I dare say that the lack of sleep that comes with the early years of parenthood is one of the hardest parts of one of the best times of life. Our first-born, (now nearly 4) has had a tumultuous relationship with sleep. We worked through our issues on our own for the first two years. In fact, though the first year of his life was hit-or miss on getting much sleep, he really got in an awesome groove from age 1 to age 2. He was sleeping through the night and sleeping in late. There were mornings when he didn’t wake up until 10am! Of course, I panicked each time that happened, looking for signs of movement or breathing on the video monitor, but my husband and I were getting some much-needed rest. And it was AMAZING.
Cue his second birthday. Just weeks after J turned 2, a number of things happened. Jack started showing signs of sleep struggles, like having a hard time falling asleep unless I was holding him or unless he was literally sleeping ON me like a pancake. Then, on a business trip to California, my husband’s appendix ruptured and he needed emergency surgery so I quickly flew out to be with him, leaving little J with his grandparents for his first substantial time away from us. And if that wasn’t enough, when in California helping my husband recuperate, I found out I was pregnant with baby number 2. That was such a crazy time!
I flew back after a week away, and J was so happy to see me that he didn’t want to leave my side. At. All. He wouldn’t fall asleep without me, wouldn’t stay asleep if he could sense I wasn’t touching him, he would scream and cry and go nuts. Add in the fact that six months prior to this, J had a seizure due to crying too hard about a toy (it’s called a breath holding spell, though he wasn’t holding his breath, he just exhaled too much) so we were very nervous about letting him cry. It broke my heart that he was so upset, but it was also incredibly hard on me and my husband (who, after two weeks away, finally came home and healed nicely from the ordeal). I was pregnant and very sick all day long. I was running a business, keeping the house afloat, and my formerly awesome sleeping son only wanted me, and wanted to be with me incessantly.
I felt as if we had tried everything. I read books though there aren’t as many about toddler sleep issues as baby sleep issues. I joined a Facebook sleep issue group, I asked other moms for advice, we gave him a “big boy” bedroom with a toddler bed instead of a crib, including a Mickey Mouse bed and a new aquarium and fish. Surely he would sleep with Mickey and watch his fish, right?!! The answer is no; it was worse than before because now he wasn’t in a crib and was running around in addition to crying. So, I started camping out on the floor of his bedroom. Guess how awesome that was in the first trimester of pregnancy??
I felt like I had lost my mind and had exhausted every option. I had heard about what I considered to be a last-ditch effort on the sleep issues Facebook group. I had read that there are people that are trained “sleep consultants” that help parents work through sleep issues with their children. There are a number of them around the country, though I couldn’t find one in Indianapolis and I knew no one who had used one. I researched it and found a woman in California who worked with both babies and toddlers (again, it was tough to find one that worked with toddler sleep issues). I scheduled a preliminary phone discussion to get more of an idea about her services and pricing and I immediately felt relieved to talk to her. The idea of having an ally in this sleep battle, and someone to give us guidance was so exciting to me. Kerrin is trained on sleep cycles of children, circadian rhythm, and psychology.
I asked for references and got 6 responses with in 24 hours of other moms that were thrilled with their experience with her. This sealed the deal in my mind. Now, convincing my husband to buy into this idea was another thing. He was skeptical since we didn’t know of anyone that had done this. How could a woman on the other side of the country help us deal with sleep issues here? Were we just throwing money at the problem? I said that I had hit a level of desperation that it was worth it to me to try it out and that I NEEDED professional help here. He agreed and we scheduled our introductory session with Kerrin with Meet You In Dreamland.
Here’s how it worked:
- We filled out and sent back an intake form prior to the call. This gave her some preliminary information about J’s sleep history and how we parent, etc.
- The initial phone consultation was about an hour. In the consultation, we let her know that we didn’t feel comfortable letting J “cry it out” due to his history of seizure and needed to have alternative options.
- After the call, Kerrin sent us a personalized written sleep plan based on our consultation. Basically, this is a list of tasks and steps, kind of like a workout trainer would give for fitness.
- We implemented the plan and with our package, we got 3 (15 min) calls for support and two weeks of unlimited email support to answer questions about problems as they went along.
She suggested a technique called “The Sleep Lady Shuffle” where, over the course of a few nights, you gradually move your chair closer and closer to the door as he falls asleep and eventually, you sit outside the door and then he’s putting himself to sleep.
Now, I can’t tell you that this was a silver bullet for us. We still really struggled with sleep, but eventually, we figured out that J was ready to give up his afternoon nap. That made a huge difference. He would fall asleep so much easier with no nap. I loved being able to bounce the ideas off of her.
When baby number 2 finally came along, he was a great sleeper for the first 6 months. Mostly because I co-slept with him, and again, if I was near him, he would sleep. At 6 months, it was clear that it was time to move him to his crib and I was nervous. I reached out to Kerrin and purchased an email consultation package (available only for families that have gone through her program before).
She helped me establish a nap schedule for W first so when we made the transition, he wasn’t operating on a sleep deficit (aka, overtired). After we got him in a good daytime sleep schedule, he transitioned to sleeping in the crib beautifully. It went so much more smoothly than I ever imagined it could. I could tell that he was so much happier to have his own space at that time, and so were my husband and I.
Now, both boys still have middle of the night wake ups a few times a week, but it’s manageable. I credit our sleep consultant, Kerrin with Meet you in Dreamland for helping us get here. I have recommended her to so many parents going through sleep issues with their kids. Trying to get by on little to no sleep while doing what is arguably one of the hardest jobs in the world is no joke, and I am happy we have help.
There’s a reason for that old adage: The nights are long but the years are short!