I’m so excited to finally share our sleep journey with Noa! FYI - this is one of my longer posts because I wanted to include as many details as possible. Sleep is so important and can be very challenging for new parents and children. I hope by sharing our experience, it might help some families out there! I tried to break this post into smaller sections with subheadings, so feel free to skip around!
IN THE NEWBORN DAYS….
For the first four and a half months of her life, Noa was a pretty good sleeper. She could put herself to sleep and stay asleep for very long stretches until the morning, usually only getting up once a night to eat. We had a Moses basket bassinet and stand set up next to my bed from the time we brought her home from the hospital. It didn’t take up much space and I liked that it was portable so we could move the basket from room to room and use it as a place for her to “hang out.” But it became clear that Noa preferred to be cozy and slept best when held or when she was sleeping on me. (Who could blame her?!) Even in a tight swaddle, she never slept for too long in the Moses basket. Sure, I loved those newborn baby cuddles, but it simply wasn’t practical or sustainable to hold her for all of her naps and I never got much sleep if she was on me.
AROUND 4 MONTHS OLD…SLEEP REGRESSION
For naps, we started using the Snuggle Me Organic baby lounger on my bed and she loved it. I could put her in the lounger with a pacifier and white noise in the background and she would fall asleep within a couple of minutes. We could also take the lounger with us on trips since it was so lightweight and she didn’t even know we weren’t at home. At night, we still started her off in the bassinet next to my bed but she always ended up in bed with me by the morning. In the early newborn days, she was eating so often that I started having her sleep in the lounger next to me in my bed. It was easy to nurse her and put her back to sleep without much fuss. But after a few months of this, she had her first sleep regression and started having frequent night wakings (sometimes three or four times a night) and I would nurse or bottle feed her back to sleep. Slowly but surely, she developed an "eat-to-sleep" association to get to sleep.
HOW WE BEGAN UNINTENTIONALLY CO-SLEEPING
Around the same time, I noticed a dip in my milk supply. Between where Noa was at developmentally (more aware of her surroundings and more easily distracted) and where I was in my postpartum journey, it was becoming harder and harder for me to breastfeed her. Some of the easiest and most successful times we had to nurse were overnight, while Noa was sleeping - she wasn’t distracted by anything and I could focus solely on her and not on my toddler who competed for my attention during the day. At night it was dark and quiet and Noa was drowsy so I could just “side lie” with her in bed. It became our special time together. So for a little while, I didn’t mind the multiple wakings each night because it was a time where I could breastfeed her easily, unlike during the day. Plus, I figured she would get passed her sleep regression and we’d be back to long stretches of sleep with just one night waking to eat soon.
SLEEP DEPRIVED AND LOOKING TO MAKE A CHANGE
I was hoping that things would sort themselves out in a few weeks (wishful thinking) but by the time she was 6 months old, she was still having several night wakings everyday and I was at my breaking point. Sleep deprivation is no joke! It was one thing when I just had one child (I could try to nap when she napped) but now with two, it was almost impossible to rest and catch up on lost sleep because one kid was always up! Noa was still in our room and I was ready to get my room back! But I was so nervous to move her into her sister’s room and risk messing with Adina’s sleep. At this point, at least one of our children was sleeping through the night and I wasn’t about to jeopardize that! What if Noa’s crying would wake up Adina? What if Adina woke up and disturbed her sleeping sister? Also, Adina was still sleeping in a crib and I wasn’t sure if I should transition her into a bed so Noa could move into her crib or just buy a second crib to put in their room. With so many factors to consider, I decided to reach out to my friend Emily from Sleep Wise Consulting to help us make a plan for our family and get Noa back on track. Emily is also a mom of two (who happen to be similar ages to my girls) so besides her professional expertise, I knew she could relate to what I was going through from personal experience.
WORKING WITH A SLEEP CONSULTANT
Emily offers several different packages based on your budget and needs. After we chose our package, we filled out a questionnaire and had a preliminary phone call with Emily to share our sleep goals. In the questionnaire, I shared details about our family’s schedule, Noa’s sleep environment, quantity and duration of naps, and our ultimate sleep objectives. My #1 goal was to have Noa fall asleep without eating (nursing or bottle) and to be able to put herself back to sleep if she woke up during the night. I also wanted to make sure she was getting a sufficient amount of sleep and set a strong foundation that would help us with the transition into a room with her sister.
FORMING A NEW SLEEP PLAN WITH OUR CONSULTANT
From there, Emily helped us form a comprehensive sleep plan that we began implementing the next day. The plan was detailed and tailored to our family's needs and included a nursery assessment, overnight support for the first night, text support for two weeks, 4 follow up phone calls and a resource guide. Up until this point, Noa wasn’t really on any kind of consistent schedule. I would put her down for a nap at the first sign of tired cues (rubbing eyes, yawning, fussiness) and as the second child, she was used to lots of “on-the-go” naps in the stroller, baby carrier, or car seat. She woke up at a different time every morning and napped for different amounts of time each day. Our new sleep plan helped us create a more consistent routine.
MAKING CHANGES TO NOA’S BEDTIME ROUTINE
We adjusted Noa’s bedtime routine (something I struggled with, especially when I had to do bedtime for both girls on my own) and I tried to include Adina in it when I could. On some nights, Adina would help me with Noa’s bath and we could read a story together. Other nights, I’d turn on a show for Adina to watch while I got Noa ready for bed. I also created a better environment for sleep in our room since that was where Noa napped during the day and slept each night. Since we didn’t have black out curtains in my room (like the ones in the kids’ room), I actually taped black garbage bags over our windows to make it as dark as possible. (I looked into buying new black out shades, but since we were only planning to have Noa sleep in our room for a few weeks until we moved her in with Adina, we opted to go with a more temporary and affordable solution.) We also made sure we had white noise on during sleep time.
CHANGING TO SLEEP ENVIRONMENT + BREAKING SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS
The biggest change was moving Noa from our bed into her own crib. At first we used this portable mini crib, but after a few nights, it became clear that Noa needed more space. She is a belly sleeper and rotates in her sleep and the mini crib was a bit too small for her to comfortably move around. I even found her one night with her legs caught between the mini crib slats! Don’t ask me how she was even able to get into that position! But somehow she did and was peacefully sleeping with her legs sticking out at that! Had we started out with that from the time she was a newborn, it probably would have worked better for us. I love that the mini crib folds up easily and is on wheels, making storage a breeze. We used our travel crib for the rest of the sleep plan and it worked out great! It was bigger than the mini crib but smaller than a full size crib. And portable - perfect for our temporary sleep situation. We had this travel crib from when Adina was a baby and love it. The mattress is thicker than your standard Pack-n-Play, making it extra comfy for baby. The sides are mesh and breathable - no crib slats to get your legs stuck in! Noa sleeps so well in this travel crib!
I separated Noa’s last feeding from bedtime to break her eat-to-sleep association. Previously, if Noa woke up or cried out after she was already asleep, I’d go pick her up right away for fear of her cries waking Adina. But with our new plan, I waited a few minutes to see if she could put herself back to sleep without my help and 9 times out of 10, she did! Emily had me record Noa’s sleep in a log that we reviewed together on our phone calls. It was amazing to see how quickly she was making progress!
SEEING MAJOR PROGRESS WITHIN THE FIRST 4 DAYS!
By the fourth night of implementing our sleep plan, Noa was sleeping 12 hours straight! She had a couple of night wakings but quickly put herself back to sleep without my help! I couldn’t believe it! This nighttime consistency continued and her daytime sleep improved too. Her naps consolidated and she went from taking three medium/short naps to a long morning nap and a substantial afternoon nap. Our “on-the-go” naps are still a little tricky because she definitely sleeps better and longer in her crib than in the stroller or the baby carrier. But I got this portable sound machine to have white noise, which has been a life saver! I try to make it as dark as possible - pulling the stroller or car seat shade all the way down and I also simulate the same mini bedtime routine I do at home when we’re out. I loved the text and email support from Emily. Whenever I had a question about something, I knew I could just turn to her instead of second guessing what to do.
EFFECTS ON BREASTFEEDING + REMOVING THE PACIFIER
By the way, I shared that I was worried about how moving away from co-sleeping would affect our breastfeeding relationship. It turned out that it actually helped us! After the first few days of our sleep plan, our morning feed was longer and better - it’s like she missed me and was excited to be reunited in the morning and I think that sleeping longer stretches helped build my supply. As a side note, we also chose to stop using pacifiers for Noa during this time. She was never that dependent on it anyway and Adina self-weaned off the pacifier around 4 months, so we did not have strong feelings about it. After speaking with Emily about it, we decided to stop using the pacifier all together, cold turkey. She explained that while it was okay to use it if we wanted to, it could become a new sleep association for Noa and we’d have to remove it down the road.
MOVING NOA INTO THE SAME ROOM AS OUR TODDLER
The last step of our family’s sleep goals was to move Noa into the same room as her sister. Like I said earlier, I was really nervous about this and knew I would have to rip off the band aid at some point. But at the same time, I was also really excited for them! I shared a room with my sister nearly my whole life and we made so many memories together. Sharing a closet and trying on each other’s clothes, late night pillow talk, and everything in between. We waited until Noa was sleeping through the night for two weeks before moving her into the other room. We talked to Adina beforehand and started getting her used to the idea of sharing her room. And you know what - she was stoked! She was seriously so psyched about “having a sleepover with my baby” and I couldn’t have been happier! They’ve been sleeping in the same room for two weeks now and we haven’t had any major issues. I stagger the girls’ bedtimes, which has helped a lot. It’s amazing how much kids can sleep through! Each of them have cried (pretty loudly) at least once in the past couple of weeks and the other one has slept through!
REFLECTING ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH SLEEP CONSULTANT + LOOKING AHEAD
Within three weeks of our first phone call with Emily, our family’s sleep life had been transformed! We went from feeding Noa to sleep in our bed (and me waking up several times during the night to feed her back to sleep whenever she woke up) to putting her down at 7 pm in her own crib and sleeping 12 hours! We have already traveled quite a bit (and will continue to do so this summer) and Noa’s sleep while we’ve been away from home has been pretty smooth. When we went to the beach a few weeks ago, we used the travel crib, I brought black garbage bags and tape with me (seriously so helpful!), played white noise with our portable sound machine, and kept our sleep routine as similar to what we do at home as possible. Noa also got a little bit sick last week, but with Emily’s guidance, we navigated those couple of tougher nights with ease. I am so grateful to have my room back and to have a well-rested baby who is even happier now that she has a full night of beauty sleep!
Congrats for making it to the end of this blog post! I know it was a long one! If you’re interested in learning more about Sleep Wise Consulting, you can send me a message or reach out to Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to mention me :) You can do a 15 minute free phone consultation and Emily is kindly offering $100 off a platinum package for Ariel Loves readers!
*Thank you to Sleep Wise Consulting for partnering with me on this post!
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