For all of you pregnant or post pregnant mamas out there, how often have you received the phrase, “Sleep now, because once that baby comes… you’ll never sleep!” I wish I took tabs on how often people said this to me as it happened way too often during my pregnancy. It’s as if I could cash in on all those extra hours of sleep when I needed them most. I wish! Although, there was not a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t gain extra bags under my eyes after her arrival, no one can truly prepare you for how you’ll feel on zero hours of sleep. Not to mention, you’re already SUPER hormonal, sore, and trying to regain emotional and physical strength after just giving birth. Add in no sleep on top of that. That’s right… you’re a pure joy.
JJ came home from work one day to a wife on the verge of an emotional breakdown. With little to no sleep, Vivienne decided she didn’t want to be put down that day… literally all day long. I remember him taking a photo of how “cute” she was in my arms (she really was adorable) but what you also could see was a seriously exhausted mama in the reflection of the mirror behind her (done unintentionally). I felt completely defeated, and this was only week 1. I knew something needed to change… but what? And how?
Let’s go back.
As you already know, I wanted to be as mellow as possible when it came to preparing for Vivienne’s arrival. I stopped reading the baby books by second trimester, did attend a 9 hour Preparing for Childbirth class, but felt comfortable being more of a go with the flow kind of mom once we came home from the hospital. That’s why we have google and friends with babies, right?
While we were at the hospital, the nurses encouraged us to strip the baby down to bare skin before a feeding so there was less of a chance of Vivienne falling asleep while nursing. Tickling the feet was also encouraged. Therefore, once I got home… clothing was off when it came time to feed. What I didn’t realize, was stripping that baby down in the middle of the night meant an awake baby at 3am. Issue #1. I also kept the lights dim during the day and turned up at night. Knowing what I know now, it makes no sense as to why I did that. Issue #2. While I knew to feed her every 2-3 hours, she didn’t have a set schedule with nap time. Issue #3. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I would fall asleep in the rocking chair, laid wide awake on the couch while she was asleep in my arms…basically all the things they tell you not to do with a newborn. I was just trying to survive the days and get through the nights the best I could. This naturally resulted in a couple emotional breakdowns from time to time during that first week.
Separate note: I encourage you all to take photos of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It truly is amazing to see how far we have come and how easy it is to forget the difficult nights when you have a smiling baby weeks later. I love looking back on this entire stage. With that said, I have included some “not so pretty” photos on this post as I always prefer to keep it real with you.
Stephanie, one of the owners of Modern Milk, suggested we attend an educational class called, “Will I ever sleep again?” targeted to new and expecting parents. Remember, I saw Stephanie a couple days’ prior for a lactation consultation and just a few tips from her seriously saved me (and my poor nipples). Our OB had also mentioned the class in passing at one of our appointments a couple months prior so we always knew it was an option if Vivienne was a difficult sleeper. After the meltdown, JJ and I signed up for the class.
“Will I Ever Sleep Again” is a class that discusses healthy sleep habits from the very beginning. It fits with all parenting styles. Parents learn about feedings, naps, bedtimes, night awakenings and how to fit them all together so the entire family gets more sleep. This class is specifically for expectant families or those with newborns less than 12 weeks of age.
We arrived on Sunday, with Vivienne sleeping in her car seat and our heads held high like two good students ready to take in all the information that comes our way. Boy, am I grateful for this class. Cara Dumaplin, Founder of Taking Cara Babies, is a Registered Nurse with 18 years’ experience in Neonatal ICU, Labor & Delivery, Antepartum and Postpartum Care. Cara is married to a pediatrician, a mom of four, and clearly was born to be an educator. She explained her course in simple terms, with examples that help give you a clear understanding of case scenarios, and even went as far as demonstrating how to stop your baby from crying by using babies from our class. See these two little girls and boy sleeping on the ground in front of her? Yup… the baby that “doesn’t like to be swaddled” is now comfortably swaddled, calm, and ASLEEP right in front of a full class of people. Mind blown.
After sitting through the two-hour class, I couldn’t wait to get home and start implementing all the amazing tips that we learned. I purchased a new swaddle that was recommended by Cara at Modern Milk (The Ollie Swaddle, as seen on the middle baby), and immediately ran to target for a sound machine. We got through the rest of the day and night as normal, and started following the schedule the next day. LET’S DO THIS! I originally went off the “master schedule” (as the type A person that I am). Feeding every 3 hours, keeping her awake for an hour, and then down for a two-hour nap. Cara also provided “sample schedules” which is more of a realistic approach to how it all goes down. Perhaps your baby won’t want to take the full 2-hour nap… then what? Cara provides tips on how to listen for hungry cues but without changing too much and still following her guidelines. Vivienne also was prone to getting fussy during the evenings and got into a habit of cluster feeding before bed. Which is normal and completely OK in Cara’s book. Just because you are a type A person, doesn’t mean your baby will be too. So, you must do the best you can and always remember, tomorrow is a new day. Just start fresh and keep going! After implementing the schedule and some of the below tips, Vivienne was giving me 4-5 hour stretches at night almost immediately. Now, it’s more like 6, 7 or 8 on a nightly basis. I couldn’t be more proud of how great Vivienne is doing and what a happy baby she is!
So, if you are reading this blog post you are more than likely interested in hearing how Vivienne is doing, have a newborn of your own, or at a mental breaking point and need information on how I am getting her to do these long stretches of sleep NOW. I’ve had many people send messages asking for tips, and I apologize that it has taken me a little time to get this post finished. It’s been a crazy couple of months and I want to do this post right, which means taking the time to sit down, write, and proof read this a dozen times before hitting publish. So, I appreciate you being patient with me.
Implement Day vs. Night. Just doing this one adjustment in our routine, was a game changer! Keep the room quiet, dim, with little to no eye contact and unnecessary talking for night time feedings. During the day, allow the light in and normal noise to exist in your home. Cara goes into more detail about why this is important.
Dream Feed. We still do the dream feed around 10pm at night, allowing Vivienne to “tank up” before going back to sleep which gives you a longer stretch of sleep at night.
Use a Sound Machine for Sleeping Day and Night. All hail the white noise! I am sure I can no longer sleep without it myself. In the womb, it is as loud as a vacuum cleaner 24/7, so putting a baby in a quiet room is odd for them. Even when your baby is overstimulated, white noise can be a life saver. Get that sound machine!
CRIES. The CRIES method is taught by Cara to get your baby to stop crying. My mind was blown when I saw this happen in class and it worked so well for us when Vivienne would not go to bed at night. This is also a great way to get your baby to stretch longer hours of sleep at night. Since it is not my method to teach, nor would I be able to fully explain it (you’ll need a visual), see below for details.
Taking Cara Babies. For those of you who do not currently live in Arizona, Cara has an online version of the class JJ and I attended at Modern Milk. This class is specifically for expectant families or those with newborns less than 12 weeks of age. The class teaches healthy habits and many babies will naturally begin sleeping through the night, but it is NOT sleep training. There is no need for you to let your baby “cry it out.” See attachment for more information.
Watch her class online here.
If you have a newborn and are currently looking to get longer stretches of sleep at night, please know it IS possible. I couldn’t give this class a better rating or recommend it enough to a friend. So, I am sharing it with my followers, the world, to hopefully allow Cara to continue to educate near and far and give her great knowledge and advice to all the new moms out there who are looking for some serious shut eye. Healthy sleep habits for newborns means better quality of life for families. I just love what she is doing and want to give my support! Go Cara!