A Sleep Specialist’s Experience With Baby Sleep

After receiving a positive pregnancy test result, I walked out of the bathroom and over to my computer where I began to research all the baby things. All. The. Things! I’m talking Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook groups, and of course, peer reviewed journals. It didn’t take long to come across information about sleep training. I read about the importance of sleep training, how my mental health would be affected, how my baby would be negatively impacted if I didn’t sleep train, how horrible the 4 month sleep regression is and the steps I would need to take to prevent it (which to be clear, were to leave him to cry), and how if I didn’t sleep train as soon as possible then my baby would never sleep. Honestly, this information. Information about sleep and regressions unintentionally consumed my research. I wasn’t seeking information specifically about these topics. Those were never the key words I typed in, but somehow that was all people seemed to talk about when it came to babies. Almost as if there was nothing else to having a baby but sleep. Regardless, I would be prepared!

Fast forward to when my son was born. He actually slept amazing! He gave us fairly long stretches. He was clearly a high sleep total baby. However, I kept bracing myself for the 4 month sleep regression. When he turned 4 months, I immediately turned to my Pinterest board with all my saved baby sleep sites with information about feeding and sleep schedules and plans on how to get him sleeping longer, and independently. The first night I put him down at 7pm (like the schedule said) in his crib in a pitch black room. He cried and cried and cried. I responded every minute, comforted him without picking him up, staying no longer than a minute before leaving again. His cries intensified. Not even 15 minutes later my Mom came in, “Shanny. He’s not tired.”

“Leave him. We need to teach him how to sleep.” I snapped. She left the room and waited outside as I continued with the plan.

A few minutes later my mom returned. She picked him up and said, “He’s not tired. You’ve been advocating for him for the last 4 months telling everyone that he’s not a textbook baby. You know these schedules don’t work for every baby. He’ll sleep when he’s tired.” She was right.

My son had a difficult time gaining weight. Nothing the doctors recommended worked. Colic, reflux, cow’s milk allergy, medication, no medication, switch formulas, feed him less but more frequently…nothing. I was angry that they kept putting him in a box offering generic solutions without asking me a thing about him. Yet here I was putting him in a box without any regard for his unique rhythms, patterns, and needs. The real kicker is that he was a high sleep total, unicorn sleeper whose only sleep problems were that he had a difficult time falling asleep at nap time, woke at the sound of anything, and woke the second we laid him down. Other than that, he slept all the time!

After my mom gave me the kick in the pants I so desperately needed, I showered that little boy with love. I apologized over and over and kept him close. The next day I went back to reading his cues, following his lead, and trusting my instincts, which led me to try having him nap in our room (we co-slept). It was cooler, darker, quieter, and where he slept each night and he slept great at night (previously, he had been napping in the living room). This worked great for us. He fell asleep quickly, he wasn’t disturbed by any noises, and overall appeared content and comfortable. This was the end of our sleep training experience. It hasn’t always been easy. He’s definitely gone through phases where sleep was rough, but tuning into him and his needs, as well as, trusting my instincts have got us through.

Now, we were lucky the first time, but the second time not so much. Baby brother is not the high sleep total, unicorn sleeper that his big brother was. Nope. Not even a little bit. He needs less sleep and more parental support. He is tired but fights it. Nothing seems to soothe him but being close to Mama. He sleeps great at night, but sometimes it seems like he’s awake all day. I’ve felt frustrated. I’ve cried. I’ve felt touched out. I’ve felt the mom guilt. I’ve felt helpless. I’ve sought reassurance. When I say I’ve been there, I’ve been there! I know how hard this stage is. Yes, even as someone with extensive training in child development and sleep, I’ve felt all of these things. Why? Because I’m human. I have feelings, needs, and responsibilities. Because a new baby and less sleep is a big change and I struggle with change. Because society is not conducive to parenting, but I keep replaying my experience with my oldest. I keep affirming to myself that I know what’s best for my baby. I trust my instincts. I adjust my expectations. I focus on my self-care. The truth is, he’s normal and this stage will pass.

It was the experience I had with my oldest and the experience I had with health professionals involved in my his care during his first few months that led me this career in sleep. Only to be solidified with the introduction of Baby Brother. There is so much information out there and we have truly lost trust in ourselves and in our ability to parent. We have given our authority away and place trust in those who don’t necessarily have the training or understanding, nor do they know us or our babies. I wanted to empower parents to trust themselves and their babies, while also getting the support they need, because hey, parenting ain’t easy. I almost pulled the trigger on a few different sleep certifications, but none of them felt good. None of them were based on the natural developmental process, none of them were rooted in attachment or responsiveness, and none of them were holistic. Then I found Lauren at Isla-Grace, and shortly after that, she announced her own sleep certification and here we are! I have had the opportunity to work with numerous families on sleep educating them on what’s normal, what isn’t, and how to get more sleep without sleep training!

If you’re wanting more information on the 4 month sleep PROgression and how to manage, check out this post, or check out my comprehensive guide! You can also book a 1:1 consult!

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