• 'Sleep Training Was Like Giving Birth All Over Again'

    Four moms share the emotional and physical journey of their sleep training
    by Gabrielle Weil .
  • 'Sleep Training Was Like Giving Birth All Over Again'
    IMAGE iStock
  • I am always grateful each time parents take this leap of faith and entrust me with their baby's well-being. As a sleep coach, nothing makes me happier than seeing babies AND parents who are well-rested.

    Some have wondered how sleep training works with a coach. So I've asked the moms I've worked with to share their personal stories. You can read the first batch of moms here. In this batch, I asked the moms to share what they loved and hated about the sleep training process. As you will read, it was not an easy road, but they all came out of the experience with super sleepers.

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    "Sleep training is a 24-hour process"
    by Mai Mai Lim, mom to Owen, 2 years old

    When I’m asked about my experience with sleep training, I mention two things: It was one of the best decisions we made as parents, and it was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done. 

    My son at 11 months was waking two to three times a night to feed and play. My husband and I were sleep deprived, but I didn’t mind. I was even lobbying for a bigger bed and to co-sleep for as long as possible. I figured that sleeplessness was part of parenting and accepted it. However, after many long discussions with my husband, we agreed that our sleeping situation needed to change.

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    Sleep training requires time, commitment and maybe for a lot of Filipino mothers like me, a paradigm shift. I hated not being able to pick up and rock my son to sleep. I missed having him beside me at night. After relapsing so many times to the point that our sleep coach felt she couldn’t help us anymore, we gave the program a real opportunity, and it worked, slowly but surely. We were amazed to find Owen sleeping through the night, and we were getting eight hours of sleep again!

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    Sleep training is a team effort and cannot be done alone.

    My husband and I would send encouraging and motivating emails to one another because it was so challenging emotionally and physically. We were exhausted — sleep training was a 24-hour process. I was able to stay home to train because I work part-time (my husband and I are both teachers). I took days, and my husband took nights. 
    The worst for us was when my husband had to work on three hours of sleep because Owen was up every hour, but we stuck with it. After that night, we realized that all it needed was consistency. We also worked as a team. 

    So, yes, sleep training was extremely challenging, but it’s an investment in your child’s development (research proves sleep is one of the most critical factors in brain development), your relationship as a couple and your family’s well being. 

    It's been a year since we started our sleep training. I love that we can go back to it after experiencing sleep disruptions, and our son remembers how to self-soothe and to put himself to sleep.

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    “The most intense two weeks I have ever experienced”
    by Ines Cabarrus Habayeb, mom to Paloma, 2.5 years old

    If there is one thing to say about sleep training, it is this: It’s HARD. It takes commitment and a heck of a lot of patience. But the results are just amazing. 

    What I found most challenging was I could not hold and rock my baby. It also took a lot of self-control to follow instructions. Leaving the room and returning (if needed) was exhausting. 

    Another big challenge was getting my yaya and husband on board. We had one dreadful day where the yaya did not understand what to do, which resulted in a very hysterical baby. Hubby came home in the middle of this, and he lost his mind as well. It was a family meltdown! Our sleep coach's guidance quickly got us back on track, and it was relatively smooth sailing from then on.

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    What I found most challenging was I could not hold and rock my baby.

    I loved how focused our sleep coach, Gabrielle, was on us. I honestly felt like she was there holding my hand for every step. Anytime I needed her she was there. Also, she keeps you on your toes by checking up on you regularly! She was always very motivating and encouraging.

    I also loved the schedule and routine. It’s so wonderful to have structure, which gave my husband and I much more freedom in the sense that we were no longer slaves to our baby’s sleep. We could plan out our lives again! Also, the routine helped us when we travel. We can cut Paloma’s jet lag as short as two to three days into our trip, allowing for a less stressful vacation (Toddlers can take as long as a week to get over jet lag!)
    From 8 months old she has been sleeping contentedly through the night, and my husband and I have our evenings and quality time back- not to mention at least 8 hours of sleep!

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    “We were afraid and sad!”
    by Deanne B. Dimacali, mom to Noah, 7 months 

    Our son had terrible sleeping habits. He could only nap if he was carried and bounced on an exercise ball to fall asleep. At night, he would wake up every two to three hours. 

    Gabrielle required Noah to sleep in his room. That scared us. It filled me with worry and anxiety because we couldn’t be close to him anymore. 

    The first two days were very hard. I had to endure my son's intense crying (but would never let him cry it out). At times, I just wanted to shut the monitor off! I also had to be strong in the face of questionable looks from family and household help.

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    Sleep training was a family experience.

    During the first week, Noah learned how to sleep without being bounced and carried. He was able to go to sleep on his own and was already sleeping through the night. My husband and I were amazed at the progress. Noah was clocking in so many hours at night and for the first time in so long, so were we. We also noticed that Noah was so much more alert, calm and happy during the day. Before, he would be so fussy that we had to carry him all the time. 

    The routine also made it much easier for us. My husband and I didn’t have to guess anymore if Noah was hungry or sleepy. Most importantly, I felt very confident as a mother. Now I understand my son and can give him what he needs. 

    The challenging part of sleep coaching was at the start, but once we got past that, the whole family became healthier and happier.

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    “It was like giving birth all over again”
    by Bea Tantoco, mom to Kalden, 23 months, and Bodhi, 5 months.

    I embarked on my sleep training journey with Gabrielle last May 2017 for our first child, Kalden, and our youngest, Bodhi. It would take me at least three hours to put both children to sleep by nursing and rocking Bodhi, and reading, singing and patting Kalden. If I add the nursing and pumping throughout the night, plus all other mommy duties, I was left completely depleted each day. 

    My maternity leave had just ended, and I was desperate. I tried various sleep methods from books to no avail. After reading Gabrielle’s article in SmartParenting.com.ph, I was very happy to know there was a sleep trainer in town. I emailed her immediately.

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    My advice to other moms seeking sleep training help: Do not wait until your child is a toddler.

    I remembered declining to do the program initially because it required a lot of commitment. Gabrielle told me what it took to work, and after four weeks, I would have my life back and more. I eventually realized that the training wasn’t just beneficial for us parents and our yayas. It was for my kids. Gabrielle told me that children could develop at their most optimum level emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally with good sleeping habits. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Shortly after we began, I already started noticing Kalden eating better, gaining weight and having fewer tantrums.

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    My sons share a room together now. On most days, it takes five minutes to put them to bed, and they both sleep through the night from 7 p.m. to about 7 a.m. In the morning, we go into their room and greet them with big hugs and good morning kisses. 

    It was a long and arduous journey to the finish line that took seven months for me to complete since I paused in between with Kalden. Here were the hardest parts for me: 

    1. Being apart from my kids during sleep time. I didn’t realize that I would need to have them sleep in a separate room. I often kissed and caressed them all night. But I was more grateful that I got more cuddle time with them while they’re awake, not fussy or overtired, or desperately needing me to help them fall asleep. The quality of our time together now is even more special and priceless. 
    2. Having to hear them cry and whimper. I will forever be terrified of hearing a baby’s whimper or cry from a monitor. I now understand the reasons why I needed to hear them cry — it’s the only way my babies can communicate to me. I can now determine in a shorter amount of time why they are crying. 
    3. Sleep training here in the Philippines is unheard of. This was the absolute hardest for me as I had very few people to run to for support apart from Gabrielle and two friends abroad. Because we have yayas here, it is the norm for the baby to sleep with the yaya or the parents. Our staff and my husband at first didn’t understand, and I totally get why. I do know now that they all thanked me for it, and I realize it was a great gift to all of us. 

    Sleep training was such a transformational experience. It was like giving birth all over again — it birthed a new mom in me and a new person in my children. 

    After training with two UK-based baby sleep trainers using various sleep training methods, Gabrielle Weil began her sleep coaching practice in 2015. You may reach her at babesofbliss@gmail.com. 

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