Episode 29 – The Sleep Episode
Listen to this episode here!
Sleep is a spiritual practice and without it, we cannot function (there is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form or torture)!
In this episode Rachel shares how she got her baby girl to sleep through the night – almost! After struggling with intense sleep deprivation for two months she decided to take charge and has since read eight books, had two sleep consultations, asked the world for advice through social media and googled her way to things that actually WORK.
In this podcast episode she lists all the things she applied to help set healthy sleep habits for her daughter and how, finally, they are sleeping soundly.
[01:36] Hi and welcome to another episode of From The Heart: Conversations With Yoga Girl. I hope you are all having a magnificent week, and if you’re not, I hope you’re taking care of yourself, and you’re beginning the weekend by doing something amazing just for you. I’m going to start off by sharing that the theme of this week’s podcast is Sleep, Parenting, and Babies. So, this is a little disclaimer. If you don’t have a baby, if you’re not a sleep-deprived parent, you may not resonate as well with this podcast as you have other weeks. You can stay tuned and listen in, but really what I’m going to talk about this week is super baby-related.
[02:21] I was debating whether or not I should do this podcast because it is so geared, or so focused on, a certain demographic, so only certain people are going to find this podcast super, super interesting. And I don’t like to alienate anybody else. I like to do the podcasts in a way that they fit, you know, anyone who wants to tune in and listen. However, I get so many requests from sleep-deprived parents, moms and dads, literally every day there is a new comment or a new email from someone asking what did we do to get our baby to sleep through the night? Or get close to sleep through the night, which is where we are at right now. And just because I know the pain, like, I so deeply know the pain and torture of not being able to sleep, and I did so much research on this podcast that I was joking the other day I should right my own book on sleep, because that’s how much research I’ve done. I just, I know the pain, I know how hard it is, so I really, I want to share these tips and the things that have truly, truly worked for us, because some things actually do work. There is a way out of that pit of despair, I promise you. So, without further ado, I’m going to dive into this week’s episode.
[03:33] If you have been following me on Instagram or any social media for the past couple of months, you know I have a baby girl, her name is Lea Luna. She is seven months old, actually, right now. God, time flies, seven months. How is she seven months already? That’s just totally crazy. We’ve, of course, had our ups and downs with her. It’s been mostly absolutely magnificent and just the best, most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. The hardest part about being a parent, by far in my experience, aside from the overwhelming, constant worry that something is going to happen to her, that’s for sure the worst and the hardest part. Aside from that, the most challenging thing, at least in my book, is sleep.
[04:18] We started off pretty good. Like, she was born in March, so she was two weeks overdue, which meant she was, I think, a little bit more developed than maybe a normal newborn. Everything was happening really quickly, she’s really early discovering things. She ate well and she slept well, we had no issues. And I didn’t really understand the whole thing about why is sleep so hard. Like, sleep was totally fine, she slept a lot in the beginning.
[04:42] We co-sleep, so me and my husband, the baby, and also one of our three dogs, sleep in bed. We have three dogs, two are big ones. We have the big ones sleeping in the kitchen now, but our little Ringo still sleeps in bed with us. So it’s a pretty crowded bed. But I knew I wanted to keep my baby really close at all times, I didn’t want her in her own bed, I didn’t want her in her own room, all of that seemed really foreign to me. I wanted her as close to me as possible. So, for the first six weeks of her life, she literally slept on top of me. (laugh) That was our reality. I had a little co-sleeper bed that was attached to the side of our bed that she was supposed to sleep in, but it just didn’t happen that way, so she literally slept on top of me, and I would kind of wake up and breastfeed and then doze off a little bit. I never really slept, but it wasn’t a problem. I think I had so much, you know, so many hormones in my body and just so wired from this brand new chapter in life that it wasn’t a big deal at all.
[05:41] Then around, you know, month two, three, she slept so well. She would some nights, like, wake up once. Some nights she didn’t wake up at all, sometimes she woke up barely just to eat a little bit. Like, sleep wasn’t really a thing, actually, month two and three. And I had so many people that were asking, like, “How is she sleeping so well? What an amazing baby.” And I thought to myself, “Yes, yes, I have an amazing baby. My baby is the best baby. My baby sleeps, she does everything right.” (laugh) Like, I really was kind of walking around with this idea that my baby was special, somehow. Of course all babies are special, but she’s now seven months old, I have grown a lot wiser, and let me tell you this: There’s nothing particularly (laugh) special and amazing about how my baby sleeps.
[06:28] If you ever, you know, if you have someone in your life that’s bragging about how much their baby sleeps and, you know, if you are a sleep-deprived parent, that just kind of rubs us the wrong way. It’s not fun, it makes us feel like we’re doing something wrong, like, if other people have babies that sleep all the time and our baby doesn’t, it’s not a great thing to hear. So, for anyone that felt offended during my first months of motherhood when I was kind of sharing all over Instagram of how amazing our nights were, I’m terribly sorry. I did not know what the hell I was talking about. (laugh) I did not know what life had in store.
[07:00] Cue month four in our baby girl’s life. Apparently month four is a pretty common sleep regression phase. I didn’t know about this. But all of the sudden she stopped sleeping. And it started really slowly, like, it didn’t just overnight become totally nightmare-ish, it was just kind of creeping up on us a little bit. And because we never really had big sleep issues, I never reflected on her sleep either. So we didn’t have any sort of schedule, I had no real clue when her, you know, whenever she would nap or why she would nap more at certain times or not. I didn’t really think … I wasn’t very conscious about her sleep at all, because it wasn’t something that I had to think about.
[07:39] And then all of the sudden, month four, she stopped sleeping, and I recognized it first because she would completely stop napping in the day. And before she would take, like, little naps here and there, I wouldn’t really keep track, but all of the sudden they got really, really short. So she would sleep, like, 15 minutes or 20 minutes, and then be up. And it was actually my mom who told me one day, like, “It’s so odd to me that she never sleeps!” I’m like, “What do you mean? It’s not bad. She sleeps pretty well, I think.” She’s like – my mom has four kids – she says, “Well all of you guys, all of my kids always had, like, two big sections in the day where they would sleep, like, for at least an hour, sometimes two, and that’s when you got all of your stuff done! Like that’s when you do laundry or that’s when you, like, if you have to work or if you have to do something, that’s when you get your things done! But we never have that time with Luna, she’s just never ever sleeping.” And then I thought about that and I was like, “Well, is it weird? Is she supposed to be sleeping more than 15 minutes?” Because that was the length of her naps.
[08:39] But I still didn’t do any research, I wasn’t reflecting on it that much. I was just, like, “Okay, well maybe she’s … she’s just too intelligent.” (laugh) “She’s so smart, she doesn’t need sleep. She’s so taking in all of her surroundings, she’s so smart, she doesn’t want to sleep, she realizes that there’s more fun things to do than sleep. She’s just smarter than all the other babies, that’s why she doesn’t sleep.” (Gasp) Ugh. (laugh) I’m pretty sure I said something along those lines.
[09:07] Then we went to Sweden, we spent a couple weeks, or a lot of weeks in Sweden this summer. Sweden is six hours ahead or Aruba, which meant, of course, the moment we arrived we were super-duper jet-lagged. So she would normally, in Aruba, fall asleep for the night around 7 or so, and then all of the sudden in Sweden she would be up until 10 or 11 at night, which we were as well. We were also super jet-lagged. And somehow we never weaned our way out of that. Like, we spent six weeks in Sweden this last trip, and she was up until 10, 11 at night every single day. When we’re in Sweden we have this tiny, tiny … it’s not even a one-bedroom apartment, it’s a studio apartment, so the bed is in the living room which is also in the kitchen and in the bathroom, like, everything is just one tiny room. And it also meant that, you know, if she would go to sleep at seven for the night, that meant that mine and Dennis’s night was just over, because we can’t make too much noise, we wouldn’t be able to watch a movie or talk, because she would literally be in the same room as us. So, for us, it was kind of convenient that she was up until 10, 11. We didn’t really like, “Oh, you know, we all go to bed at the same time. We co-sleep, she stays up until we go to bed.” That’s kind of how things started.
[10:21] Then they started getting progressively worse. So, her naps completely disappeared in the day. She just wouldn’t go to sleep, at all. I would have to put her in the stroller and rock her and walk back and forth, like, on a mission, shaking the stroller to try to force her to sleep. And then finally she would fall asleep and I would like, you know, relax, and then three minutes later she’d be up and shrieking, just screaming. And somehow … she wasn’t cranky, like, she was still pretty okay in the day. She would get really cranky in the night. I recognize it now; she was really hyper active. So, in the night time she would be playing and laughing and rolling around, and just, you know, she was so hyperactive in the nights and it was kind of masquerading as this, like, “Oh, she’s not tired at all. She’s so energetic. She doesn’t need to sleep until way later.” I’ve done enough research now to know that that is just not the case. But more on that later.
[11:17] So this got worse and worse and worse and worse until we got to the point where she wouldn’t fall asleep until 11. It became 12, it became one in the morning and she’s still up. And then, to actually get her to sleep for the night meant we had to bounce her on our shoulder, up and down, walking up and down this tiny little apartment, playing Harry Belafonte, “Day-O,” you know, the banana song, over and over again. Literally on repeat. It was that song or it’s “Baba Hanuman” by Ram Dass, a mantra song that we also play a lot. Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing. When it got, like, at the worst point we could easily spend one to two hours bouncing her up and down to try to coax her to sleep. In the end, you know, she’s just crying, she’s so unhappy, she couldn’t fall asleep, and I was just like, I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, I couldn’t understand it, because it was fine before and now it wasn’t.
[12:11] And this went on for a while. We had two to three weeks of really horrible nights. She would fall asleep so late, like 12 or 1, and then she would wake up once every 2 hours, or once every hour and a half, and it was still, you know, I was getting enough little sleep here and there that I could sort of function in the days. So I still had meetings, I was working full time, recording these podcasts, like, doing all of the stuff that I was doing in Sweden. And then we sort of hit a wall. I can’t really remember exactly (laugh) exactly how it went down. But it went from her waking up every 90 minutes to 2 hours at night to her waking up every hour at night, to her waking up every 30 minutes, and then we had 3 nights in a row where every 5 to 10 minutes she would wake up. I’m not kidding.
[12:57] So it would take two hours to get her to sleep, she would finally sleep, I would do this transfer as if I was, like, dismantling an atomic bomb, right? I’m like putting her in bed as carefully as I can, no one is allowed to say anything, and we have these wooden floors in our apartment in Sweden, and they creak, you know? So if anybody had to go to the bathroom or wanted to get a glass of water, it was like, “Is it worth it to go up and pee right now? Because just stepping on the floor, the wood boards might make a noise that might wake the baby up, and then we have to start this cycle all over again.” Like, it wasn’t worth it to go pee. I held my pee at night and forced myself to try to sleep, because I was so terrified that she would wake up.
[13:39] It became this … just talking about it now gives me shivers in a really bad way. Energetically, sleep became this horrible, difficult thing, right? It became this … I was just dreading the nights, and it was building up to this, and I knew we had this horrible thing that happened every night, and it just got worse and worse and worse and worse. And after those three nights of her waking up literally every 5 to 10 minutes, I put her down. She’s sleep, and then her pacifier would fall out, and she would just wake up screaming. After those three days I had a full on meltdown, like, a complete meltdown. I remember being, I don’t know, four in the morning one of those nights, I stepped into the bathroom, locked myself in, got into the shower, put the shower on on the hottest level of the shower, and just sat there in the tub, just kind of rocking back and forth, like I was having a total psychic, like, psychotic I mean, meltdown. I couldn’t function.
[14:41] And I still had all of these things to do in the days. I would take meetings and sit there like a zombie, and literally the moment the meeting was over I couldn’t remember a single thing that was said. I couldn’t remember anything that we had decided on, and it was just horrible. I was crying all the time. There is one podcast that you can listen on that I recorded, I think, the day after one of these reaaaalllly horrible nights that we had so many of in a row, where I’m just bawling into the microphone, just crying. The podcast episode is called, “Just a Mom: Sleep Deprivation and Other Stories.” So if you want to venture back in time for how awful things were, you can go listen then to that episode.
[15:24] So, you know, we hit that point and I just realized, “Okay, this is not working. Like, it’s not working. I can’t live like this. I have to change something. It’s really really … I have to do something; this can’t be normal. No, no. No no no. So, what did I do? I love to do research. I love school. Sometimes I miss school. Am I the only one that really loved … I loved going to school. I loved taking tests and writing papers and studying. I loved it. I miss it! (laugh) So, any opportunity for me to study up on something, usually it’s a joy. I like to do research. In this matter it wasn’t so much liking to do research but feeling so desperate I would have done anything to find a solution to the problem.
[16:07] So, I read eight books on sleep within, I think a week and a half. (laugh) Eight books on sleep. I’m going to mention a couple of them here. There are a few that I definitely wouldn’t recommend, but I don’t want to out anyone or hurt anybody’s feelings, so I’m going to share four books that I really liked. None of them was like a cookie cutter, you know, book that I could just open up and follow every step, and then that worked. But I Googled a bunch, I read these books, I asked for a lot of advice through social media and friends and family, and then I took all the pieces that sort of made sense to me and felt, like, “Okay, this makes sense, this should work.” And I created my own little thing, right?
[16:51] Basically, what we’ve been doing for the past, let’s see, five weeks? Six weeks? Is sleep coaching Lea Luna. Not in a traditional sense. So, the books that I read were … the first one that I read was, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” it’s called, by Mark Weissbluth that my friend Carrie recommended. You guys might know Carrie, she’s Beach Yoga Girl on Instagram. She recommended that, and it’s super awesome. It’s a pretty heavy read, it’s very scientific. I like that because I like to know why I’m applying things that I’m applying to my life. I can’t just have someone tell me, “Do that, it works.” I need to know, like, why would that work? And that book is great for that. If you are sleep deprived and you haven’t slept for weeks or months or years, that’s a pretty tough read, just a little disclaimer there. So, I read that one.
[17:45] Another one I read was, “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by the Sleep Lady. Her name is Kim West. I also had a sleep consultation with Kim. She’s super awesome. Highly, highly, highly recommend The Sleep Lady. I just kind of like her as a person also. Not everything, you know, every single part of the book, I didn’t use everything, but a lot of things really worked for me.
[18:08] Then I read two books by a woman named Heidi Holvoet? I’m so sorry I’m butchering that last name. One was, “No Tears Nap,” and one was “No Tears Self Soothing.” Those were, I don’t know if I would even call them books, they’re like little workbooks. So, super simple, kind of designed for people that barely remembers their name anymore because they’re so sleep-deprived. Those were the ones I applied in the middle of the really shitty times, because it was hard for me to digest big pieces of text.
[18:38] And then I also had a session with Anna Frisk, who, if you’re in Stockholm, Sweden, you can look her up. She does AnnasProfylax, super awesome, super super super cool.
[20:39] So, as you can tell, I did a lot of stuff, and this is not counting, like, all of the googling that I did. Like, hours of googling, while bouncing the baby, you know, on my phone trying to find things that hopefully work. (laugh) And what I was left with is this recipe of things that I applied, removed, added, changed, and fixed when it comes to our lives that actually worked. I’m super happy to tell you, I’m sitting her today, it’s five weeks later, and my baby is sleeping. We are still not at a perfect spot, so I was a little hesitant to record this podcast already. I said I wanted to have at least a whole month of solid sleeping through the night before I do a podcast on it, but I thought, you know, I’m in it now so I might as well share before my brain fries from something else, because I’m sure something else is going to pop up any moment now that things are good and calm.
[21:32] But right now she is sleeping from 7 pm to 7 am, waking up with one feeding in the middle of the night. I’m hoping to phase that one feeding out maybe within a month or two, but right now that really works. And she takes naps during the day. They’re long, and I can put her in her crib, listen to this, wide awake. That piece, like, I don’t really care how many hours it is consecutively, or if it’s sleeping through, or whatever you want to label it, but the fact that I can put her down wide awake, and she falls asleep on her own, like, the magic of that, holy shit, it’s totally frickin’ life changing.
[22:14] So, I’m going to share to you, it’s kind of like a bullet point list that I’ve written down of all the things we did that helped Luna fall asleep! (laugh) They’re not in any particular order. So, I’m going to share them. If you have a pen and paper, I would recommend maybe pausing the podcast right now, grab a pen and paper, a notebook or something so that you can take little notes if you want, and then you can do your own research on each one of these things and see what works for your baby.
[22:37] Oh shit, I forgot, I’m doing a podcast that’s dedicated to moms. Moms, I’m not saying that this is a cookie cutter thing. I am not an expert, I am not a pediatrician, I am just a person who has a baby, who wasn’t sleeping, and now she is. So, take all of my advice with a grain of salt. Don’t send me hate mail through Instagram because whatever I did didn’t work for you. Just, okay, chill.
[23:04] Here we go. So, first thing that we did is we put her in her own crib. Okay, so if your baby already is in his or her own crib, then this is not something that’s going to apply for you, but I really loved co-sleeping. Like, I loved it, I loved it so much. And in the beginning, before I had the baby, I wanted just to do everything as organic and as natural as possible, so I was kind of envisioning myself as this tribal woman, you know, walking naked through the jungle with my baby strapped to my back (laugh) with a cloth, like, I’m going to do things like really the rugged, the tribal way. That’s really resonated with me. And I realized, like, in the beginning, for sure, co-sleeping, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. But by the time she got, I don’t know, three or four months or so, it was actually starting to become more of a challenge to have her in bed than not. And actually, I think, for her. I wasn’t sleeping well because I was sort of frozen in this one position. If she was a deep sleeper when we were co-sleeping it would be different because I could relax. But I basically spent, you know, five and a half months of my life, of our lives together, sleeping frozen, like in a pretzel-like shape, because if I would move, she would stir and wake up. This should have been a sign for me, I think, early on, that maybe she should have just slept in her own bed, because I think she wanted that, just because she is, or was, a pretty light sleeper. And then Dennis would move around in bed, and I would get so annoyed with him in the night. Like, I slapped him at night so many times because he was moving, or kicking, or making noise with the sheets. It took a lot of the relaxation out of the night, just because we had to walk on egg shells, you know, in our sleep.
[24:46] So putting her in her own crib, I thought it would be really challenging, but it wasn’t, at all. It was sort of as if she had been longing for it. Some babies need their own space. Some don’t. I have friends that have co-slept until their kids were, like, four or five. That’s also great and fine, whatever works for you. I know people that put their babies in another room, like, from day one. Everybody does it differently, but I could just sense, you know, this was something that worked for her.
[25:11] So what I did, we got this beautiful crib that we had, we put it at the foot of the bed, so she’s still in our bedroom with us. Our house is really funky, like, our bedroom is on the third floor, but that’s the only thing on the third floor, so the staircase that goes down is really narrow and far away from the other bedrooms. I don’t want her far away, so she’s still in our bedroom.
[25:31] I made the crib super duper cozy with really cozy organic sheets, we get a little musical mobile in there, and we started really associating the crib with happy things. So, I would put her in there before bedtime, you know, just for playtime or whenever she was really happy. Not with a bunch of toys, because I wanted it to be associated with sleep. But I wouldn’t from day one force her in her crib and then let her cry there. No no. Little by little is started introducing the crib, and she really seemed to like it, and then she started sleeping there. It was awesome. So that’s the first thing, put her in her own crib.
[26:03] The second thing we did, and we already had been doing this for a bit, so, she uses a pacifier only for sleep. Only for her naps and for night times. We don’t give her the pacifier and any other times. So, the pacifier really is only associated with her sleeping. And she has a little lovey that we call Lilly. It’s actually a little … it’s like a little stuffed animal blankie. Have you seen those? They’re like, little kind of blankets with a little stuffed animal head on it, I guess? Actually, my mom makes them. They’re her own product. It’s called Lilly. So she has Lilly and then the pacifier we call Peacey, because we were for a while calling it a Peacey-fier, because pacifier brings the peace. So we say Lilly and Peacey. Those are her two things. But those two things are what helps her self-soothe. And you can say what you want about pacifiers, some people are against it, some people are pro … I don’t think it’s either awesome or horrible, but it really works for her, because it helps her sleep for a long, long time at night. And I think the fact that she’s not using the pacifier in the day at all, it’s just for sleep, it really helps her associate it. So, whenever she gets Lilly and Peacey, it’s like she knows already it’s nap time. So getting a lovey or something that your baby can use to self-soothe, super super super important. And I think there wasn’t a single book that wasn’t recommending a lovey of some sort, so that’s definitely a super tip.
[27:32] And then this one, I think, would be the single most important one, and it’s the daytime naps. I had no idea. I felt almost, like, cheated. This is such an important, like, crucial aspect of my baby sleeping well, why hasn’t anybody told me? (laugh) You know? Why hasn’t … Why didn’t anybody tell me this, that the naps in the day, they’re the most important thing. I had no idea that this was connected at all. So, basically, and I have found this to be 100% true, and anyone that I’ve recommended this to that has applied it, also works for them. And the books that I read about it, it’s super solid. So, sleep begets sleep. Not the idea of tiring your baby out in the day, like exhausting your baby by playing and doing a bunch of stuff, that means that they should be super exhausted by the time night comes, and then they should sleep all night.
[28:21] It doesn’t really work that way. So, when a baby gets overtired, they start getting really, really, really hyper. So, if they miss a nap or they haven’t slept enough in the day, their brain gets so active that it’s really hard for them to drop into this deep R.E.M., like, REM sleep. An overtired baby is almost impossible to put to bed, like, really really really hard. And that’s what I was seeing with Lea Luna when we were in Sweden, she wasn’t sleeping at all in the day, and then by the night she was so hyper, overactive. And we just thought, “Oh, she’s so happy and she doesn’t need to sleep,” but no, she was exhausted! And we were, you know, keeping her up until 10, 11 thinking that everything is fine and happy. No. Actually, we had this kind of inside joke where we were joking that, oh, she has all of these mosquito bites in the back of her neck, like behind her ears, she’s always scratching her head. I made a joke when the baby was really little that my mom had her out at sunset, I was like, there’s mosquitos, don’t take the baby out then, so she gets bug bites. But it’s often a really common sign of an overtired baby, that they’re pulling on their ears, scratching the back of their neck, of course rubbing their eye, yawning. But especially that scratching and pulling of the ears, I didn’t know, was a sleep sign. And she’s done that almost her whole life! Like, from 2 to 5 months she really, really did that, because she was tired a lot! And I didn’t know.
[29:40] So, what we did was we started getting super serious about her naps. Like, crazy serious. So serious that, you know, maybe you’ll have friends and family that will think that you’re a crazy person. For me it was totally worth it. This meant that for a couple of weeks, her naps rule our life. They still kind of do, actually, in a way. And I know if she sleeps well in the day, if she has good naps on the right time, and they are the right length, that means that we will have a good night, and I can sleep all night, and I will be rested and I will be happy and we will all feel good as a family, and it’s so totally worth it.
[30:21] But before this, we would do whatever we wanted in the day! So, we always have the stroller or or we were in the car, so if she needed to sleep, you know, she could sleep in the car or in the stroller or on the go. No more. We put her on a nap schedule. What I’ve seen works for her, and this is also what a lot of the books recommended. It sounded really crazy to me because I always thought, you know, we’ll do what’s organic and when she gets tired she’ll sleep. That also wasn’t true, at all. There’s a lot of moments where she was tired, but she was really active and we were engaging her in a bunch of stuff, we’re out and about, we’re on the beach, she’s not going to nap then. She’s having too much fun! But if I was able to catch those windows of her starting to get tired and we were actually at home in a dark room, in the crib, with her lovey and her pacifier, we caught that sleep window, she all of the sudden started sleeping. First it was like 30 minutes instead of 15. And then 45, and then one hour, and then an hour and a half, and suddenly she’s sleeping 2, 2 and a half hours, depending on the nap time. Crazy! Like, crazy, so crazy. And I didn’t believe that this was possible, that she could have, you know, like what my mom said, “Normally there’s one or two, at least, moments in the day where they have big naps.” She never had a big nap before I started introducing this.
[33:17] So how it goes, and this is different for however old your baby is, but she’s seven months, so she wakes up at 7 in the morning, 7, 7:30. And within 90 minutes to two hours of her waking up she needs her second nap. Like clockwork. 90 minutes to two hours, somewhere in between. And I can tell because she starts kind of losing focus, or losing interest in her toys, or she stares into space a little bit. If I’m present with her I can really see, like, “Ooo, okay, she’s tired.” And then there’s a first moment when she starts rubbing her eyes. Okay! And then, we have all of these inside jokes about sleep now, but then someone yells, “Sleep is here!” Like, Sleep knocked on the door. And if we then immediately, we go upstairs to her crib, we have blackout blinds, so we make it dark and really cozy. I give her her lovey and her pacifier, and then she just dives into the crib. She doesn’t even want to be held anymore. She reaches for the crib. And I put her down and I say, “Goodnight baby.” And then I go downstairs. So, she’s wide awake. I’m not waiting for her to get super drowsy or all the way asleep. She’s wide awake, and then I put the monitor on and I go downstairs.
[34:33] But this only works if I catch that window when she’s tired. If I would push it and wait another 30 minutes, she gets overtired and then she doesn’t know how to fall asleep. It’s like a trigger in her brain where she just kind of … we miss that window, and then she just gets overtired, she gets hyper, she starts getting cranky. And then it’s really hard to get her to sleep, and then when she does fall asleep she only sleeps for like half an hour or forty minutes, because she can’t really … I think it’s, I don’t know, she’s just not calm enough to actually fall into a deep sleep.
[35:00] So this means that all her naps right now happen in the dark room, in her crib, at home. So, yeah, we’ve kind of been pretty anti-social during the past month and a half. We’ve said no to a bunch of things. We don’t go to the beach in the day anymore. We say know to lunches and brunches and whatever happens in the day, and we have to really schedule our time around her naps, which for some people might seem totally crazy. Not crazier than waking up every five minutes during the night. Not crazier than having a meltdown over sleep deprivation. It’s not. And it’s not going to be forever. We’re definitely, definitely going to keep this schedule, because it works, right? So her first nap is already in the morning, usually around 9. She’ll sleep for an hour and a half, sometimes two hours, and then she’s up again, an hour and a half or two hours, and then comes her afternoon nap, which sometimes is longer. And then she has a long stretch of time where she’s, you know, without napping in the afternoon, sometimes she needs a little bonus nap of like 30 minutes. But it’s 2 to 3 naps during the day, like clockwork, at the same time! And I thought it was this crazy idea that you could put your baby on a schedule, and babies don’t work that way. Well, they have a rhythm, just like I have a rhythm. I know, more or less, what time I get tired at night. I know when I get hungry. I have a rhythm, my body tells me what I need and when I need it. Babies have that, but they don’t have that way of orchestrating their own day to fit what they need. We have to really get super conscious and listen and get really mindful about when do they need the sleep or the food or whatever it is?
[36:36] So, we are basically nap gestapo right now. And everything is orchestrated around the nap. But I swear to god, it works. We’re only going to be this strict, I think, for another few weeks, until this really, really sticks. Then, because she’s now learning how to self-soothe, or she has learned how to self-soothe, it means she will be able to fall asleep anywhere and stay asleep. But if you’re in the middle of this horrible sleep-deprived moment, I would really really really recommend protecting the naps. Getting them on a nap schedule, making sure all naps happen at home. At I always thought that, you know, if you put your baby in the car they sleep better, if you put your baby in the stroller they sleep better, there’s something about movement. So whenever we were out and about with the baby and she would fall asleep in the stroller, I would literally sit, holding onto the stroller, shaking the stroller nonstop, like a crazy person. (laugh) I’m seeing it now, that’s totally, totally crazy. Totally nuts. And then singing, because I wouldn’t relax! I would never just let her be, like, sleep, and then I could focus on having one meal, or a conversation with a friend. No, I would sit there shaking the stroller, like, if I don’t shake it, she’s going to wake up. Which was true, because her naps were shitty, shitty quality, like, she couldn’t fall into a deep sleep. Now I know if we happen to be out and about in the stroller and she falls asleep, I need to stop, find some place to sit, and let her brain relax into this deep sleep mode, which only happens in stillness.
[38:03] Someone told me it’s kind of like if you’re on a plane or you’re in a car and you fall asleep, as an adult, no matter how long you slept, you never really feel good when you wake up. If you slept in a car or on a plane, it’s movement and people around, it’s not the same as taking a good nap at home or sleeping in your own bed, of course not. The same goes for babies. They need stillness to fall into a deep sleep.
[38:26] So, protecting the naps, nap schedule, and stopping the movement, right? And there’s some of the books that I mentioned where they kind of recommend how, if your baby only sleeps with movement, you can ease them out of that, little by little. I really like the little by little, like, phasing these kind of habits that don’t work, phasing them out versus just stopping cold turkey.
[38:50] Another thing that we tried is white noise, which is not something that she needs to sleep, but if I know, for instance, now at home we have three dogs. In the evenings they get really loud, and whenever there’s wind outside or someone walks by the house, or whatever, they bark. Normally they would startle her and she would wake up because she was startled by a really loud noise. There’s a … what’s the app called? The app is called Cradle. The Cradle App. It’s a really, really good app where they have just a bunch of white noise and different … they even have lullabies and shushing noises and stuff. I put it on the “Rain” option, so it just sounds like there’s a little, faint rain in the background. And for whenever I know that we have people at the house, there’s going to be loud noises and banging, I put the white noise on and it helps her not get startled if the dogs bark. So that’s helpful too. But, you know, I don’t know if that’s going to work for anyone.
[39:45] Another thing that really works is bedtime and moving the bedtime to a way earlier point. So yeah, she used to be up ’til 10, 11. Now she sleeps 7 pm sharp. That means by 7 pm we’re finished with her bedtime routine and she’s already in her crib ready for sleep. 7 pm. Maybe even earlier. At first I thought, “That’s so early, we miss out on all of this time for her to hang out with us.” But babies need, apparently, they need a lot of sleep! Like, who knew? She needs 12 hours a night. (laugh) Which is kind of crazy. But this also means, now, consistently, since she goes down at 7 every night, all of the sudden Dennis and I have this time for ourselves! (laugh) Which is totally crazy! We haven’t for the past, you know, half a year had alone time, or time to just cook or have dinner or a glass of wine or watch a movie and just be with us, at all, and now we do. And it’s pretty amazing. So that time from 7 pm to 10 or whatever, when we go to bed, 10 or 11, it’s just us. And she consistently sleeps, and we don’t have to worry about her waking up. It’s a really nice time for us to get back to our, like, twosomeness, you know, just being a couple. So, the earlier bedtime … And there’s something about the earlier bedtime that helps them fall into a deeper sleep also. There is something anatomical or scientific about that, but I can’t quite remember. But yeah, that really works for us.
[41:15] Then the bedtime routine. Like, if you are sleep deprived and you’ve done any research, you know that this routine is super important. Right now it’s actually my favorite thing. It’s my favorite part of the day. I love her bedtime routine, because it’s becoming this thing where, like, she knows sleep is going to come soon, so she gets super cuddly and cozy and what we do is we take a bath or a shower, not every night, but most nights. And then we do … I give her a little baby massage and then we put on her diaper and her PJs. And then we go downstairs where I feed her, so I separate the feeding from the bedroom, so that she doesn’t associate boob with bed. That’s also a big one, for her not to fall asleep on the boob, but to really be in her crib awake so that she learns how to fall asleep on her own.
[42:05] And then we go downstairs and I feed her and then we read a book, like, a story. And that’s the best. I thought she was too little, at half a year, to read a story. No, she loves it! Now she’s even starting to, like, she wants to flip the pages herself, and it’s the cutest, cutest thing ever. We read the same story every night, and it’s just super cozy. And then I give her the pacifier and the lovey, we go upstairs, and where before I would have to bounce her and sing and do this whole thing to get her to fall asleep, as soon as I get her upstairs she reaches for the crib. She doesn’t even want to stay on my shoulder anymore. She wants to go in the crib because she wants to put herself to sleep. She wants to do it on her own. And this is a really important part. So, the crying it out methods and all of these things that were totally terrifying to me in the beginning, like I would never, ever let my baby cry, I thought it was the most horrible thing I had ever read, like, “Who are these monsters that let their babies scream themselves to sleep, you guys must be totally …” I thought it was the craziest thing. But yeah, now I totally get it! And now, we didn’t do cry it out method with her, but for sure, there is a portion of when they learn how to self-soothe, so they learn how to put themselves to bed, how to put themselves to sleep, there was for sure going to be a portion of complaining, and a little bit of crying. Yeah. It doesn’t mean you’re going to put your baby in a bedroom and then close the door and then come back 12 hours later and hope everything was fine. No. So, for me, I knew I definitely didn’t want her to cry, I didn’t want there to be any type of panic or feeling of abandonment, no. But it’s … who was it that mentioned that to me? I love this idea. I can’t remember who, a friend. Maybe Kim West, maybe the Sleep Lady. Someone (laugh) told me that every time you put your baby down for a nap or for sleeping at night, and they’re already asleep when you put them down, they’ve missed a sleep lesson that they could have learned.
[44:05] So, every time that you put your baby down awake, or a lot of these books talk about drowsy but awake, which means that they’re drowsy and they’re sleepy, but they’re not asleep yet, so they still get to do that last stretch by themselves. Every time that you put them down still awake, they get to learn a little sleep lesson. They get to get a little bit better when it comes to soothing themselves to sleep. So not relying on Mom’s boobs, or being bounced, or having goddamn Day-O banana Harry Belafonte sung to you 155 times every single night (laugh). And I can really see it now, because I saw how it worked, actually, the day, the first time, how what a relief it was for her! It was a super relief, for her, to learn how to do this on her own. So she would cry a little big, she would complain. It wouldn’t get bad. She was just kind of explaining, like, “Hello! Normally I get bounced now. Hello, where is Harry?” She was kind of talking and crying a bit, but not at all bad. And then I would just go to her and I would stroke her a little bit and I said, “Okay, honey, you’re going to sleep now,” but I didn’t pick her up or start bouncing her again.
[45:13] And then it just got quiet! The first time that happened I ran into the room, I was like, “Oh my god, she choked on something. She died. What is this?” And she was just sleeping peacefully, pacifier in her mouth, holding her lovey in her hand, close to her face, just cuddling, asleep. And I was like, “Oh my god, this is real? Dennis, she’s sleeping! She just fell asleep!” And she slept for five or six hours straight after that first time. Then I did it again, we did it for nap time, where I put her down, still awake, but a little bit drowsy, and she would complain a little less, and then she would just fall asleep, it got quiet, and she slept for so long! And I started seeing how, okay, it works, right? She eventually, you know, it’s a crutch! Imagine if every time you wanted to sleep at night you needed a giant person to hold you! That’s a super, it’s a handicap. It’s a total crutch to not be able to just, okay, I’m tired now, I want to sleep. And then you can sleep on your own, just put yourself to bed. It’s gotta suck!
[48:53] And there I was, you know, and it sucks for us parents too, to spend two hours dancing to Harry Belafonte every night, like, yeah, there’s better things I could do with my time than that. So, it’s not so much about letting her cry, it’s about letting her learn. And my thing was we did have a couple of nights that were hard, so what I decided was, like, we’re never going to get to a place where it gets high-pitched or she gets panicky. But she complains, it’s like, she’s complain crying, but not really crying. The books say, so, if you go and pick her up and immediately it’s quiet, you know, that means that yeah, you’ve kind of been had. She wanted to get picked up. She’s not crying because she’s sad or because something is wrong, she just wants to get picked up. So, I stopped doing that. It wasn’t traumatic, it wasn’t hard at all. I just started kind of stroking her back. It took one or two nights of her complaining, and then she stopped! And now it’s like every time she goes down for a nap, every time she goes down for night time, she’s not even drowsy. I put her down wide, wide, wide awake. I do the routine and I say, “Good night baby,” and then I leave the room. And then we listen to her on the monitor for three, four, five minutes, talking, cooing, sometimes the cooing becomes, like, a little complain-ish, but no crying. And then it gets quiet, and then she sleeps all night!! It’s magical, and I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me this a month and a half ago because I was in such a horrible, horrible, sleep-deprived place. I thought it would never get better, ever, ever, ever. But it really really really really really did.
[50:30] Then, what I learned after that, so once she started sleeping long stretches, like now she’s sleeping from 7 pm, she sleeps five or six hours and then she feeds once, and then she sleeps another 5 or 6 hours, and then she’s up. In the morning what I do is something called a Dramatic Wake Up. So, when it’s actually morning time, it’s 7 am, or whenever we normally wake up, I open the blinds, I make the room really bright, and I do a Dramatic Wake Up. I say, “Good morning!!” Super excited so that she really gets to distinguish night from day. Versus, you know, how else would she know? So if she wakes up at 4, and sometimes she would wake up at 3 or 4 like confused, or just be sad or cry or whatever. And if it’s still dark and it’s still quiet and it’s still night time, she gets it. Okay, it’s not time to get up yet. So if she woke up she would self-soothe and put herself back to sleep. Then at 7 I do this dramatic thing so then she knows, “Okay, it’s time for day now! We do fun things in the day. We go downstairs and we eat and we do this and this and this and that.” And I think that’s been really, really, really helpful as well.
[51:37] Really, okay, of course there’s not … I hope I’m not, like, cursing this or … just by recording this podcast I’m going to have a ginormous set back. I really hope that’s not the case. We already did have a set back last week, or actually beginning of this week and last weekend where she was teething. So she had two teeth cut through, and we had four really bad nights in a row, where she would wake up every two or three hours with pain. And it was a totally different type of wakeup than before. Before she would just wakeup because she never really fell into a deep sleep. Now she would wake up pulling at her mouth, looking me in the eye, just shrieking with pain, and it was horrible, because I didn’t know what to do or how to help her. So, of course, I’m going to let her cry and, you know, she spent two nights in her bed, feeding her a lot more in the night, giving her all the comfort that I can. And then the teething pain stopped, and then I realized right away, okay, I have to really get back into this strict routine that we had, because the first night or two nights after that we were regressing. She started waking up again, she started making more noises and complaining more at the times of her nap and her bedtime, which she totally had stopped before. So now we have, after the teething crisis, we’ve had now three really good nights in a row. Three full nights with just one feeding in between. So, let’s hope this is here to stay.
[53:04] Of course, if we end up, you know, everything goes to shit, she stops sleeping, I’m going to share that with you guys. I’m not trying to sit here on my high horse saying I’ve found this magic recipe and it’s going to work forever. It’s working right now, and it definitely got us out of that pit of despair which I thought I was just going to have to live with forever. I’m so, so, so grateful to these books, to Kim West for helping us and giving us those … we actually had a sleep consultation with her which was really helpful where I got to share all of the little things I was doing in the day. And one thing that I forgot to mention, actually, that I would highly recommend is keeping a Sleep Log, if you’re not already doing that. Logging the time that your baby sleeps, how it went down, if she woke up in the night, how many times, what hours? Because then you can kind of see if you had a really crappy night, you can go back and look, “Okay, what happened with her naps in the day,” because that’s how it connects. So if, you know, there was a crappy nap day, something happened in the day where the naps weren’t working, normally that reflects in the night time, and then I can, you know, then you can adjust the next day and fix whatever went wrong. So you really set yourself up for this super awesome full night of sleep.
[54:17] I’m really hoping that this sticks now. And I think it’s gonna. I feel really confident. There’s really a freedom in Lea Luna also, that I can put her down completely awake and she can lie there and coo and talk to herself and be cozy and not feel like night time is this horrible thing. Imagine if every time you felt sleepy you were like, “Oh no! I want to sleep, but I don’t know how!” (laugh) You know, that sucks. Of course you’re going to cry and you’re going to complain, because that’s no fun. Now that she can be like, “I’m sleepy now, okay, I’m going to go to sleep, see you later.” And then she just falls asleep. There’s definitely freedom in that.
[54:54] Not to say that I’m avoiding all meltdowns, I’m having a way better time overall. You know, there’s a reason that they use sleep-deprivation as a form of torture. I’ve said that before, but I totally get it. There’s nothing worse than not sleeping. So, if you’re not sleeping right now and you made it through this entire podcast, kudos to you. Hopefully you’re able, I mean, even if it’s just one tip that you take out of these and they work, I really hope that you found something of value here. If you want to read those books, go right ahead. Super highly recommend it. Just follow your own intuition in doing what works for you and your baby, but Don’t Give Up. Okay? I’m so happy, like, I can actually say like, “Yeah, we sleep trained her, but not letting her cry it out.” We found a middle road that really, really worked, and I’m super happy about that.
[55:45] If you have any more questions about any of this, I’m going to share this in the Instagram post, or there’s going to be an Instagram post announcing this podcast. You can put questions in the comments section there, and I’m going to make a super effort to answer as much as I can. Again, remembering that I am not an expert, this is just my own experience, but I’m really happy to share the resources that I use that were helpful for me and my baby.
[56:08] Thank you guys so much for listening in. I wish you a beautiful day and above and beyond, above all, a full night’s sleep. I’ll see you next week.
[End of Episode]