In the second article in our series on ways grandparents can help out after a new baby arrives, my own daughter-in-law shares her experience with a sleep consultant. If you missed Part One on postpartum doulas, find it here.
When we were expecting our third child, we had a multi-month plan to prepare our two-year-old for the arrival of the new baby. We would 1) potty train her, 2) adjust her to a toddler bed, 3) take away her pacifier, and 4) introduce her to the room she'd be sharing with her four-year-old brother. It was a neat, orderly plan that looked fantastic on paper. The steps were accomplished mostly on schedule, and everything seemed to be progressing smoothly, until the baby came two and a half weeks early. The night after we combined the two kids into their new room, we brought home the new baby.
As you probably guessed, the two-year-old stopped sleeping. Everything in her life had changed! A new baby, a tired mama, a new room, (not to mention a pandemic that meant she couldn't leave the house even to go to the park). Each day, after getting 4-5 hours of sleep because of all the screaming, I tried to muster up some sympathy for her tiny little life. On top of the sleeping problems, she turned two and started tantruming at the drop of a hat. I read books and articles on sleeping, but nothing helped. I felt that everything I tried was making it worse, and she stayed up later and later each night crying before slipping into a fitful sleep.
Meanwhile, my mother-in-law told me about sleep consultants and asked me if I'd like to try one. I could tell from the first call with Mary from Rest to Your Nest that she had some insider information that even an avid parenting-book-reader couldn't get a hold of. She listened to our habits, routines, and problems and made some practical suggestions. She suggested we move our older child out of the room with the two-year-old for two weeks so that we could focus on sleep training her and making sure she felt safe in her new room. I had never even considered that!
Mary created an in-depth sleep plan specifically for our family's needs that included a family meeting, putting blackout curtains on the windows, and collaborating on a sleep poster. We ended up changing our whole sleep routine to incorporate the earlier bedtime and suggestions for better sleep. After the first night (which included 15 minutes of tantrums and 1 night wake up), she's slept about 11 hours every night and taken a 1.5-hour nap with almost no complaining. She's turning back into her pre-new-baby self: each day I see more of her beautiful, strong personality, and less of the sleep-deprived tantrums that I had incorrectly attributed to her age.
When you're in the middle of a situation, especially one that affects your judgement, like sleep, it's easy to get into the habit of just powering through the days, waiting for time to magically fix the problems for you. It's possible that my kids would have learned how to sleep on their own in 6-12 months… but what sort of shape would I have been in at that time? It wouldn't have been pretty, I can tell you that. Instead, our whole family is now getting the sleep that we need and we can all bond with the new baby from a place of peace and love instead of teeth-gritting sleep-deprivation. So thanks to DeeDee and Mary from Rest to Your Nest!
The Family Sleep Institute is a great place to start your search for a sleep consultant. With my daughter-in-law's blessing, I found three to interview, talked to each about their methods, and shared what I learned with her. She was exhausted enough to let me make the final decision, but make sure your family is on board with any steps you take.