sleep training

Confessions of a Sleep Trainer

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*Why a Sleep Trainer did a terrible job of sleep training her own baby! Confessions of a sleep trainer.*

Howdy. I’m Karina. And if you don’t know me, here is a little background:

I’m a sleep trainer [aka a sleep consultant]. I’m also a newborn care specialist, postpartum doula, lactation educator, developmental specialist, and probably other things too. By the time I was 23 I had a dozen or so positive sleep trainings under my belt, and multiple babies I had cared for long-term, and then I had my own daughter when I was 24.

-Scene set-

Before my baby was even born, I had different sleep milestones marked in my calendar.

  • May 14th, should be sleeping through the night.
  • July 14th, should be on 3 naps.
  • October 14th, should be on 2 naps.
  • And so forth…

I used these scheduling timelines to plan out my life. All the babies that I had taken care of all followed the same schedules. I knew exactly what to expect. [ha] Famous last words

Enter: My daughter. She was completely awake the first 48 hours of her life. She refused a pacifier but loved to suck so would only stop crying when she was latched to my breast. She only seemed content not only in my arms but when I was actually standing and swaying with her.

My expected support completely fell apart. My partner went back to work after we got home from the hospital, my mom had to quarantine with a sick child, my dad was across the country, my aunt had a high fever [which was later diagnosed as cancer], my partner’s mom was recovering from surgery.

I was young so all my friends came to hold the baby or bring a stuffed animal and then promptly went home to their regular carefree kidfree lives. And then I had a realization:

Caring for other people’s children is much easier than caring for your own.”

[Someone put that on a bumper sticker.]

Confessions of a sleep trainer – mama:

As a sleep trainer I knew what needed to be done. However, I didn’t have the time, energy, or patience to actually follow through with any of it. And when I went back to work part-time after 2 months, I had to give up any chance I had of succeeding in doing the “right thing” to get my baby to sleep better.

You see…there is a simple short list of habits that make good sleepers. And they are pretty easy if they are implemented from the start.

The five sleep habits that make good sleepers:

  1. Put your baby down drowsy but awake.
  2. Don’t rock or nurse them to sleep every time
  3. Slowly elongate their feeding stretches at night. Example: If they are doing a 5-hour stretch, try for 5 hours and 10 minutes the next night.
  4. Don’t let them get overtired.
  5. Try to keep some sort of a schedule.

And then I went back to work:

And here were my corresponding issues that arose when I had to bring her to work with me…

  1. She slept when/where she could
  2. Often she had to sleep on me in her baby carrier
  3. I was wayyyy too tired to put in the work at night. If I could nurse her and go right back to sleep, that’s what I was doing. I didn’t have any nighttime help and I was TIRED.
  4. + 5. She had to live with a lot of car/commute naps, and we did the best we could! Sleep was always a priority to me, but I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to offer consistent times every day. Just like a lot of parents out there. Sometimes she skipped naps, had crappy naps, or was woken up early from a nap.

All in all, we did all right. She ended up waking 1-3x a night until she was around 9 months old. I didn’t mind it, it was a quick snuggle and then back to sleep [she was night weaned at that point]. Her sleep totals were fine. She was a happy baby. Sure I was tired and some nights were rough. But we worked with what we were dealt, and I saw no need to “fix what wasn’t broke”….

Then at 10 months all hell broke loose.

She started waking up every 2 hours, wanting to be rocked or bounced back to sleep for long periods of time, and half the time I ended up passed out in her recliner in her room [safety hazard alert]. After a week of this I said okay, this is not working anymore. I spoke to my partner and told him what I wanted to do. I explained what I would be doing, why, and how it absolutely would not harm her or affect our relationship with her. He was on board.

So I did it. I finally did what I’ve taught countless parents to do. I sleep trained my daughter.

—drumroll—

After 72 hours she was a completely new baby.

She looked forward to bedtime, woke up happy in the morning and her naps started getting longer. Remember when I said “if it aint broke don’t fix it?”…..Well…I realized that maybe it was a little broke before. I just didn’t realize how much better it could get!

So what is the point of all this? Why am I even telling you my sleep training experience with my own daughter?

Well there are a few reasons:

Sleep advice for sleep consultants and newborn care specialists:

If you are a sleep consultant or newborn care specialist, and not a parent:

Please please please, just realize it’s not the same for them

Don’t get mad at your clients for holding their baby all day.

Don’t get frustrated when they don’t carry over the plan on their nights.

Don’t roll your eyes when they tell you that they don’t want to listen to their baby cry.

They can’t go back to sleep in the morning like you can after your shift. It’s why what you do is so valuable.

Sleep advice for parents who don’t want to sleep train:

If you are a parent and you don’t want to sleep train:

Don’t. And don’t let anyone tell you that you need to.

I would have gone on forever getting up 1-2 times a night for extra snuggles. It didn’t bother me. And if co sleeping, or night nursing or whatever else works for you then by all means keep it up!

*Just know that older babies and toddlers don’t spontaneously crave independent sleep. It’s a skill that needs to be taught. And the earlier the easier.

Sleep advice for parents who feel guilty and think they waited “too long” to sleep train:

If you are a parent who feels guilty for waiting too long to sleep train:

Don’t feel guilty. That’s crazy talk.

If NOW is the time that you are finally ready to make changes, then now is the only right time. That could be when your baby is five months old or when your child is five years old.

It takes less than a week to create a lifetime of positive sleep habits.

Most parents come to me around month 5 and around month 9. At these times their baby has gone through a developmental leap and are now labeled as “terrible sleepers”. Between 5-12 months is actually the *perfect* time to sleep train!

Sleep advice for all parents:

  1. Give yourself some grace.

2. Parenting is not going to look the way that you expected it to.

3. Your baby may not act like the baby you expected it to.

4. You may not act in the way you expected to. It’s ok to change.

Just do your best and forget the rest. And do as I say not as I do. haha. If you’re looking to follow my advice and do what I say and not what I do then download my BOOK that has helped dozens of babies sleep through the night by 12 weeks.

sleep trainer

Get yourself professional help if you can afford it! A qualified newborn care specialist will leave you at 12 weeks with a baby that sleeps through the night and never needs to be sleep trained! And any professional sleep consultant worth their salt will get your baby sleeping through the night and taking appropriate naps after 5 months old if there are no medical issues*

If you need support getting your baby to sleep then check us out! Sleep Training

Karina McCarthy

A Rhode Island native who has babies in her blood. A mom to a beautiful daughter and a lover of yoga and long naps.