My name is Andrés and I’m married to Karen, the Sleep Fairy.
Back in 2017, when we were expecting our daughter, we had recently married and I had been promoted to a team leader function less than a year before. I knew (or rather, I believed) I wouldn’t immediately be in the position to take off a month when our child would be born as work wouldn’t allow it.
Isabelle was born in January 2018, during one of the busiest salesmonths for our company. I took two weeks off, to be with my wife and newborn, out of which I ended up working on five days – what a terrible start to fatherhood.
Most of the time it would be Karen that ended up bringing our child to bed. I would try and regularly encounter a crying baby that wouldn’t let itself calm down by me. The first weeks and months passed and while the bond between my daughter and I grew, I still worked and travelled a lot due to business. So much that I wouldn’t see the struggle Karen was going through multiple times a day to bring Isabelle to bed.
Do we really need a sleepcoach to help us?
I remember the first time when Karen brought up the idea of sleep coaching. I didn’t know what it was and when I found out, I was against it. I thought we didn’t need it, that it would get better. This was at a time when either she or I would bring our daughter to (our) bed and lie next to her so she would fall asleep, just for us to sneak out (if the bed, door or anything didn’t make too much sound) until she would wake up and cry again – and then repeat the procedure. This procedure would lead to one of us just giving in and going to bed early, just to ensure our daughter would sleep.
I thought we didn’t need a sleepcoach because on one side I didn’t believe it could work, on another side I had the hope that Isabelle would actually be able to fall asleep by herself.
What did I go through when bringing Isabelle to bed, before coaching?: anxiety, stress, frustration, resignation, tiredness, sadness. There was little quality time as partners. We would not meet friends because of Isabelle’s sleep issues.
It was Karen’s decisiveness but as well the fact that she was the one enduring most of the sleep problems that made me change my mind.
Listen to your partner when they say they need help
It’s easy for the parent who’s not always there (often Dads, like me) to say and feel “it’ll get better”,”our parents managed it as well”. When you put yourself in the other’s shoes and try to fathom what you feel if you underwent a lot of sleepless nights, the frustration that comes along and the impact it has on your health and mood, your mind may start to envision that the potential reward outweighs the small financial risk.
Was I fully convinced? Still not. But I thought that if Isabelle would only manage to sleep 5-6 hours without interruption at night, and therefore Karen would be able sleep 5-6 hours per night, it would be the best investment in a long while. And the best case would be double that!
What’s it worth for me?
For me, the decision for sleep coaching meant acknowledging we had reached our limits, that I was being selfish by objecting, as my wife was the one suffering the most and that good sleep, actually is priceless.
When I mean priceless, I think of it as an actual investment. I would even say it’s one of the few where you can actually trade money (coaching fee) for time (time that your child is sleeping, time for yourself/ves).
Ask yourself: are you willing to get a crappy hotel during your vacation, knowing that you may not sleep well? Assuming you enjoy a good night of sleep when on vacation, how much would you be willing to pay for a good night of sleep at home? How much is it worth regaining (for your kid, but honestly, for you and/or your partner) 2, 4, 6 or more hours of uninterrupted sleep, not only for one night, but permanently?
How much more can you do/achieve by getting those hours back? Quality time with your partner, connecting with friends and family, relaxing or working on a side project – the possibilities are once again endless.
And it’s not only that. But bringing your child to bed is more enjoyable and fun.
Slow step by step process
This didn’t change immediately when we started the coaching, but a few different emotions started to become stronger during bedtime ritual: happiness, relief, pride and hope with every little step towards sleeping the night through.
It still took a while to be less scared of making any sounds (“don’t flush!”, “oh no, she’ll wake up”) but I cannot emphasize the difference it made in our lives.
Now I may be expected to write all this, because I’m married to the Sleep Fairy, but I won’t stop just here.
I will not say our daughter sleeps every night through. You just cannot win every game, no one does. But she’s a much better sleeper and we have consecutive weeks where she sleeps her 11-12 hours without us having to intervene and help her sleep.
It took a bit of time to adjust to keep a certain rhythm for naps and sleeps for her and that meant for me that I am not able to see her ‘awake’ when I come home from work if I come home past her usual bedtime.
We do what works for us as a family
We don’t keep the sleep coaching rhythm day in and day out. But we try to honor what works best for our little one as this is what works best for us as a family.
I remember having conversations with friends in Hamburg during a business trip and telling them about Karen, Sleepcoaching and how long the process takes. I’ll never forget their question: “If we pay double, would the child (they didn’t have one back then) learn how to sleep in two weeks instead of four?” (Read answer at the end).
A word of advice, though. Be cautious of whom you talk about the coaching before you go through the process. While talking to your pediatrician is obviously totally fine, I was surprised how much disbelief came from others. Be it our family wondering what a sleep coach does and why we would get one (‘back then, we never worried about your sleep, you would just fall asleep when you were tired’) or other parents telling you their child sleeps just fine.
Talk about it openly
Since I became a father, I have opened my eyes more to the fact that we still live in a world where most of the time it’s the mommies taking care of the children and the dad’s pursuing a career, out of whichever reason. I’ve seen hard dads work long hours and travel a lot. Rarely had I heard anyone complaining about sleep issues of children. That may be because dads see and feel these disruptions less or because we’re more happy to talk about the pride instead of the challenges we face.
Fact is, I felt even when talking to mommies, no one would have children with sleep problems. I felt either we were failing big time or everyone was lying to us when they said their children slept through the night.
Maybe it is partially due to peer pressure and because no one likes to talk about what their children can’t do. It’s much more pleasant to talk about achievements and milestones reached early.
Be ready to encounter some doubts or disbelief from others. That’s ok. Not everyone needs to agree. It is you as parents that are responsible for the wellbeing of your child and deciding what’s best for her/him.
Ask yourself the following questions
Closing words for financial doubters, these two approaches may open your eyes:
- Imagine the sleep rhythm would stay the same as it is now for the next two years. How do you feel? And how much better would you feel if you could just add 1-2 hours of sleep per night? And now think of how it would feel when your child sleeps 10-12 hours through. If you consider the value over time, it is much cheaper than getting extra coffee/tea every time to get through the day.
- What is the minimum effective dose you need to improve the sleep habits of your child? Do you need premium or will a one time call bring you on track? As with many things – you can always top up later.
Coming back to the question of doubling payments to cut sleep coaching time in half, you already know the answer. It’s not possible, but as you’ll notice, time flies by much faster when getting some sleep again.