I’d like to dedicate this post to asking for help. You hear it a lot now a days especially when you are expecting a baby, and honestly, it was one of the harder things about parenting that I had to learn, you can’t do it all by yourself.
For us, we have no family within 400 miles of where we live, and while we get frequent long weekend visits with grandparents and friends, we don’t have support ‘just a phone call away’. This boiled up on us last October when we realized what we thought was “another sleep regression” was actually a problem that had been going on for several months. (You know you’re there when months go by and you still hear friends and family saying ‘it’s just a phase’)
Avery had been a dream sleeper since she was 10 weeks old, giving us solid nights of sleep as a tiny baby with very little fuss. We had family members who were amazed that we could read her a story, sing her a song and walk out of the room while she was still awake and she would be dozing off by herself moments later. But as she was approaching 2 years old, things had started to take longer, more negotiations, games, throwing of pacifiers and full out tantrums. What used to be an enjoyable time as a family was now up to two hours of battle. The brink was when we visited New York for a family wedding and she was so terrible going down to bed that we didn’t want our family babysitter to ‘suffer’ through it so one of us had to stay home from the wedding! On our flight home, after realizing no matter how many times we said it was ‘just a phase’ it wasn’t going away, I brought up to Ed the idea of asking for help.
I had been following Becca from Little Z Sleep on instagram for a while, and being 8 months pregnant and fighting a toddler for two hours a night, I needed help. We reached out and I literally said in my e-mail, “not sure if my daughter can be helped, she sleeps through the night, we do the bedtime routine, I’ve read all the books and blogs, but I thought I’d ask”…. I was embarrassed in a way that I needed help, I felt like a ‘over-the-top’ new age mom buying all the gadgets and gizmos to help my kid sleep so I could have a whole hour of time to spend with my husband at night.
Becca wrote back with the sweetest reply and said “It sounds like Avery has lost the CONFIDENCE to fall asleep on her own, and we can help her get it back”. Wow. I never would have linked confidence with what we were lacking, and I was about to learn so much more.
We booked a one on one consultation for a 3 week sleep training program for toddlers. Ed stayed home from work one morning so that we could hop on a video call with Becca and go through her sleep plan for Avery that was tailored to the responses I gave to her very thorough questionnaire.
Some things we told Becca:
-Avery was born full term, and has had a consistent bedtime routine since very early
-She uses a pacifier ONLY in the car and at bedtime
-She had just recently switched to a toddler bed which she loved calling her “big girl bed” and telling everyone about
-She has a little sibling on the way so she also got a brand new room
-She sleeps with a very dim light on, and we just recently added white noise back into her room
-We give her a bath most nights and read books before bed
-She doesn’t watch TV before bed
-We have to wake her up at 6am so that we as a family can leave by 6:45
-We start bedtime routine at about 7, target having her in bed by 7:30, but its currently taking until 9-9:30 for her to fall asleep
-We often stay in there and lay on the floor until she is asleep
-She is still taking a 2-2.5 hour nap midday
I expected her to be stumped. And slightly impressed. I mean, I CLEARLY read all the books, and Avery was going to be a tough cookie, right?
Nope. Avery was right on track for her age. She was learning how to negotiate, learning how to get us to come back in her room, get us to stay, the exact pitch of a cry that will get our attention.
Becca went straight into talking about the plan. She believes in consistency and TEACHING children the skills to fall asleep on their own. If we were to wean some of the bad habits that crept in little by little, that would mean each night would be a little bit different from the last and this training could take months before we got to a consistent level that could help to teach her. So before Ed went off to work we decided we would start that night.
First up, we had to get her back in a crib. Before close to 3 years old, kids don’t have the full understanding of boundaries without, well, physical boundaries. Our switch just before her 2nd birthday to the toddler bed, was just a little too soon. And while we were trying to save her crib for the baby, Facebook found us another one that worked out just fine. Ok, step one done.
Step two, DARK. Very very dark. Since Avery wasn’t quite at the age of being “afraid” of the dark, we needed to get the lamp out of her room. We had just purchased a HATCH light and Becca recommended the most dim red color possible as red does not interfere with the brain’s signal to sleep like blue or other colors can do. We also invested in some inner liners for her existing curtains that could black out her room regardless to the time of the day.
Step three. Bye bye Bobby. (No more Paci). This one, had me terrified. When Avery got home from school, I asked her if she wanted to do some big girl baking with me. We made brownies and I let her make a huge mess… and after I told her how proud I was and that she was such a big girl. Then I snuck in… “Do you know what big girls don’t have?”… “Bobbies”. She smiled and said “Yeah, no bobbies for big girls” and ran to go and get all of hers out of her room. I told her we should throw them in the trash since we are such a big girl now, and she did. Now side note, I had full intention of ripping them out of the trash, washing them and hiding them for when things went south, but, she threw them right on top of raw chicken so away they went. When she requested them again, I reminded her that SHE threw them away which honestly speaking, she brought it up a total of 3 times after they were gone… I guess we were more attached that she was.
Step 4. Tame Timer. Guys, this is toddler magic. We use this thing for EVERYTHING! If you have a kid who has a hard time transitioning from one activity to another, this is a godsend. With the timer our bedtime routine is as follows:
7:15 Bath time — Timer set for ~10 mins — beeping means Avery opens the drain
7:30 Book & Play time — 10 minutes of play or reading stories —- beeping means we climb into bed
7:45 — Lights out, loveys in bed, sing a song & bedtime kisses
So we completed night one of sleep training our toddler. She was asleep within 45 minutes, and the number kept going down as we followed Becca’s detailed, night by night plan. Every few days we had follow up calls with Becca and we adjusted things until we found a perfect spot. Our target was to have Avery asleep within 10 minutes of us shutting her door, which I was skeptical about, but by the end of the 3rd week we were there.
So now, a year later, looking back, here some some of the things I can say:
-It took me over a week to tell my in-laws or friends that we hired a sleep consultant. But once I realized that I ASKED FOR HELP, I couldn’t stop telling people.
-We saved ourselves so many tears through the last month of my pregnancy by knowing we could have a few hours together in the evenings
-I was no longer stressed about being in the hospital after delivery and having to send Eddie home to put Avery to bed because the routine worked with everyone
-We finally felt confident enough to have a babysitter
-Grandparents were AMAZED at the difference after watching us struggle for many months
-We would not have survived the sleep deprived newborn nights if we didn’t have a toddler who was so easy to put to bed. Seriously we needed all the help we could get with a newborn in the house.
-We also worked through Becca’s infant plans for newborns and 4-5mo, and Norah is now a fantastic sleeper as well. (Zero nights sleeping on her floor 1+ year later)
-I can’t express my gratitude enough for having evenings with my husband, our marriage would suffer without it
-We have a baby sitter (usually) weekly that has had no issues putting the girls to bed (and then gets to enjoy our HGTV)
-We take the clock, HATCH and black out shades when we travel and the routine travels with us
-Avery moved into a twin bed about a month ago and has transitioned really well
-We potty trained while Avery was still in a crib, and she wakes up occasionally to pee at night but goes right back to sleep (usually after saying something cute like “Goodbye Daddy, sweet dreams”)
-I can’t even count, literally over 100 times, Ed has said “I am so grateful that we found Becca, sleep training Avery is the best thing we’ve invested in as parents”
The biggest side note of them all, and a huge takeaway that made it worth every dime:
Avery’s behavior took a huge turn around the time we started struggling with her sleep. Her tantrums were far worse than not getting her way and just crying or flailing on the floor. She had started hitting, biting and scratching us and throwing things. I was pouring into parenting books, blogs, podcasts and online courses trying to find the “right way” to help her through this.
By the end of the FIRST WEEK of sleep training, Avery was back to getting 12 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period and my sweet girl was back. All of the aggressive behavior was gone, and she was waking up happy and no longer having to be held down to get a diaper or PJs on, scratching or hurting us. We learned over the past year that even 30 minutes less of sleep over her within a day can affect her behavior dramatically, and it was amazing to see how much sleep transformed her.
So this isn’t a paid advertisement for Little Z. I got no discounts or things sent to me in exchange for a blog post. I’m just a mama who was tired and asked for help! But I’ve spoken to so many tired parents that I am always cautious to offer MORE advice to (we get enough already don’t we?), but, ask for help. We all need sleep to be happy. Sleep IS a thing!
Since we worked with her last year, Becca has been busy working on online courses for ages 0-5 years! She has also launched the Sleep Society online community filled with all kinds of expert tutorials for sleep, feeding and even potty training! It’s amazing all of the tools that are available in there to help mamas thrive! If you have sleep issues in your house, check out her online classes, get buy in from your spouse, set up a date night in a few weeks because your house will be sleeping in no time!
(Thank you Becca from the bottom of our hearts if you read this!) I hope this is helpful, encouraging and can help a mama out there have sweet dreams once they realize sleep is a thing!! 🙂 Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have, but I can’t recommend Becca enough, she means business, she is serious about your kids getting rest, for their wellbeing and yours!
PS- If that isn’t enough she also has a great ‘short and sweet’ weekly podcast that answers SO many of your questions on everything babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers! Podcast— Episode on Toddler Bedtime Routines (she talks about Avery and her Toddler bed at the beginning of this one <3 )