This case study was written by Jilly Blankenship MPH, IBCLC, RN from BabySleepMadeSimple.com
Jilly is a pediatric nurse, lactation consultant, and Mom. Her passion is helping exhausted moms get their babies sleeping well so they can get their energy back, start feeling like themselves again and enjoy these precious years.
Her website BabySleepMadeSimple.com is filled with free resources and support for tired parents. She offers a free Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit which walks parents through the first steps of teaching their baby to sleep well.
Donna and 14 month-old Lincoln
Donna heard about my program from her friend, Taryn, who’d recently gotten her baby sleeping through the night.
On her first day in the program, she wrote in our private Facebook group:
“Hi Jilly. I’m a single mom to Lincoln who is 14 months old. We live in Australia. Lincoln has never been a great sleeper. I recently made changes to our bedtime routine after joining your Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit.
Since I started your recommended Peaceful Nightly Ritual, Lincoln self-settles easier at bedtime and nap time has improved without any changes!
Our problem is that he does not sleep through the night and there is no pattern to his wakings (different times of the night, usually 1-3 times each night, and he settles differently each time).
I’m truly looking forward to a decent night’s sleep as he has only slept through 5 nights in his life and I don’t have anyone to take turns with. Please help!”
Donna wanted Lincoln to sleep well at night so he’d be less irritable at the end of the day. (And so he wouldn’t have dark circles under his puffy eyes.) She was also hoping that a full night’s sleep would help him get sick less often.
Poor Donna’s body was aching and she was constantly feeling exhausted. Waking up all night long was making her feel negative in general. She didn’t feel like she was the mom she thought she would be, which felt terrible.
Donna wanted to feel positive and productive. Most of all, she wanted to make the most of each day with her beautiful boy.
How Lincoln Began Sleeping Through the Night
Here’s a timeline of how Lincoln’s sleep progressed in 21 Days to Peace & Quiet.
Donna starts the program and takes the toddler personality quiz. She introduces herself in the private Facebook group and explains her sleep struggles. I recommended that she change a few details of her bedtime routine to help break Lincoln’s dependence on feeding to sleep. This often helps children sleep longer overnight.
Donna wrote in our Facebook group:
I have to admit, even I was surprised with how quickly Lincoln responded! For most babies, night wakings decrease slowly over a span of several days. It’s important to note that Lincoln still woke twice in the night, but because he was shown how to fall asleep on his own at bedtime, he was able to resettle himself during the night.
Donna kept working on getting Lincoln to fall asleep on his own at bedtime. This is an essential part of helping children sleep through the night. I offer several step-by-step sleep training plans for parents to choose from. Donna chose a plan that she thought was a great fit for Lincoln’s personality.
It took about 20 minutes for him to fall asleep at bedtime. He was up for 40 minutes during the night working to resettle himself. Then he slept through until the morning.
This isn’t uncommon. When babies are used to waking throughout the night, it usually takes several days to weeks to get their bodies to adapt to sleeping longer stretches.
Lincoln woke in the night a few times. What was different, though, was that Donna felt confident in how to handle it. She was able to decipher his cries because lesson 3 in my program shows you how to do this.
Some of Lincoln’s noises were just frustration and him trying to settle himself. One cry was particularly strong, though, so Donna went to him- turns out he had a dirty diaper. She changed him, fed him, and he went back to sleep quickly. So different than just a few nights earlier!
Lincoln had about 4 wake ups but they were brief and Donna only had to go to him once. These are typical results as a baby learns to settle himself. HIs body is used to waking often, so he will continue to wake for several nights. The difference is that now he knows how to fall back asleep by himself. Of course, Donna still woke throughout the night too. But, she got to stay in her bed and fall right back to sleep. They’re making great progress!
Donna wrote in the Facebook group:
Lincoln continued sleeping well each night. Donna heard him occasionally wake for brief periods and settle himself back to sleep- without tears!
In a matter of 1-2 weeks, Lincoln was sleeping 11-12 hours straight at night. Remember, this was something he’d only done FIVE TIMES in the past 14 months!
All kids have bad nights, and Lincoln is no exception. He went through another teething phase, which made him wake every few hours for two nights. Donna only had to go to him once each night and help him settle. The other times he babbled to himself, rolled around for a while and fell back asleep without crying.
Of course, it was tiring for Lincoln and Donna to be woken throughout the night. But, this time was different. Donna knew it was a temporary glitch that must be due to something. (On day 3 a new tooth popped out, confirming her suspicions.) After that, Lincoln went back to sleeping all night.
Did He Continue Sleeping Through the Night?
The best thing for Donna was that she had a plan for handling sleep disruptions. The program taught her about how sleep regressions, teething, illness, and travel can disrupt sleep and showed her how to handle it. For her, this was priceless.
Donna tells me she’s more confident and happier in general. Getting long, restful sleep every night has rejuvenated her energy, her moods, and her outlook. She knows that tricky nights will happen, but she doesn’t fear them because she has a plan.
Lincoln is an even happier kid. His puffy eyes have gone away and he no longer has a meltdown every evening before bed.
Donna has set herself up for success. The toddler years can be trying as her little guy will test limits, push boundaries and assert his will (which is normal behavior for toddlers.) Raising a toddler on broken sleep is a recipe for disaster. A toddler will have bigger and longer meltdowns when he’s over-tired.
Sleep gives moms energy, resilience and the ability to cope with little dictators- I mean kids!
Although I can’t guarantee that every child will respond as Lincoln did, his story is a typical example of how children progress in my program. Your child’s results will depend on his age, temperament, the method used and also your dedication and consistency.
You can find more information on Jilly’s sleep programs HERE.
And check out her FREE Exhausted Mom’s Survival Kit here which walks you through the first steps of teaching your baby to sleep well.