Welcome, readers, to another installment in our Family Features stories! From time to time, we like to spotlight clients of ours who have had great success working with our expert team of sleep consultants. These families are, in many ways, just like yours: these parents are sleep-deprived and exhausted, their babies and toddlers are cranky and overtired, and everyone could use more peaceful nighttime and nap time sleep!
This week, we are introducing you to Caitlin. Caitlin’s little guy Portland is SUCH a cutie, but he wasn’t exactly the cutest little sleeper! Portland would nap only in his mama or dad’s arms (talk about exhausting for Caitlin and her husband!). That was okay for a while, but when night sleep started to fall apart as well, Caitlin knew she couldn’t take it anymore. She was heading back to work and just knew she couldn’t continue to cope with the crushing sleep deprivation. That’s when she contacted us for help! Keep reading to learn more about Caitlin’s Family Feature story.
Caitlin’s Baby Wasn’t Sleeping At Night And Would Nap Only In Her Arms….And Her Maternity Leave Was Ending.
The original version of this sleep coaching story appears on Just A Bowl Of Cherries, Caitlin’s personal blog.
The Baby Sleep Site®: Caitlin, could you start by sharing with us a little more about what sleep was like for you early-on, before you contacted us for help?
Caitlin: In the beginning of Portland’s life, he would soundly sleep on my or my husband’s chest. We could have the TV on, our dog Hercules barking and us having a full on conversation, and Portland would snooze right on through all the madness. So yes, great, he sleeps through sound, but up until he was four and half months old, guess where my 16 pound baby still took his four daily naps? In his Mama’s or his Daddy’s loving arms.
The Baby Sleep Site: Oh, no – that sounds exhausting! (And heavy!!) So naps were the issue for you guys, huh?
Caitlin: Yes! The inability of our son to nap anywhere but our arms was our fault. We both loved to cuddle with him in those early days and when I was out on maternity leave. I wanted to hold him all the time, and I was lucky to be able to spend my whole day doing just that! When I started back at work when he was two months old, I quickly realized that I wasn’t able to put my little boy down to take his naps. I never taught him how to take his naps anywhere but in my arms, so of course he had no idea what to do when I laid him down in his crib or bassinet. He would just cry until I finally relented and scooped him up, and then he would pass out within seconds of being in my arms. This was not going to work!
The Baby Sleep Site: Yep, that sounds rough! Very normal, of course – lots of parents struggle with this – but rough. So is that when you finally decided you had to take action?
Caitlin: It was. We reached our breaking point with his naps right around the three month mark. We both were becoming frustrated with how much work it took us to get him to sleep and keep him asleep (constant movement, butt patting, and we had to hold him for the whole nap). We also never got a break! We wanted to be able to have time for us, time to work from home, clean, eat and just relax!
This is also the time when his nighttime sleeping began to change as well. He had been sleeping great at night, but around 3 months, he was no longer able to sleep through all the noises my husband and I were making while we slept. I so badly wanted him to sleep next to us for another month or two but it just wasn’t going to work. He began waking every 1.5-2 hours and the only way to get him back to sleep was to nurse him and pat his butt until he drifted off to sleep. Even though we wanted Portland to sleep in our room as long as possible, we decided that it wasn’t feasible any longer.
The Baby Sleep Site: I don’t blame you; sounds like you were facing some tough issues! So what did you do at that point?
Caitlin: I had already done a ton of reading online about baby sleep coaching. One of the internet sites I stumbled upon that got me really excited was The Baby Sleep Site®. After trying and failing to sleep train our son on our own, I knew I needed something that would give me a detailed sleep training method specifically for Portland and our family’s needs. So we did it – we bought a sleep consultation package. I wanted the ability to call and write our sleep consultant with questions after we got started because I knew we would have them, so we went with the Basic Telephone Consultation Package. Even just by purchasing a sleep consultation package, I felt like we were on the right path and I was so excited to get started.
Once we picked out the package we wanted, I filled out a very long questionnaire (while Portland was napping in my arms) so that our sleep consult had a better understanding of Portland’s sleep and eating schedule, his habits, our family life, and what we wanted to accomplish sleep wise.
I then set up my sixty minute initial phone consult and excitedly waited for our appointment!
The Baby Sleep Site: Awesome! And what did you go over in that initial phone call?
Caitlin: In this meeting we went over the questionnaire I filled out and any red flags our consultant saw right away. A few red flags she saw right away included the amount of sleep our son was getting during the day. I was having him nap in our arms for about 2 hours for each nap so he was getting about 8 hours of total sleep during the day. At his age (four months) that was way too much daytime sleep and why he was waking so freaking early in the morning (4 and 5 am is not a good wake up time for this mama).
We also went over the type of sleep training approach we wanted to take and her recommendations based on his personality and age at the time. This phone call was all sorts of amazing! It felt so good to talk to an expert about the issues we were having. I was able to ask a lot of my questions, she provided us with some simple changes we could begin right away and reassurance that not only could we as parents do this but so could Portland and that we would all be better for it.
The Baby Sleep Site: Wow – a very detailed call! Sounds like you made some great progress just in that initial phone call. What about your Personalized Sleep Plan? When did you get that, and what did you think?
Caitlin: After our phone consultation, I was emailed a very detailed sleep plan. We decided to take a gentle method approach, which means as little crying as possible. He was only four months old at the time we started sleep training so this was an appropriate approach given his age and cognitive abilities. Our little guy is also a hysterical crier. Unlike some babies who use crying to soothe themselves, once our guy starts, he can’t stop and gets himself to the point where he is hyperventilating so we knew a cry-it-out approach wouldn’t work for him.
After we worked on getting Portland comfortable in his crib, we started with sleep training nighttime only. Our sleep consultant also recommended to work on nights first then on naps. She really does not recommend working on both at the same time because it can be brutal for both the parents and baby.
Night times were fairly easy for Portland. He was sleeping in his crib through the night by the fourth night of sleep training. He has always slept in his own space at night so the big adjustment was the new environment and Mama not being right there. After about two weeks in the crib at night, he started giving me 5-6 hour stretches and on a consistent basis and was no longer being woken up by Daddy getting ready for work at 3 AM, success! This over tired Mama was happy!
The Baby Sleep Site: Awesome! What about naps? I’m guessing you switched to nap training once you’d mastered nights; how did nap training go?
Caitlin: We dedicated an entire weekend (Friday through Sunday) to nap train upon the recommendation of our sleep consultation. We literally didn’t do anything or go anywhere that entire weekend.
Since he had been napping in our arms from day one, you can imagine how upset Portland was when we tried to get him to nap in his crib. He didn’t understand what was going on or what he was supposed to do even though he was sleeping in his crib at night. The first day was long and he didn’t nap in his crib at all. The second day was long but not as bad because he napped in his crib for the second nap. By the third day, he napped in his crib for both his morning naps. And then our nanny was super awesome and helped us continue our training on Monday where he napped in his crib for his first three naps. We continued to let him take his fourth nap anywhere he wanted (carrier, stroller, car, etc.) because he was showing signs that he would be dropping that nap soon.
We had to help him a lot those first few days showing him how to get himself to sleep. We also had to calm him down a lot because he did cry and because we wanted a sleep plan that kept the crying to a minimum, we never let him get hysterical. After about a week of sleep training naps, we were able to scale back our help. Now, we can put him down in his crib drowsy, walk out of his room and he gets himself to sleep for naps and bedtime. This was our ultimate goal!
It took us about a total of four weeks to complete our sleep training but I can finally say that my baby is napping in his crib for all of his naps and through the whole night! I had my doubts that this would ever be possible and was so stressed that sleep training would be a nightmare but it turned out to be so much better and successful than I could have ever imagined.
The Baby Sleep Site: Woohoo! Your progress is so inspirational, Caitlin! So now that you’re wrapping up your sleep training journey, what parting thoughts do you have to share?
Caitlin: All in all, Portland is sleeping so much better! He is getting more restful naps and sleeping longer stretches at night, he is sleeping in his crib for naps and bedtime, and is able to get himself to sleep and back to sleep. We have been able to accomplish all of our goals so far!
I highly recommend The Baby Sleep Site®, even if it is just to access their free resources. If you were like me and didn’t get baby into their own sleeping space or are struggling with getting baby to sleep, I also highly recommend their sleep consulting service. There is a package and price point for every single family. Plus, it is really an investment since you can use your sleep plan for any additional children down the road and if you need your sleep plan tweaked for your child or any additional child, they have that option too.
Working with The Baby Sleep Site® has been a truly amazing experience and probably one of the best things we could have done for our son!
Amazing story, right? Caitlin’s problems seemed so difficult, yet with the help of her sleep consultant (and with much diligent hard work on her part), her little guy is now napping like a pro and sleeping great at night! And parents, you can enjoy this same success in your own home. Your sleepless little ones can be sleeping soundly very soon, with some help from an expert Baby Sleep Site® sleep consultant. Our trained, compassionate consultants are standing by, ready and willing to help your family get the sleep you need and deserve. Would you like to read about more families before getting started? Meet Julie, Whitney, Ali, and Jennifer and read their family feature stories!