gave me some tips on how to handle some of my emotions. This was key because we had another meeting a few days later and she was able to prepare me for a regression that most babies have after starting the sleep plan. I felt more prepared to face what challenges lie ahead and she also let me know what was going well. What my husband and I were doing that was working, what progress my son was making, and most importantly quashing any fear or anxiety I was having. 

The plan had me in the room with him until he fell asleep for the first week. After which, Kandra had me simply put him in his crib, give him a kiss and say good night, and then leave the room. This seemed like a large step. Too large of a step. But ultimately, we had prepared him for this big step, he was ready. I was nervous and even a bit scared to do this. I did not think I would be so anxious about it and later after talking with Kandra, it dawned on me. I had gotten so used to our time together at night that I too was going through some separation anxiety. Over the last 14 months, it was me and him in the wee hours of the night, snuggling, nursing, and just spending time. By just leaving him in his room, I was losing that time with him. It was more emotional than I expected it to be. I have since made sure that he and I have time just the two of us during the day to keep that connection. 

We worked with Kandra for two weeks. I found myself reaching out to her more than I expected. I had figured I would ask about those unexpected hiccups in our schedule, which I did, but there were other aspects I did not anticipate. For one, my little one bumped his head and got a concussion about one-week in (it was minor, and he recovered fully and quickly!). I am also a volunteer EMT, so I knew what I medically needed to do, but I had no idea how this would impact our sleep plan. She responded almost immediately, and we had an email “conversation” back and forth discussing various aspects and in the craziness of the day, her calming voice of reason was exactly what I needed. Having access to her and knowing I had her as my safety net gave me more confidence in my ability to carry out the plan. 

At the beginning Kandra asked me what my goal was and I said ideally it would be to have him sleep through the night. I did not think it would happen in two weeks, but I did think we would make progress to get there. I am thrilled to report that he did start sleeping through the night and even has a 2-2.5 hours nap. He is even on a predictable schedule! It has been almost a month since concluding the plan and our time with Kandra. He is holding steady, is a happier baby – no more cranky pants, and has made jumps developmentally. At his last appointment, the pediatrician attributed it to his increased sleep. The kids both nap at the same time now so for the first time, I have some “free” time for myself! 

What I learned and how it changed my life

I have noticed a big difference in my parenting. Yes, of course, I still lose my patience…I do have two toddlers after all, but I take a lot longer to get there. I have more energy to engage and play with them. I love our bedtime routine and they get excited to pick out books to read together. I feel like my daughter is having less tantrums and showing less jealousy. They are playing more together as he is more curious now. And my marriage. After the kids have gone to bed, we have about three full hours before we go to sleep to spend together. Uninterrupted adult conversations and time. I feel like I have connected with my husband again and I am not just a walking zombie. Work is still work and demand on my time is still increasing, but I am not forgetting things I need to do and do not feel as frazzled by it all. 

Contact Rocky Mountain Sleeping Baby

For those considering hiring a Denver sleep consultant, you probably have reached your limit like I did. Make sure the plan works for your family and be upfront with any concerns or questions. I cannot say enough good things about my experience. There were some unexpected emotions that surfaced, but also happy surprises such as being amazed at how self-sufficient my little guy could be, how silly and playful he is when he has had a good night’s rest…and silly and playful I am too!

~ Lauren Savaglio

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