My Sleep Deprived Path to a New Career
One mom’s life of sleepless nights turned into a new job that helped her whole family finally get some shut-eye.
4:00 am in the kitchen, a boy in an apron, and a can of spray paint…
When my daughter was a month old, I was woken up at 4:00 am by the strange sound of an aerosol can. I sent my husband to check it out and he was immediately assaulted by the smell of lacquer in the kitchen. It wasn’t our Elf on the Shelf doing some much-needed home improvements. Our four year old son was spray painting the ornaments we made the night before in his Spiderman briefs and my kitchen apron. He’d already been walked back to his room three times that night and now he was ready to start his day. I spent more time getting him to sleep than I did with our newborn. It was at that moment that I realized we needed some serious help.
Advice was easy to come by, but help was hard to find…
I had read many sleep books, received advice from well-intentioned family and friends, and had seen various doctors and social workers. We tried naturopathic remedies, herbal supplements, vitamins, and a full diet overhaul. We even put him through an overnight sleep study. The suggestions we received made sense in a silo, but jumbled in my sleep-deprived brain they were contradictory and confusing. My husband and I would put together a plan but we had trouble with the implementation. We needed someone to help guide us in the process step-by-step; to hold our hand and remind us that this was the right thing to do, when at 3:00am it was easier to just climb into bed with our sleepless son so we could all get some shut-eye.
Finally, a middle-of-the-night-find that saved my sanity…
I desperately researched evidence-based strategies and poured through anecdotal advice of moms in blogs and forums. One night, between nursing a newborn and walking my son back to his room for what felt like the hundredth time, I came across the Family Sleep Institute’s Child Sleep Consultant Certification. A Professional Sleep Consultant? I had never heard of such a thing, but that was exactly what my family needed! As far as I could tell, this was a service not offered locally in my area. In my haven’t-slept-more-than-4-hours-consecutively-in-years delirium, I decided to enroll in the 16-week intensive training (it wasn’t like I could really lose any more sleep anyway).
I’m just beginning my journey as a Sleep Consultant, but I’ve already seen improvements in my own children as a result of having the right support and information. There are no more bedtime battles, middle of the night visits from my little man are rare, and my daughter’s naps are not a scream-fest. My children are well-rested and when we do encounter those dreaded set-backs (illness, teething, or travel which are all unavoidable) I know how to get them back on track quickly and with few tears. It is amazing what a good night sleep can do for your family!
Here are some tips on setting up healthy sleep habits from the start by keeping your young baby as well rested as possible:
• Create a consistent, safe sleeping space and limit naps “on the run.”
• Create an environment that is conducive to sleep: cool, dark, quiet, and safe.
• Anticipate your child’s sleep needs just like you’d anticipate their need to nurse, so that you are prepared to help them fall asleep at their next nap or bedtime.
• Don’t be afraid of an early bedtime, which will save you the misery of overtiredness.
• Practice putting your baby down for sleep at varying levels of awake-fullness. He may surprise you and be able to fall asleep on his own.
If you incorporate these strategies into your routine from the beginning, you will be well on your way to creating healthy sleep habits and you may never need to do any sleep training at all. If you do decide some sleep training is necessary, what’s most important is picking a plan that you are confident you can stick to consistently.
Jessica Begley is a Certified Lactation Counselor, Certified Childbirth Educator, health educator, and Child Sleep Consultant studying with the Family Sleep Institute. She is the founder of The Baby Sleep Geek and is committed to helping wee ones and their tired families get the sleep they need to be healthy, happy, and well-rested. Like The Baby Sleep Geek on Facebook to learn more about healthy sleep smarts.