Hello, have you heard the good news about sleep coaches?
I have, and now I won’t shut up about it.
Or rather, I try not to be constantly spewing advice when people just want you to listen, so when a friend says something in passing about being up all night with the baby, or having a hellacious weekend with no sleep for most of the household, I’m sitting there smiling and nodding sympathetically while biting the everloving heck out of my tongue lest I burst out like the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “There’s a better way!” Hence, this post has been brewing for some time now.
Seriously, I realize the religious metaphors are sliced a little thick here but not since Jesus or realizing that male incompetence is a form of misogyny have I so desperately wanted to share something with people that I felt truly guilty any time it came up and I failed to tell this magical truth.
Let’s travel back in time a bit to when Cora was a newborn baby. She has many lovely qualities (is beautiful, is alarmingly strong, is a fast learner) but was an absolute terror to take care of. She—or shall we say, her colic—tried me in ways I never thought I would be tried and drove me to a level of anxiety I don’t remember ever entertaining previously. I’ve talked about this before so I won’t belabor it again (lol), but things were bad. Truly, it was the worst time in my life, worse even than the accursed renovation of 2011, so thank goodness it didn’t last as long as that racket.
Two major things happened to get us out of this misery, and those things were (1) hiring a sleep coach and (2) finally getting her to take a bottle. The bottle thing will get its own post someday, I’m just not ready to write about it yet. ::shudder::
I had seen some local sleep consultants recommended a while back on Facebook, and thankfully this popped into my head in a moment of despair. I was able to go back and find that post, which led me to Little Z’s Sleep Consulting. I was dubious at first, probably because I’m wary of literally anything that costs money. But as this recent Wall Street Journal article attests, I’m not the only one looking for solutions here. And it seems super weird to me that we can invent technology to send people to the moon, but a simple thing like infant sleep is commonly accepted as an insurmountable, “just give up and be miserable for several years” fact of life for all humankind.*
Reader, I’m so glad I took this plunge.** And I use the term “plunge” lightly, because Becca’s web site is a treasure trove and by the time you’ve delved into it during, oh, say, one nighttime feed you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s about and it’ll feel less risky. There’s plenty there between downloadable guides, the blog, the podcast, and yes, even Instagram stories to get you dipping your toes in. She’s got various programs available depending on your child’s age and the level of hands-on-ness you want, but for the record I think we just did the E-coaching (where you attend a few webinars live or watch the recordings later) and chatted with her on the phone once, and it worked like a charm.
As seasoned routine-lovers, we had such a rough time with Cora from day one with all the chaos she brought and the challenges that seemingly had NO solution (such as refusing the bottle). I was desperate to get at least one thing under control, and this was the turning point: Getting her on a sleep schedule where we knew what to expect and had tactics to help us stick to it. After the first day, Cora went from never napping unless she was physically attached to me, to napping consistently for short stretches. Even this alone changed everything for me. I felt like I could breathe again, and I could complete short tasks or even eat an actual meal during her naps. She started perking up and being much more receptive to, well, everything, since she was actually rested.
And as if that wasn’t enough, after three or four days, she started sleeping 12-13 hours per night and napping for longer stretches as well. Now, about six months later, she’s still napping 1-2 hours in the morning, 1-2 hours in the afternoon, and sleeping 11-13 hours straight every night. 😱🙌 On the rare, rare occasion that she’s up wiggling and whining, we’re either traveling and she’s in a strange place, or she’s sick and needs le amoxicillin, stat.
I sure wish I had had this method in my pocket when Morella was born and (unbeknownst to me) I was about to dive into single parenthood with only my wits to support me. The whole experience has been so different with Cora post-sleep-coaching: whereas with Morella I was up with her at 5:30 every morning and then hamfistedly trying to get both of us fed and ready and out the door, with Cora if I get up that early*** it means I can do some yoga, get myself ready, and be downstairs making pancakes and singing like a Disney princess when the girls wake up.
Since Cora’s official bedtime is 7pm but she’s usually so tired we put her down closer to 6:30pm, on nights where Morella’s away even if we want to be in bed by 9:30pm to get optimum beauty rest, that gives us three hours to do anything we want. And I know that three hours looks like an eternity staring at you from this computer screen right now if you’re a sleep-deprived parent. Y’all, that’s more than three Vampire Diaries episodes. Or enough time for about 12 rounds of Grim Acres. I am full of gratitude every time I think about how luxurious it is that we get to rest so much every single night and face the world with restored energy.
And if my experience isn’t enough to send you clicking over to Little Z or another sleep consultant, there are plenty of other reasons. The price is very reasonable, and let’s face it, most of you have every intention of spending three times that amount trying every cocktail on the Alewife menu before the winter is over. So like, don’t act like it’s Too Expensive. What’s really Too Expensive is shaving years off your life by not having even a modicum of household tranquility.
Also, just look at this woman. Look at that wholesome, reassuring face. I feel comforted just hearing the first few notes of her podcast jingle when it comes on in the car. But don’t let these airy photos fool you: she is a secret cutthroat assassin masquerading as a perky, wee-bit-saccharine suburban mama and she is going to get rid of your sleepless nights the way that Big Oil got rid of streetcars in Richmond. In short, I have full confidence that this lady can turn your nights around.
But the main thing here is that sleep consulting will help you gain some consistency, and as much as it might not seem like it, babies and kids really do want and need consistency. Can you imagine being a newborn baby, plucked suddenly out of the warm darkness and confronted with this wild world, home of fluorescent light bulbs and cable news? Life is shrill and unpredictable, and babies have no idea how to be in the world. Give them some semblance of a routine to hang onto, even a loose one (heaven knows it’ll have to be flexible), and you’ve done a good thing.
Something that strikes me as weird about child-rearing is that we go for months to midwives and doulas and prenatal yogis, and we see pediatricians and lactation consultants and speech therapists and heaven knows what else, but we’re all stigmatized up about paying for sleep coaching. It’s totally just another thing that you can stop suffering about and get help from an expert on. Plain and simple. There’s no shame in it, and I’m super glad we did it.
‘Til next time, I’m yours in solidarity in living with tiny, lovable tyrants.
* Yes, I realize that there will be someone out there reading this who’s like “Huh, back in the 1890s when I was raising my brood, I had no problems whatsoever with sleep, and my children were all perfect angels.” I would like to suggest that perhaps you aren’t remembering just how many months were indeed sacrificed to the sleep deprivation demons in your life because your brain is wired to soften those memories to the point of obfuscation, in order for you to continue to procreate. Or heck, maybe you did have magical angel-babies. Good for you. Seriously, that’s amazing. Kudos. This post is for the rest of us, though.
** This post is not a paid promotional piece or anything of the sort. Really. Sleep coaching just brought me so much relief that I need to share it. Not that Little Z needs any more testimonials.
*** This is often foiled by such enterprises as Staying Up Too Late Watching Vampires on TV.