Confession: We have been on the sleep struggle bus with Isla since birth—now almost 9 months ago. In all honesty, I would cringe every time I would hear someone talking about how their tiny newborn or three month old or six month old or now nine month old slept through the night like a champ. I was envious of the solid sleep the moms were getting. I was frustrated by how our nights looked. I was waking up cranky and exhausted.
Isla has always been easy to put down for naps and bedtime, but like clockwork, she would wake up exactly 2 hours after she went down all night long. This led us to create some bad habits pushing us further into sleep deprivation.
I needed someone else to give me a strict routine to use. To remind me how much my baby should be napping. To encourage me to stick to the changes we were about to make because sleep filled nights were within reach.
Mariam from Child Sleep Guru did just that. She has been helping us over the past couple of weeks and we are making some big progress. Last night Isla only woke up once for the first time in her life. I feel like a new woman this morning. We still have a little more progress to make, but for the first time ever I am seeing a light at the end of the sleep deprivation tunnel.
I have made a million excuses over the past 9 months as for why Isla has trouble sleeping during the night, but the reality is that the burden sits on me. We had not been creating an environment or routine that would cultivate the sleep she needed. We had been confusing her by our lack of routine during the day.
Here are 6 sleep mistakes I feel like we have made with Isla over the past 9 months.
1) Relying on a Pacifier
The pacifier was an instant soother for Isla. I would not have survived without it in her colic-y newborn days. It calmed her immediately. It also popped out of her mouth a million times a night and pacifiers littered the floor under her crib. She would not be able to find them at night and that would wake her up screaming. She would struggle to fall asleep without one. Our first task of improving her sleep has been getting rid of the pacifier cold turkey. It was a painful adjustment.
Hindsight--I would have tried to get rid of the pacifier around 6 months.
2) Lack of Consistent Day Routine
With a baby and a toddler it is incredibly hard to find a consistent daytime routine. For a while, we had a solid one going but then life happened and we went months and months without a consistent routine from day to day. Some days Isla and I would run errands for the few hours while Brody was in preschool, others we would go home and nap. Isla’s internal clock could not keep track of whether or not it was nap time or wake time--it really started throwing off our nights too.
Hindsight--I would have written out a daily routine every few months to ensure we had set nap times.
3) Nursing to Sleep
As bedtime rolled around, Isla and I would settle down in the chair in her room and I would nurse her right before putting her into her bed to sleep. It calmed her and I would be lying if I did not admit I enjoyed the sweet moment together too. But then she came to expect this. If I was going to go to book club or do anything post bedtime, I would have to wait to leave until I put her down. I think she probably traumatized a few babysitters when we mistakenly thought she would be fine without the nursing before sleep.
Hindsight—Would have implemented Eat-Play-Sleep routine early on like we did with Brody.
4) Too Many Naps
I am giggling as I type the words “too many naps”—is that really possible? I would love just one nap a week for myself! Up until a few weeks ago, Isla will still taking as many naps as she took when she was just a few months old. Lots of naps meant the naps were more like cat naps lasting 30 minutes or so. Over the past few weeks we have cut down her daytime sleeping sessions to 2-3 per day. Her naps are now lasting quite a bit longer and she seems happier during the day.
Hindsight—I wish I had realized that less naps could correlate to MORE sleep!
5) Rushing to Action
Like most moms, I would assume, hearing my baby crying would automatically send my heart racing. Day or night. Bed time or nap time. When I would hear Isla cry I would immediately jump into action.
From 6 months+ Brody was (and still is) an amazing sleeper. I credit a lot of his solid sleep to using the Ferber method to help sleep train him. It worked incredibly well with Brody. For some reason, with Isla, I have been struggling to do it. Partially because I do not want her to wake up Brody if she is crying and partially because my heart just wants to console her immediately. We have slowly been working on teaching her to self soothe. I am reminding myself to give Isla the opportunity to fall back asleep on her own before I swoop in. It is amazing how often she will just go back to sleep after a few minutes of crying—no mom intervention needed.
Hindsight—I wish I had given a solid attempt at the Ferber Method around 6 months.
6) Nursing at Every Wake Up
After racing into Isla’s room at the first sound of a whimper, I would have Isla in my arms nursing her—up to 7 times some nights. I knew it would immediately calm her and put her back to sleep. I worried that she would not take in the milk and nutrition she needed if she did not have her nighttime feedings. In reality, I was getting her out of whack. She was nursing more during the night than during the day. Her little Body was so routine to waking up for food all night long. She expected milk to go back to sleep. As she has started waking up less at night, she has been having longer feeding sessions during the day.
Hindsight—I would have tried to soothe her back to sleep in other ways after her first couple of months at home. Bum patting, shushing, or a back rub.
We still have a little ways to go on the sleep training, but I am finally feeling like we can do this. Isla is capable of sleeping through the night. I can sleep through the night. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are getting near it!
Disclaimer: Some of our sleep mistakes may not be mistakes for you. If so, awesome—keep on keeping on! Each baby is so different. Brody & Isla could not be more opposite in their sleep styles. Sleep trainers are an amazing resources for helping you figure out what changes will help your little one.
PS: Mariam is giving away a FREE sleep session on the Momma Society Instagram account today!! Tell me the first thing you do in the mornings on this post to enter.