As a mom to two babies who were insomniacs I did some crazy things all in the name of sleep. I developed an intricate dance of nursing, rocking, laying, and tiptoeing to get my babies to sleep. On more than one occasion I strapped them into their car seats, drove until they fell asleep, then reclined myself and took a siesta in the parking lot of my local grocery store. I wrote specific 30-step instructions for the grandparents, who would seldom be called in to babysit, only to arrive home to an inconsolable baby who was unable to sleep if I was not there. Night after night I carried out a plethora of acrobatics which would end with a grand finale of one hour of sleep, only to repeat the performance every hour on the hour for the rest of the night.
Now that my kids are amazing sleepers I can look back and smile about some of the things I did all in the name of sleep. Here are some of the most head-scratching sleep techniques I used with my babies before I learned a different way. These are the confessions of a sleep consultant.
The Baby Goat
This method involves giving your baby an 8oz bottle each time he wakes in the night because this is the only way he’ll go back to sleep. I’m no dietician, but yes, I do think 50 oz of formula a day may have been a bit too much for my 8 month old.
The Dangling Pacifier
When I was using this technique I found that I could finally get my baby sleeping through the night but couldn’t quite figure out how to keep my arm from falling asleep. In hindsight, putting the baby’s bassinet on the floor beside the bed and dangling my arm down to keep his soother in place all night is NOT a technique I recommend.
The Navy Seal
Parents need special ops training to execute this method. To follow this one correctly, you must exit the nursery as though you’re on a dangerous covert operation. Common manoeuvres include freezing like a statue or army crawling your way out of the room. Wearing dark colors is best so that your little one can’t detect you with his x-ray vision. I should have clued in that being a commando was not a prerequisite for motherhood and tried something a little more reasonable.
This method involves an intense workout with an exercise ball and a 15 pound weight. It would make a fantastic DVD, but you’d better be quick to market that genius! From what other moms tell me I certainly didn’t invent this back-breaking technique which involves, bouncing in a rhythmic pattern while humming a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (that starts to lose its twinkle around hour 3).
I clearly recall rocking my babies to sleep and wondering what I would do when they were too big to be rocked. Pushing your child’s mattress up and down or, as one mom suggested to me, jumping up and down on your child’s bed until he falls asleep is not an effective technique for breaking a rocking to sleep association. Seriously. Stop doing it.
The Bunk Buddy
Instead of taking the baby out of the bed, this gentle method involves you going to the baby. I knew I had become a bunk buddy when I was lying in the crib next to my child, adding up our collective weight in my head. My concern was not that the crib would break but that if it did break it would wake the baby and then what would I do? I should have noticed my baby looking at me with surprise. Yes, even my baby was judging me on this epic fail.
The Evel Knievel
There were times when my baby would only sleep in the car, while nursing, or a combination of the two. This method dictated that our evenings consisted of my husband driving for hours while the baby attempted to sleep in the car seat. If the baby resisted sleep, the final card I held was being able to lean over to nurse while hubby maintained a steady 36 km/hr. This is how we were spending our evenings. Looking back it’s obvious that we needed an intervention.
Once I was through the fog of sleepless nights and little babies I decided to learn. I wanted to figure out the world of baby sleep which was so confusing to me as I did my dance of insomnia. I studied, I certified and now I work as a Child Sleep Consultant. I meet family after family who have created their own multi-step process in a desperate attempt to help their baby to catch a few zzz’s. I teach them, I support them and when I say goodbye to them their baby knows how to sleep. Their dance has ended, the circus has left town and the baby just sleeps. Some parents call it a miracle. I call it sleep science. Either way, having a baby who is a good sleeper is a game changer.