By Frannie Delhost
I like to think back to the time when my husband and I were married without kids, both in our late twenties. It was a very fun time in my life. We lived near Dallas, so there were many fun things to do. We would go out on the town to nice restaurants, baseball games, travel, and spend time with our other friends. We are both in the medical field so our weeks were fast-paced and sometimes stressful. All of our weekends were spent relaxing and having fun. This fun included one of our favorite past times, sleeping.
As a new Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, fresh out of school, I was trained with the most current research and pediatric guidelines. I was trained about infant colic, reflux, feeding and sleeping guidelines. I knew how to identify problems related to these issues and the recommend guidelines for treatment. There was never a course that included how to put a baby to sleep. There was not a course on what to do if your baby wants to be held all night or eat every thirty minutes. There was not a course on how to make your two year old child take a nap. I remember seeing new mothers for their well appointments with their newborns. They looked tired and in a newborn fog. In an attempt to screen for postpartum depression I would ask the magic question, “How are you doing? Are you making it through the newborn phase? Are you getting any sleep?” Almost immediately the tears would start flowing. The Mom would unload all of her exhaustion and anxieties with tears flowing. “I never knew it would be this hard….I feel like I just need a break.” Whatever the stressor may have been it always ended with, “I am just so tired.” Quickly I would begin giving my best advice on infant feeding and sleeping guidelines. Many times I would hear the same question from these Moms, “Do you have any kids?” I would feel almost guilty telling them, “No, but I am an Aunt with six years of pediatric experience and a Master’s Degree.” I could tell by her face, she was thinking, “She has no clue how hard a baby really is.” She was right; I had no clue.
The best day of my entire life occurred two years later with the birth of our first child. He was a beautiful, healthy and hungry baby boy, and the only boy on either side of the family. I had all of the latest and greatest baby gear; the swing, the nap nanny, the velcro swaddle, the pacifiers with the stuffed animal attached, and the carrier. I was perfectly prepared and ready to enjoy the next three months off. As I slowly recovered from his birth over the next thirty days, I started to get a true idea of what having a newborn was all about. It was hard! Our son, Sawyer, was a very gassy baby and had silent reflux. He also had an insane appetite.
And this wasn’t a cute little lost kitten cry; this was a “peel the paint off the walls” kind of cry.I had no idea a baby could drink so many ounces in one day. The more he ate, the gassier he became. The gassier he became, the harder he cried. And this wasn’t a cute little lost kitten cry; this was a “peel the paint off the walls” kind of cry. This cry really put a damper on my Target shopping; I couldn’t even lay him down long enough to shop online. One day in a frantic, I went to Toys R Us to look for more gear. Clearly, this expensive gear I bought was the wrong one. As soon as we got there Sawyer decided to scream like a pterodactyl that was being killed. I felt like the ladies that worked there were staring at me around every turn. Some looked sad with a faint familiar glare, clearly indicating they had a fussy baby twenty years ago. The others clearly had no children and seemed annoyed. I felt judged, frustrated, and above all overwhelmed. Every night was the same. We would bathe him, swaddle him, give him gas drops and feed him. He would be so exhausted from crying that he would be ready for bed at 6PM. He would sleep like a bear in hibernation, until about 10PM when we were finally getting into bed. Within a second of my head hitting the pillow, BAM…blood curdling screeches. And it would continue every two hours, all night long. Rocking didn’t help, burping didn’t help; nothing helped. I tried feeding more during the day, keeping him up longer, making him nap less, putting him to bed earlier, but nothing helped. After several weeks of this, I hit a wall. I didn’t think I could go much longer on no sleep. I was desperate. I started reading books. I started calling every one of my girlfriends with babies. I even called my co-worker, a pediatrician who basically just told me, “Yea, it sounds like he has colic, and there isn’t much you can do other than wait it out.” Everyone I talked to had strong and very different opinions and suggestions. Some moms had three babies that slept perfectly from day one. Some moms had completely given up and shared a bed with four kids and a dog while the husband slept in the nursery alone. Some moms drove their toddler around until 3AM and carried him to his toddler bed. Some moms told me to let him cry and get rid of the monitor. Other moms told me not to let him cry and to hold him all night long. Everyone had a different story and a different opinion. Even the pediatrician sort of shrugged his shoulders and talked about how hard his daughter was. What I quickly realized is, some people really have a natural way of teaching a baby to sleep, and some people just have easy babies. But no one had any decent, concrete advice. Everything seemed to make me more confused and feel even guiltier. I realize now that necessity is the mother of invention.
At around twelve weeks of age and after finally switching to a colic formula, the colic seemed much better. But the damage was done. He had already picked up all of the bad sleep habits. I hired a nanny to help me get some rest in the mornings, and she would be keeping Sawyer at my house when I went back to work the next week. She was a mother of two grown girls, and really seemed amazing. She quit the day before I was supposed to go back to work. She had only kept him twice. This was my rock bottom.
I decided I was too exhausted to return to work, and my husband and I mutually decided to move back home to Louisiana. I needed my Mom and my sisters to get me through this. There was no way I could do it alone.
Somewhere between selling our house, quitting both our jobs, moving to another state, and living with my mom until we bought our new house, I was able to teach Sawyer how to sleep through the night. It took close to six months, reading every sleep book, and definitely saying some prayers, but we did it. When the fog lifted, I had created one of the best sleepers on the planet. Like clockwork we would lay him in the crib, without rocking him and without a pacifier or bottle, and he would smile and squeal and fall asleep for twelve hours straight. He would nap twice a day and wake up laughing. I finally felt like myself again, and I was able to go back to work. My husband still shakes his head when we talk about how hard that was, but we made it. I started helping my friends and patients that were going through the same issues. They knew when I spoke to them that I had been through the exact same thing. They trusted my advice and were able to solve a lot of the same problems. Two and half years later, we had our daughter, Sally. She was a good sleeper from the start, but we were ready to face any sleep problems that might occur. My entire maternity leave was like a dream the second time. I enjoyed each day that I had with her, and knew that it would be over in the blink of an eye. Now, six years after my son was born, I have decided to put my experience to use. During my maternity leave, I would have loved to have a sleep specialist come to my house and help me teach my son to sleep. I think of all of the money I spent on gadgets and gear that did nothing. I would much rather have spent it on a sleep consultant. I needed someone to listen to me and tell me that I wasn’t failing at being a mom. I needed someone with experience who could easily point out what I was doing wrong and point me in the right direction. I needed a pediatric sleep guru!
I started Pediatric Sleep Consultants because sleep is my passion. Nothing in my career gives me more satisfaction than helping parents teach their child how to sleep. Through personal experience and from talking to thousands of patients, I know that every child is different. I also know that there isn’t only one way that works. By listening to the parents’ needs and hopes, we are able to come up with a customized plan to help their child sleep. We offer in-home, phone and email consults. We take new patients seven days a week, in and out of state. We also offer group sessions at the home of your choice. How fun would it be to have a wine night with two of your best girlfriends talking with us about your child’s sleep issues? We are also currently working on starting classes for pregnant mothers to learn about sleep techniques before the baby is even born! From a mom that has been there let me just say that there is hope! You can sleep again. Sleep is one of the most important things we can give to our children and ourselves. Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. We have to give ourselves time at night to renew our energy and time with our partners and friends. So, if you are at that point, if you have hit that wall, and you don’t know where to turn, call us!
Frannie Delhoste, RN,
Owner of Pediatric Sleep Consultants, LLC
Shreveport, LA 318.562.3929
Frannie Delhoste is a registered nurse and certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Northwestern State University. She has a Master’s Degree in Pediatric Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington. She graduated in 2008. She has spent the past nine years working in pediatric clinics in Texas and Louisiana. She has been at Barksdale Pediatric Clinic, Barksdale AFB since 2011.
Her passions include pediatric sleep and pediatric mental health and behavioral issues. She has been married for eight years to her husband Mark and is the proud mother to two children, Sawyer (age six) and Sally (age three). She loves relaxing, traveling, decorating, being creative and spending time with friends and above all else her family.