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Dear Zombie Parent – Changing Sleep Hard But Rewarding!

A sample email from a desperate and exhausted mommy.

Message to Compassionate Sleep Solutions:

Mom is a zombie due to no sleep!
Is a lack of sleep turning you into a zombie?

My 7-month old nurses to sleep for nights and naps.  He wakes exhausted and so do I. He wakes after 45 minutes of night sleep, and continues to wake every few minutes to every two hours all night long. I am a zombie and not able to parent my oldest with love and respect as I feel I always have.  I feel like I have been obsessing over my baby’s sleep since he was 3 months old but didn’t know “how to change” and here we are again in the same place I was with my oldest (nursing to sleep). I feel very, very anxious to go through another 3 years of no sleep and how it will affect my health.

Extremely anxious…. can’t decide how sleep learning sits with me but wanting to consider it.


  • Asking him to change
  • My baby crying for help
  • Me not “doing what he knows”
  • Is the stress too much for him (or us)? Is he capable, ready?
  • Will there be regret?
  • Will he be detached?

Very anxious and also feeling SO guilty and regretful that I “got him here”. I am sleep deprived and constantly obsessing over sleep.  All to say just feeling unsure.  Am I being unfair to him or taking the easy route by forcing a change?  OR, is it possible that this is best for him, for our family.  Some hope there.

Please help!
Zombie Mommy

My reply:

Dear Zombie Mommy,
I feel your pain. And I am here to offer you a place among the living.
Thank you for your honesty and openness. You state the common
ground of that place where many mommies send out their cry for help.

The rock and the hard place.

  • The rock – The Gibraltar nature of this rock is a common starting point. This rock makes it clear that we can’t continue in the current way that sleep is being done.
  • The hard place –  These are the mixed emotions of anxiety about change and the all too common “mommy guilt” that got us in this jam to begin with. Our natural aversion to change makes us think change will be bad for our baby. Not so!

Your concerns and anxieties

Asking him to change

Change in the first 3 years of life is part of the experience.  As far as change goes there is never an easier time to handle change than in the first 24 years of life. In fact throughout childhood and adolescence we eagerly seek it out. It is called novel experience. After that – not so much.

Him crying for help

You will be able to help him. By not fixing sleep for him or rescuing him he will learn a new skill. It truly is “on their own with our help”.

Me not doing what he knows

You will show him a new way. The new way will be more functional. The new way will be for the betterment of the entire family including him. This is healthy. This is learning. He is all about learning. Mommies are all about healthy. We have to show our children what healthy is until they learn what healthy is. Once they learn they grow up and hopefully become adults who can make their own healthy choices. (Hey, all of us have downed an entire bag of Cheetos while watching the Twilight marathon on TBS.)

Your questions:

Is the stress too much for him? No.

It is too much for you? Maybe. That is where I come in. Helping moms with skills to ease stress and anxiety. That is my specialty. It works!

Will there be regret? Maybe. Many parents I work with regret they waited years for good sleep. If we look at the elements of regret there is sadness, disappointment, loss and grief. This means at some point we will experience regret. Considering how invested we are in our child’s experience then eventually we are bound to feel some of those elements.

Couple regretting not fixing sleep earlier
Cheetos? What Cheetos? 

However, regret feels solid and hard. Another rock, another hard place. Regret is being stuck in a perpetual loop of those elements above. It feels like s#!t. Being stuck in the deep doody of regret is hard to transform. Deep regret is for grownups. Children don’t get stuck there. Regret is ego driven and they have no ego – yet. It is why they are so free and happy. They are far too fluid and changing to waste time in such a waste of time that regret can become. The only thing that transforms regret is compassion for the self and the other. Forgiveness, love and compassion are the antidotes for regret.

Will he be detached? – No. He will be separate. There is a HUGE difference.

The process assisting, and at the same time allowing our children to learn a new skill that is for their own good as well as the well being of the entire family supports healthy attachment. Read my blog post Attach This about attachment theory and limbic attunement. In fact the process I teach increases the already secure attachment and healthy bond. We are allowing and assisting our babies in the long developmental stage (3-4 years) of becoming self soothing. It happens incrementally and we are supporting their developmental abilities in this regard.

“Am I being unfair to him or taking the easy route by forcing a change?” I assure you that you are not being unfair nor forcing a change. It is incredibly supportive to allow changes to occur that are developmentally appropriate.

If there were an easy route out, I would be the magical fairy godmother of sleep and I would be spreading that magic all over the globe. I may have clients far and wide who think I am magic. But this is not magic. It is about choice. A common feeling (not fact) about feeling stuck, is the feeling that we have no choice.  Unless your baby’s name is Kim Jon-un and calls himself the Supreme Leader – then you do indeed have a choice.
If I did have a magic wand the first thing I would do would be to absolve you of any guilt and regret. Wand waving would be a full time job in parenting support. That action alone would change weather patterns on the planet I am sure.
Image of unicorns. Babies who sleep through the night aren't rare as unicornsUnfortunately, there is no mythical sleep land where one finds a herd of unicorn babies who sleep through the night from birth and effortlessly make the transitions of sleep and development without so much as a struggle or a tear. There have been sightings of such babies. But they are rare and somewhat mythical creatures.

Fantasy hope is wonderful but it most often leads back to the rock and hard place.

Here is the truth.
Your 7 – month old baby is ready to learn two things…
  1. The falling that it takes to fall asleep
  2. That he is safe and he can be content in separateness
AND he can learn this with your love, support, connection and care.
Furthermore, you are in good company. I obsess over sleep AND I am a friend of anxiety.  Unfortunately, that has led to more sleepless nights than actual rest.
Compassionate Sleep Solutions is an honest approach.  Children can handle honesty. In fact they are better at truth/honesty than most adults are. With no ego, judgement or pride (yet) they are the most authentic human beings among us. They more often know the truth before any adult has to hand it over. Quite often they know the truth before we do. This makes our children the most honest, immediate and accurate mirror we will ever place before us. If there is a problem with sleep and you are not enjoying a peaceful experience in this human need then your baby knows this.
The infant’s first understanding of his world is the physical environment and the non-verbal visual and sensory cues of your home environment. This includes the non-verbal facial expressions and gestures of the parent as well. This sensual being that is your baby is a little tuning fork to the emotional context of this environment.
  1. Image of fish jumping form one bowl to another. Change can be hard when sleep training your childHow we prepare ourselves for change is key.
  2. How we prepare the infant/toddler for change is key.
  3. Following through with consistency and connectedness is key.
  4. How we show up in emotional connection is key
  5. How I teach this process is effective and reduces crying and the distress the parent feels in the face of the cry.

To learn more about The Compassionate Sleep Solution

come to Eileen’s classes at The Mama’hood in Boulder.

 SleepTalk with Eileen 2

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