Like many parents who look for sleep solutions, my situation was once dire. I was a new mom. My child (a preemie diagnosed with GERD) and I were sleep-deprived from the very beginning.
I am a solo parent, and from the first few days in the NICU with my tiny baby to my first few days at home alone with him, I was scared and isolated.
The last of many sleepless, tear-filled nights was the night that I made my decision to get help. My child was 5 months old then. I told myself that the world is full of solutions and that my child and I shouldn't have to suffer like this. I was determined to find out what to do to help both of us, and I did -- the very next day.
I can say to this day that that being sleep deprived with a sleep-deprived, reflux baby was the hardest time of my life. As hard as it is to admit this, I would not be around today if I hadn’t learned how to help both of us. It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation is used as a torture mechanism. I truly felt as if I was dying or that I might fall with my baby in my arms.
I strongly believe that the mother-baby dyad is sacred and that if one suffers, so does the other. We must nurture both, and neglect neither. In my attempt to do all the “right” things, I filled myself with guilt and shame over a low milk supply, hourly round-the-clock pumping in the NICU, severe stress, isolation, and severe sleep deprivation.
I now know that sleep is a learned skill. My child (like the children I work with) learned independent sleep skills very quickly when given the chance. Sleep, along with carefully timed feedings and bedtime feedings (instead of feeding and vomiting all night) improved his reflux more than any amount of medication. He relaxed and slept throughout the night, and his digestion improved. He slept through the night for 10 hours on the 2nd night and 12 hours on the 3rd night. I never once left his side while he was falling asleep. I never left him to “cry it out” but instead, I talked to him, comforted him and offered him soothing touch while he fell asleep at bedtime and for each night waking.
He cried less while he was learning to go to sleep on his own than he did those endless weeks and months before, while I was doing so much intervening.
To say the least, sleep was life-changing for this solo parent. It was life-changing for my son. He went from an irritable, frustrated, exhausted baby who cried most of the day, to a happy child who laughed and ate well.
Even though it has been a couple of years since my dark, sleep-deprived days, I will never forget that time. I remember and empathize with every family I work with.
I know how hard it is, but I also know that you and your family can experience deep, restorative sleep again too. I would be grateful to guide you along the way.