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Sleep Training Regrets and Mom Guilt Mantras

I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my business… Recently I was feeling very overwhelmed by it all. And truth be told, I even considered throwing in the towel! Don’t worry.. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been meeting with a fabulous business coach, getting my head on straight, and figuring out just how I want this all to work for me! But it certainly hasn’t been without low moments. The entrepreneur life is tough.

As a sleep consultant I become extremely emotionally invested in the families I work with, and sometimes that can all feel like too much on top of my own, already emotional spirit, and my own family whom I care very deeply for.

When I started Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts Sleep Consulting 3 years ago my mission was pretty simple. I wanted to help families get more sleep. I wanted to see more people enjoy their time with their new baby, feel less stress and anxiety, and explore parenting as a well-rested, family. And I wanted to give those families a choice in how to do this. Always, a choice. And I believe for the most part I have been able to do this.

It is no secret that I worked with a sleep consultant when I had my first child, and this experience did change everything for me. It moved me beyond the cloud of depression and anxiety I was under, and I began to really love my daughter. Wholeheartedly. Excitedly. Love her. After a full night’s rest I would greet her in the morning happy to see her. And at the time I believed the decisions I had made to sleep train her were absolutely the best decisions I could have made for my family. And I told myself I would have no regrets. But alas, I do.

Something about that decision never felt quite right to me. I was so incredibly desperate for sleep in that moment that I literally would have done ANYTHING for it. I felt like I had tried everything in the process, and if this person had of told me that in order to get more sleep I needed to tap dance up and down, on the roof of a car, dressed like a monkey in a clown suit.. I would have done it! As ridiculous as that sounds. I truly would have done it.

So I “ferberized” my baby. Yup. I put her down to sleep, I walked out of the room listening to her cry from down the hall, and returned at set intervals. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Even extending to 20 minutes. It broke my heart, but I did it. I was told that this was the only way I could have a sleeping baby, and so I followed through as best I could.

There were no other options presented to me at the time. Nothing. No SLS, no camping out, no gradual retreat, no pick-up put down, no parenting to sleep. Nothing. I did not even know other options to get your baby to sleep existed beyond rocking her for 1.5 hours, or controlled crying to teach her to “self soothe”.

The problem for me now is that I know so much more than I did then. Every day I am learning more. Every day I am a better sleep coach than I was the week before. And so, I look back on that time and I really do regret some of the parenting choices I made around my daughter’s sleep. If only babies came with a manual! Argh.

Mom guilt is the real deal. 

We all experience it. If I didn’t experience it as a result of sleep training my child, I would have just experienced it in another form. I also have guilt over banging her head on the car door while getting her into her car seat. Forcing her to use the potty before she was 100% ready, and leaving her to cry in the night only to find out the next day that she had a double ear infection. UGH. I am no perfect mom, that is for sure. And I certainly wouldn’t feel right portraying myself as such.

But one of the things I have had to do is come to terms with the mom guilt. Come to terms with the decisions I have made in parenting; including the way I sleep-trained my daughter. And I know I am probably not alone. So here are some of the things that have helped me.

Some Mom Guilt is Good

Guilt doesn’t feel good. It is an emotion that is hard to sit with. It causes us to look inward, to self-reflect, and to right our wrongs. I can tell you if controlled crying sleep training felt great to me, I would have never had a reason to look elsewhere! I would have never had a reason to learn what other sleep methodologies exist, and I would have never found bebo.mia., who offers a highly scientific, research based, approach to infant sleep.

I’ve always liked self-reflection. I have always found it has propelled my business forward. I have felt it has propelled me as a human forward, and without these gross feelings I would never have a reason to look at what’s not working, and why this is so.

I have learned from all my “mama guilt moments”. I have become a better parent as a result of these moments. And in the process, I believe, a better sleep coach as well.

Parenting is a Journey

To know more is to do better. I know more than I did in 2013, and so I choose now to do more with that knowledge I have. If I can parent in a more instinctive, more connected, more conscious way – I am going to do it! And by golly. I am doing it. I love the way I am parenting this little girl now. I look in her eyes each day and know we are in this together. I know my heart is at the focus of all of the decisions I am making now, and I know I am strengthening our bond each day as a result of the knowledge I have now.

Exercises To Help Move Beyond

One of the things I have done is written a letter to my daughter. I have apologized (specifically for the time I let her cry then found out about the double ear infection). I have written this as an apology to her. But also as a promise that from here on forward I will always come when she asks, and she can trust that I will be there for every difficult conversation. I haven’t given her this letter yet. But perhaps some day I will.

Positive Affirmations

One thing I do is set reminders to tell myself the following few things every time these regrets pop into my head.

All of the parenting decisions I have made to this point were done with the best of intention.

All of the parenting decisions I have made to this point were made out of love, with hopes of doing what was right for my family, with the knowledge I had at that point in time.

I can never be a perfect parent. But I will have perfect parenting moments.

Every day is an opportunity for increased connection with my child.

I can’t go back and change what I did when I sleep trained my own child – but I can help other parents make decisions that they feel more comfortable and confident about.

I hope that this blog may be helpful to someone out there. If only for you to know I am not a perfect parent, I have regrets too, and some days the guilt gets the best of me. But I know now that this is just all part of the journey. I am a good mom. My family loves me. And I know I am parenting with heart.



PS – In case you are unaware, I no longer practice controlled crying forms of sleep training. I made this shift over the past 6 months, and I am very happy supporting families using other methodologies. This post is not meant to place any blame or shame on any one. I trust that those who have decided to sleep train their child with a controlled crying approach have come at this decision in a way similar to the way I did 4 years ago. You are the expert on your child, and I know for some families this may actually be the best fit.

Thank you to Astrid Miller Photography for capturing me and my daughter so well.

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Transitioning Your Child to their Own Sleep Space

Where should your baby sleep? Crib, co-sleeper, bed, bassinet, DockAtot?! The possibilities are endless. And although you swore up and down while expecting that you would NEVER end up with a baby in your bed, we all know how that sometimes plays out!

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that a baby sleep in a crib in their parent’s room for the first 6 months of their life. They define this as “co-sleeping”, I however, define this as “room-sharing”, and tend to think of co-sleeping as truly having your baby share the bed with one or more parent through some part of the day or night.

Now before you think I am going to write a blog shaming you for co-sleeping, continue reading. Ha! That would never be my intention because really, I don’t give a f*ck where your family sleeps. I don’t sleep in your bed, so.. why would I care? I trust that you have made a decision that fits your family’s lifestyle, and that if you have decided to co-sleep; you are of course following all precautions to do so safely such as those listed here.

What this article is about is HOW to prepare your child to sleep in their own room, and in their own crib, when that time comes. Do you just decide one night that this is how it will be? Rip off the band-aid and let er fly?!

I am going to go with… No… I always think, what would the baby prefer? How can we adjust baby to a new scenario in a way that is most natural, and more likely to invoke a positive response?

Step 1: Begin Building a Positive Room Association

Essentially this means playing with your child in their new sleep space. Make a focused effort to go to this room a few times per day. Bring some of your baby or toddler’s favourite toys, and enjoy the space together. Play on the floor. Offer them your focused attention. Read some stories, and sing some songs in their new room. Do this for at least a couple of days, before moving on to the next step. 10 or 15 minutes twice per day tends to be a good guideline in terms of spending focused time.

Step 2: Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Crib or Bed

If this is a place your baby has never slept before, it may be completely foreign to them. If you have seen your baby go into their crib and immediately burst into tears upon hitting the mattress, it is pretty safe to say they have no clue what this space is for, and whether or not they should trust it! Let’s get them comfortable here.

We want our babies to see their crib as a safe haven. Therefore, when they do wake up through the middle of the night they know where they are. They trust that this is a place they like and enjoy, and can spend a few minutes looking around and relaxing in before they fall asleep, as well as, return to sleep through partial arousals in the night.

Follow the same ritual as you did in preparing your child for their new room. Allow your child to PLAY in their crib. I know I know… some of you are saying, but I want her to SLEEP in her crib, why on earth would I let her play in it?! Isn’t that just going to teach her that this space is for playing in? No. No it is not. For the reasons listed above! We want this to become one of your child’s favourite, most comfortable places, and one way to achieve this is through play.

At first, stay with your child and truly entertain them. Bring them toys, read them books while they are in their crib, sing songs etc. Then begin to build up your time away. Begin to do something in your child’s room. For example; fold laundry, or begin going through their closet and sort the clothes that no longer fit! When your baby babbles, go over to the crib and babble back. Show your love and support and that you will always be there to check on them. They can feel safe knowing you are always going to respond to their needs while they are in their crib.

Next, move on to the step of leaving your child to play in their crib for a few minutes at a time. Say, “mommy is just going to go get a glass of water, or check on brother, etc,” you get the idea. Leave the room but stay within earshot. Do return as you promised you would, and babble back at baby. At first you may just leave the room for 30 – 45 seconds, but see if you can grow this to 2 or 3 minutes, and even up to 5. Every return to your baby shows them that they can in fact trust you, and you mean what you say in terms of offering them support.

If you are planning to do any “sleep shaping” with your little one, I see the above as an essential step i