How Sleep Training Helped My Business, Marriage and Daughter Thrive

How Sleep Training Helped My Business, Marriage and Daughter Thrive
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It’s 4am, my husband and I are woken up for the 4th time from our 5 month old daughter, Venice, crying hysterically. Everytime she cries, I get up and breastfeed her until she falls back to sleep. This has become a vicious cycle and we are up every 2-3 hours. This time she wakes up and my husband tells me to go back to sleep. He picks her up and takes her for a long walk on the beach in the dark to give me a few hours of rest. This had been an everyday occurrence for the past month and it seemed to be getting worse every day. When he returns from his walk, we both vow to not let this go on any longer. We need sleep, and will do anything to get it.

Fast forward just a few weeks later, and our daughter sleeps 11 hours every night and this has continued for the past four months. We have a blissful 7-8 hours of sleep plus an extra 3-4 hours of time to ourselves each night to hang out with each other or work on our business. Now, looking back we both can’t believe it took us this long to sleep train. Before we did it, we were scared about letting our baby feel abandoned by letting her “cry it out.” How could we just sit there and listen to our child cry? Then I found a woman's instagram account called “TakingCaraBabies.”

I was immediately drawn to Cara, a neonatal nurse and mom of 4. As her website describes “Cara doesn't believe in just letting a baby scream and "cry it out" until utter exhaustion takes over the body. She does, however, believe babies need sleep. She does believe sleep is a learned behavior. She does believe that if babies are given time, space, and parental reassurance, they have the ability to become great sleepers.”

After reaching out to Cara, I learned that getting our daughter to sleep through the night was important not only for our own sanity but for our daughter's own health benefits. According to Taking Cara Babies Website:

  • Several studies have shown that babies with more efficient nighttime sleep have higher cognitive scores.
  • Babies that sleep more at night have been found to have an “easier” temperament, are more approachable, less distractible, and more adaptable.
  • In multiple studies, parents noted that their babies were more secure, predictable, less irritable, and less fussy after they followed a sleep plan like this one.
  • Children with good sleeping skills test higher in math and science later in life.
  • Children who learned the skill of sleeping as babies have a lower chance of being diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and other processing disorders later in life.
  • Rested moms have less incidence of postpartum depression, marital difficulty, and overall stress. A mother suffering from depression may not be able to be emotionally available, sensitive, and responsive to her baby.

OK, now this is isn’t just about me getting more sleep, it’s about the health of my child. Cara had us pick a date when we would start our sleep teaching, as we had to commit to 14 nights of sticking to her plan. This plan also included us sleeping in our dining room (we only have a one bedroom apartment, so she advised us to not sleep in the same room as our daughter for the 14 nights). We were scared to start the program, so we decided to pick a date in a fews weeks down the road, but a few more really exhausting nights, we decided to start right away.

Here are a few of Cara’s top tips from her plan that we followed:

  1. Set a consistent bedtime routine - cue your little one's brain that certain actions occur and then sleep is imminent. Maintain a 7-8pm bedtime- an overtired baby is more difficult than a tired baby. We decided to start Venice’s bath every night at 6:30pm and then breastfeed her right before she goes into her crib between 7-7:15pm.
  2. Put your baby down awake at bedtime- no one actually sleeps through the night. We awaken many times throughout the night as we transition through sleep cycles. You and I have learned how to briefly awaken and then fall right back to sleep. Our bodies ask "is my environment the same- is all ok.” If you fell asleep in your bed and awoke in your neighbors bed- you'd fully awake and scream and cry because it's weird to wake up next to your neighbor. That's what happens when we rock our babies to sleep. They too come to the top of the sleep cycle and recognize their environment has changed. This is why they need to fall asleep where they will be sleeping for the entire night.
  3. Walk the journey with your baby- you are the coach and they are the player. Cara's planned allowed me physically and emotionally reassure Venice through the process. Yes, she cried and it was hard, but I never doubted that she knew I was there for her. I didn't drop her in the crib and say "see you in the morning". Cara taught me how and when to intervene.
  4. Be consistent - I committed heart and soul for 14 nights and this is the key. When we give our babies inconsistent messages, this is confusing and causes the plan to fall apart.

It ended up taking us 4 nights to get Venice to sleep through the night. The first night was the hardest. On night 1 we laid Venice in her crib at 7:05pm. She cried or whined for 38 minutes. In that time, we assured her throughout the process and let her know we were there for her. After that, she only woke up again at 4:48am to 5:35am. When we went into her room at 7:30am she was just laying there awake waiting for us.

On night two, she only whined for 7 minutes before she fell asleep on her own. She woke up 2 more times but for only a few minutes each with a few small cries. Her total cry/whine time for the entire night was only 18 minutes.

After night 3, we were already starting to feel like new parents! She only whined for a couple seconds at her bedtime at 7pm and it took her only one minute to fall asleep on her own. There was another early wake up around 4:30am for a little bit, but fell back asleep soon after.

From night 4 to now, we haven’t looked back. Venice goes to sleep on her own, she will wake up throughout the night and just put herself right back to sleep. She even naps during the day better now. We have stayed consistent in our routine and put her to sleep at 7pm and she wakes up between 5:30am and 6am everyday (with the occasional 7am wakeup time). We are even still sleeping in the same room as her with no problems.

I can’t express enough how important getting a good night sleep for our entire family has helped us be able manage our business, work on our marriage, and spend more quality time with our daughter without feeling like zombies. My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner, but I hope my story can give other families reassurance that just because you are a new parent doesn’t mean you need to be tired.

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