My daughter Stella was six months old, and I was desperate. She had been a good sleeper in the beginning few months of her life. She even slept eight hours straight the night before Mother’s Day, and I thought it was the best gift I’ve ever received. But around five months, she started waking up every 90 minutes — and howling.
She was still in a bassinet in our room, and hoping to minimize the noise for my husband who had to get up for work the next morning, I would quickly pick her up and nurse her back to sleep. I knew this wasn’t teaching her any “good habits” but I was stuck in this pattern — and miserable. I asked friends for sleep coaching recommendations but learned it might take (many, many) hundreds of dollars for me to “teach my baby to sleep.”
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My pediatrician recommended Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, but I was so tired, I didn’t have the energy to read a 430-page manual. Luckily, around the same time, I heard about the new Owlet Dream Lab. It launched this past October and cost $179, which is a lot — but also a lot less than hiring a sleep coach to come to my Manhattan home. The program promised my child would be sleeping through the night in a week. Honestly, it sounded impossible. But I was desperate, so I tried it.
The program has you complete a sleep evaluation, and in exchange it provides you with the tools to “eliminate the barriers to your child’s sleep” (or so the program claims) as well as a day-by-day plan with exact times to follow for naps and bedtime. It also has 45 minutes of video tutorials. Couldn’t hurt, I thought.
My daughter was six months old when I started the program (it’s designed for babies four to 12 months), and the Owlet experts promised me my daughter was capable of sleeping 11-12 straight hours at night and two to three total hours during the day. I was shocked; this was a far cry from the two hours at night we were averaging without a wake-up.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t start a program like this if your child is sick, a parent is sick, or you’re going on vacation in the next week, for example. You need to commit to the plan and a strict schedule. Plus, things get worse before they get better, so you need to focus on this first and foremost. And of course, if your child has any health issues you should absolutely run your sleep plan past their pediatrician first.
The Owlet creators Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger developed the program to help parents teach their child to sleep with “as few tears as possible.” There are three methods you can choose from — visit, touch, and stay. Visit is the fastest, where you physically leave the room while the child learns to self-soothe (this is similar to the Ferber method). Touch takes a little longer, since you’re interacting more with baby during the process. Stay means you are next to your child, in their room, and gradually move further away throughout the training.
They also explain the five main “sleep stealers.” Sleep environment, like where baby sleeps and what she wears, Routines, Sleep Associations like pacifiers, rocking, and nursing to sleep, Sleep Schedule, and Night Noshing. Each category presented questions to help you choose the best method for your “issues.” I choose the visit method.
I put Stella down to sleep at 7:45pm, which is late, but works for our family’s schedule. She fussed for a minute but feel asleep fast (the initial put down was never our problem). I preemptively woke her for a dream feed at 10:38pm and again at 1:30am. At 2:52am, she woke up screaming. I checked on her in 5, 10, and then 15 minute intervals for 1 HOUR AND 16 MINUTES. I live in an apartment building in NYC, and I’m sure my neighbors were not pleased with me. Hearing her cry was excruciating, but as the experts tell you, you have to stick it out if you want results.
She woke up at 12:46am and was back to sleep by 1:02am. A massive improvement! I kept her dream feed, and still woke up twice to feed her, at 2:26am and 4:45am, BEFORE she cried – that was key. To wean from night feedings, you subtract an ounce (if bottle feeding) or two minutes of nursing from each feeding, each night. Be sure to add those ounces back into daytime feedings.
By night three, she was already self-soothing. She woke up twice and put herself back to sleep within 5 minutes each time. It was working! As you log your data into the personalized program, you’ll get encouraging messages along the way: “Stella took about 5 mins to fall asleep. That’s 5 mins less than last time! Stella is getting better at this every time she practices. Stay consistent! You got this!”
Then, we had a bit of a set-back, which the experts say is totally normal. When I visited her to offer a reassuring “it’s still night time. Go back to sleep, I love you” message (no touching!), she got MORE upset and cried harder. It took about 30 minutes for her to go back to sleep at 3am. But she did go back to sleep.
She woke up at 2:40am and 5:10am. She put herself back to sleep both times without any check-ins from me.
She SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT! I was ecstatic. Obviously, I still didn’t get a great night’s sleep since I was glued to the monitor, but she was finally sleeping and I was deliriously happy that the training had worked. Was it seriously that fast and easy?
Since completing the week-long program, Stella has been sleeping through the night, even on “vacation” at my in-laws in a pack and play, through her two front teeth busting through, and a super snotty 10 days, which our pediatrician said was bad allergies.
Occasionally, she wakes up at night, but she almost always self-soothes, or will go back to sleep after a check-in or two. After spending over a month waking up to her screaming every two hours, and nursing three to four times a night, I didn’t think I could turn it all around in a week. But the program really worked for me and I’m a much happier mom after sleeping through the night. Your Dream Lab account is active for six months, and during that time, you can access additional resources, like twice-weekly live webinars, where the experts answer questions, like how to navigate daylight savings time. Plus, you can search previous webinar transcripts if you need an answer immediately.
Getting those extra hours of sleep every night is priceless – for me and for my growing baby – so do yourself a favor, and start sleep training tonight.
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