I promised I would post the results this week, but to be honest, it is still a work in progress.
I thought about postponing the post until next week because I wanted to come back and say— "It worked! Mazzy is a changed child! Parenting is like a dream job now!" But the truth is, parenting is freaking hard. Solutions don't always happen overnight. Or even in a week and a half. And both Erin and I thought you guys should know exactly what has been happening.
Last Monday (ten days ago), I implemented everything Erin outlined throughout the day and for bedtime routine. Shockingly, Mazzy went down with no problems whatsoever the first night. There were tons of surprises in this— she had no issue reading one book instead of four, was super excited to get the ten minutes of reading time as opposed to the five, and ATE UP the whole "three things I love about you". She was okay with turning out all the lights and okay with me taking away all the books. I think the novelty of everything was interesting for her. I left her room by 7pm and she fell asleep immediately.
Then I made the mistake of posting the following to a private group on facebook:
"People. Yesterday I had a consultation with a sleep expert about Mazzy, who has been driving me out of my mind lately. Today we followed everything she said to the letter and it's like I have a brand new daughter. She went to sleep tonight in two minutes. Usually she's up for hours screaming from her room. I don't want to get ahead of myself but it can't be this easy!!!"
This is the equivalent of Ginnifer Goodwin saying, "I've met the perfect guy and we're gonna get MARRIED!!!" in the first five minutes of a two hour romantic comedy.
Approximately three hours later, with crow in mouth, I was forced to post a most unfortunate development that is so over-the-top ridiculous I fear you will think I am making it up. I assure you, I AM NOT.
Let's just say, later that night, Mazzy very quietly crawled into our bed while Mike and I were *ahem* otherwise engaged. Mike addressed her before I knew what was happening and I am still getting over the shock. Also, it's a little hard to quickly and wordlessly lead your child back to their bed (as per Erin's instructions) when you have no explanation as to why you are fully naked.
At that moment, I knew this sleep training thing was not going to be the smoothest of rides.
Mazzy is a smart girl (Erin-confirmed) and it seems like once we get control over one area, she comes up with something else that throws us for a loop. Currently, she loves to hold her poop until fifteen minutes after we put her down for a nap. She has just been recently potty trained (although the poop is still an issue) so of course, she knows this is the impossible-to-ignore thing that will get our attention.
Because Mazzy has inserted so many twists and turns into sleep training, it has been very helpful to email back and forth with Erin to give her the daily rundown and switch up the plan when necessary.
For instance, when Mazzy continued to wake up in tears in the morning, Erin kept pushing her bedtime earlier, claiming Mazzy was still not getting enough sleep, until we had her in bed by 6pm.
To my amazement, I found that at 6pm, Mazzy goes to bed without a fuss, falls asleep within five minutes and wakes up fresh as a daisy. It also means that I must put her to bed fifteen minutes after I come home from work and Mike misses her altogether.
You see the problem?
Apparently, fixing Mazzy's sleep habits comes with a heaping dose of self-sacrifice.
Also, Erin says you have to be consistent to make a permanent change. Obviously, this is something I already know, but it has been a lot harder to implement in practice. I was very good with sticking to the plan last week and noticed continual improvements, but then we got to the weekend and everything was shot to shit.
Mazzy had a birthday party at noon on Saturday which is supposed to be when she takes her nap. We had dinner plans at 5pm which seems really early until you realize that we are supposed to put Mazzy in bed by 6pm. On Sunday, we had a family photoshoot that crept into naptime and we were scheduled to see friends across town in the afternoon. Mazzy fell asleep in the car on the way back.
This week it only got worse. It seems like every day brings unexpected circumstances designed to make "consistency" impossible— Grammy making an evening visit, me working late and missing bedtime, a surprise visit from Mike's aunt, our downstairs neighbors with a kid Mazzy's age unexpectedly dropping by two minutes before bedtime, etc.
Despite all of these hurdles, working with Erin has taught me a ton about my daughter's sleep patterns and what works for her and what doesn't.
For some reason, I previously thought being overtired shows up in the evening if your child skips their nap or misses bedtime, and then in the morning, you get to start over with a clean slate.
It seems obvious now, but if Mazzy goes to bed late, she is a complete nightmare in the morning. If she gets a full night of sleep, she wakes up happy and ready to start the day. We found that the earlier we put Mazzy to bed, the more well-behaved she is in the morning. And interestingly, whether we put her to bed at 6pm or at 8pm, she still wakes up at the exact same time.
Also, if we put Mazzy to sleep between 6-6:45, she falls asleep immediately. Whereas, if we put her to sleep from 6:45 or later, she will be up for the next two hours in her bed, grunt and groan throughout the night and then wake up like a bat out of hell. So even just putting her to bed ten minutes late, can result in two hours less sleep. I can't tell you how many times Mike and I have to turned to eachother over the past ten days and said, "Crap. We missed our window."
Even more importantly, I realized it's much harder to be mad at Mazzy when she is acting like a nightmare in the morning when it's now clear her behavior is the result of us scheduling something that didn't allow her to go to bed on time.
So, as I said, it's a work in progress. But we will stick with it because we have seen many positive signs that we are moving in the right direction.
Here are the things that are currently working for us:
1) Putting Mazzy to bed as early as possible
I thought Mazzy would notice we were putting her to bed early, but she really has no idea.
2) Taking TV away before bed
We used to battle every night when we turned off the TV because Mazzy always wanted to watch more. Without TV as an option, we ease into bedtime routine pretty seamlessly.
3) Waking up with Mazzy in the morning
Instead of dragging Mazzy into our bed and trying to make her fall back asleep when she comes into our bedroom at 5:45am, I have been getting up with her and taking her into the living room. Erin said to make her eat breakfast before I turn on the television, in hopes that Mazzy will start waking up later because she doesn't have TV as an incentive. While it hasn't detered Mazzy from waking up super early just yet, it has given the two of us some of the quality mother/daughter time we are now missing at night. Plus, if we do bedtime right, Mazzy is in a pretty good mood.
One thing we have really struggled with is naptime. Erin has been talking to our nanny to try and work out a plan and I am hopeful that it will eventually come together. Efffective, timely naps will be one of the things that allow us to keep Mazzy up a little later without effecting her in the morning.
I think what it boils down to is Erin's plan WILL WORK if we stick to it, but we might not always like the implications. Namely, less time with Mazzy at night and our lives revolving around Mazzy's strict sleep schedule on the weekends.
However, I'm finding that fifteen minutes of Mazzy acting pleasant and well-behaved is way better than two hours of Mazzy screaming her head off, whining like a baby and demanding everything in sight. As for being spontaneous and social, I guess we'll have to judge those opportunities as they come up and weigh the consequences.
Before I go, I wanted to share a letter I received in my inbox this morning from someone who also used Erin after I talked about her last week:
"I just wanted to say thank you for posting about sleep consultant Erin from Pickles and Ice cream. I contacted her the day after your post because we were truly at the end of our rope with our 2.5 year old son and his sleep issues (which we quickly realized were really OUR issues with not setting boundaries! Parenting is so humbling). We skyped with her last Sunday and implemented the plan the following day. While the first night was pure torture, we have seen progress every day and so far have had two full nights of sleep with no night waking and no hysteria at bed time. So beautiful after months of sleepless hell that I almost cried this morning."
Which just goes to show you that everybody's situation/child/circumstances/results are very different. Just because I am having a hard time, doesn't mean the solution isn't easier for you.
With that in mind, I have two things to offer today. First, I am giving away one full consultation with Erin, which includes an hour conversation over phone or skype, a customized sleep plan designed just for your family and and two weeks of communication. This service is valued at $150.
1) You must be a Mommy Shorts facebook fan to enter. Then leave a comment below describing your current sleep issue as briefly as possible.
2) For a second entry, please follow @mommyshorts on twitter, tweet the following and leave a comment saying that you did so:
"I entered to win a full consultation with a child sleep specialist via @mommyshorts and @childsleephelp http://bit.ly/WMLV5c"
3) For a third entry, follow Mommy Shorts on Pinterest and pin the graphic below with the caption "Enter to win a full consultation with a child sleep specialist from Pickles & Ice Cream". Then leave a comment saying you did so.
Winner will be selected at random and announced March 15th.