How Is Your Family's 'Sleep Nutrition'?

 
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I had never heard of the term “sleep nutrition” until I read The Sleepeasy Solution. But THANK YOU (insert your deity of choice).

Because of the book, Baby G (currently 19 months) has slept from 7 PM to 6 AM, nonstop, through the night, starting from when he was 5 months old. The sleep training learning that we implemented was the best thing that we did during the first year of Baby G’s life, hands down.

My friend Natalie highly recommended the book to me (we met while undergoing our Master’s in Social Work). She urged me to read it because it was written by two social workers who specialize in sleep. When Natalie sent me the link to the book, I had no clue if it would work, but I wanted to equip myself with information about sleep training learning. While reading, it made sense to me. It utilizes a “least-cry” approach (vs. no-cry or cry it out) to sleep training learning and discusses family systems theory (each family member is a spoke in a wheel), which I remembered from clinical courses during my M.S.W. program. This theory focuses on each individual spoke of a wheel. If any of the spokes don’t function well (i.e. exhausted parents), the whole wheel falls out of balance.

 

3 Highlights from The Sleepeasy Solution

  1. The first 4 months are considered the “fourth trimester” for a reason. Babies are unable to self-soothe so the baby should lead and parents follow (read: no rules, suck it up parents, it’s tough).
  2. Children 4 months and older have the ability to innately self-soothe due to a major cognitive shift that occurs and these skills are hidden in each child.
  3. The difficulty with child sleep is not in falling asleep, it is with re-falling asleep (self-soothing) between sleep cycles.

I had major apprehensions at first

I wondered if the book was Western BS. Was my family in India wrong? What about Andres’ family in Cuba? When I visit India, the kids are awake all hours of the night. Same with Cuba. We recently went with Baby G and everyone was so surprised that he slept so early. All the other babies were still awake and playing well past his bedtime.

But then I realized, we live in the US and our social support systems are backwards AF. Especially when it comes to childcare, mothers and families. What happens/happened in the motherland does not work here! We don’t live on a street with uncles/aunties/cousins/parents close by to care for our kid. Childcare is so expensive and we rarely get enough paid family leave. We live in a completely different society than the one my parents grew up in and where much of my family still lives (India). I realized that neither style is BETTER and it was ok to do something different than my family due to my current situation (Andres and I both live in NYC, work full-time, send our child to daycare). And that is OK.


I want my family to have good sleep nutrition

I was an insomniac for many many years of my life. I think it was because, 1) My dad worked really late and never got to see me. So he would wake me up when he got home (around midnight), play with me and then put me back to sleep, 2) I never had a bedtime while growing up, 3) I secretly snuck behind the couch when I was 5 and watched The Exorcist and Poltergeist “with” the grown-ups. After that, I could never (easily) sleep alone. It took years for me to learn how to self-soothe. I wanted to make sure my kid could soothe himself from the get-go.

How We Did It

When Baby G was 4 months old, Andrés made me leave the apartment for an hour to initiate the sleep learning (the book recommends this for the breastfeeding partner (if applicable) since #hormonesarereal). By the 3rd day Baby G learned to SELF-SOOTHE and he stopped using pacifiers. Instead, he would suck two fingers and hum himself to sleep.

During that month, Baby G still required “dream feeds” since he needed to gain weight (so I still had to wake up in the middle of the night to feed him). But when he turned 5 months (literally to the day) he finally fell asleep through the night without waking (and so did we). Andrés and I were like SCORE! We got to Netflix and chill again!

FYI: We still use the book as a reference because it has chapters which account for various ages, sleep regressions, potty-training, etc…

I’m sure there are other books/techniques that are equally effective. What are they?

 

5 Tips For Successful Sleep Learning

  1. Get the book and read it cover to cover (do not skip pages and both partners need to read it),
  2. Get a lovey (this is what we used). Putting the mother’s underarm sweat and breastmilk on a 12X12 lovey that is placed in the crib helps the baby sleep (We did it and believe it helped),
  3. Have white noise play continually in baby’s room (We use a white noise playlist from Spotify and have it streamed through the speakers in Baby G’s room),
  4. Stick to it and trust the process,
  5. Tune out the naysayers (there will be MANY). People criticize what they do not know.