I was contacted in April by a family seeking help with their 9 month daughter. She woke every 2 – 4 hours during the night, needed to be fed or rocked back to sleep and was co sleeping for part or all of the night. Both parents were understandably exhausted, and were keen to find a solution that fitted in with their gentle, responsive, baby led parenting approach. They were in agreement that they were ready for change, and were keen for their baby to sleep in her cot for naps and at night, and for their nights to become less demanding, especially important as mum was soon to be returning to work.
I pride myself in offering solutions and strategies that are sensitive and responsive to individual babies, and the parenting style of a family, rather than a “one size fits all” approach for solving sleep issues.
It was important that each stage of the sleep program was broken down in to very small, gentle steps, which sat comfortably with the parents. Their personalised sleep plan included each strategy and suggestions being explained in detail. It contained a very comprehensive chart, divided into 4 night sections, detailing exactly which form of comfort they would be offering the baby at wakings, in order to help her to learn to settle herself off to sleep, as well as suggested feed times to help extend the period of time between her feeds. The chart is very useful when both parents are helping to settle the baby as everyone is aware of exactly what night of the plan they are on, and what strategies are being used which limits confusion at 3.30am!!
So – how did they get on? Here are excerpts from their emails, which tells their amazing story …………….
4th May “So after a bit of a delay whilst we sorted the curtains and a third tooth popped through (!) we finally made a start last night. The first night went much better than we thought – whilst she woke a lot (every 1 – 2.5 hrs) she wasn’t protesting too much/for too long and went back after short rocking sessions and was fine about only being fed at the set times, again going back straight down after the feed. Also she actually napped properly in the cot, which is a minor miracle!!”
Over the next few days there was lots of email contact backwards and forwards between the parents and myself, as once they had started the program, various queries and worries cropped up, including the concern that the baby’s sleep had become worse than ever, after the amazing first night.
6th May Just on your point about things unlikely to improve whilst we are just rocking her, I knew that this was going to be hard and that we wouldn’t see results over night, but is it normal to have gotten so much worse?? Whilst the first night was ok, the last two have been just awful – last night she didn’t sleep any longer than 45 mins (max!) at any one time. It’s the worse her sleep has ever been. And whilst day one of napping went great, yesterday was such hard work to get her down in the afternoon and once I finally did she only did 20 mins – and I just couldn’t get her to do longer… and taking her out in the pram didn’t work either. I just feel so bad for her as she was incredibly shattered yesterday and very grumpy, and usually after a bad night I can get her to catch up a bit by sleeping on me but as that’s not an option now it’s like she’s not getting any real sleep day or night! So would be good to know if this is normal to begin with…
I replied: “Yes, it is normal for things to get worse before they get better. I really would be tempted to move onto the next stage today, of settling her in her cot, as I think she will begin to settle better. I understand it is very tough but stick with it and soon you see results – it will be so rewarding for all of you. There were so many components of change for her so I was expecting it to take a while for things to begin to settle. Stick with it as it really is such early days – and we are trying to change something that has been happening for 8 months, so it’s understandable that after only three nights there haven’t been huge changes yet. Let me know tomorrow morning how things are. Good luck.
After a couple more nights, I emailed to find out how they were getting on – and what a difference a couple more nights can make!!!
9th May The last couple of nights have been much, much better. Both nights she has been waking 0-1 times before midnight/1am, at that point will have a feed and then go back down until around 4am ish. It’s that time that proves tricky and she’s awake on and off for 20-40 mins and quite unsettled. Aside from that it’s all pretty good. She has yet to sleep past 6/5.15am so not quite making it to 6.30am (although we’ve been following the plan and not saying good morning until then). Naps are a bit more challenging – taking up to 20 mins to get her off and it’s a bit unpredictable how long she’ll be down for, ranging from 40 mins – 1hr 20 mins. It also feels like she still needs a third nap but by the time she’s had the other two most days it’s not possible to fit it in before the 4pm cut off. And at the mo we’re putting her down at 8.30am in the morning in an attempt to get closer to 9am but she’s very whiney at that point and again can’t seem to last it out. All in all it’s going much better than those first few days, which were pretty horrendous! Thanks for checking in, hoping things like the 4am wake up and nap issues start to sort themselves out as we continue with the plan.
Over the next week there were a few more emails, as the baby had learnt to sit up in the cot in her sleeping bag, and was reluctant to lie back down herself!! Once this challenge was overcome, further improvements were seen :
19th May Yes amazing! We’ve had two like that now. That’s the longest stint she’s ever slept in her life!I think because it’s all happening gradually we’re not quite realizing how much brilliant progress there has been – on top of the longer blocks of sleep, the fact she is actually sleeping in a cot, going to sleep so quickly, only breastfeeding once a night and accepting Daddy just as much as me to comfort her is such a world apart from how it’s been for the past 9-10 months preceding the plan.Fingers crossed it continues to improve – and the naps sort themselves out!
And things just kept getting better and better!!
21st May Morning Sarah, just wanted to let you know that she slept from 7pm – 6am last night, waking only once at 1am for a 10 min feed! Progress hey! I tried shushing her in the cot until 6.30am but she didn’t go back to sleep…think we can let that one go though.
They were soon coming to the end of their plan, and wanted reassurances about how to progress, as well as considering how to prepare their daughter for the transition to nursery as well as being cared for by grandparents, whilst mum went back to work. By the end of May, they had completed the sleep plan and sent me a copy of their sleep diary for the 5 days following the end of the plan – it couldn’t have been more different from their original sleep diary that I saw during our consultation. There were regular daytime naps in the cot, and their daughter was spending all night in her own cot too! There were still night wakings, but these were less frequent and the night feeds had been reduced to one per night. The email accompanying the diary was so positive too.
31st May Just wanted to show you our latest sleep diary covering the week following the end of our three week sleep plan. As you can see there have been real improvements since our very first diary!
I think whilst she hasn’t yet managed to sleep through (which was never our expectation anyway), our main goals re her not needing a feed to get back to sleep, it all being less physically demanding, and Daddy being able to do the comforting too have all been reached. Plus she is now sleeping in her own room in a cot not to mention actually napping in her cot rather than on me which has never happened before and never thought would happen!
It makes us feel so much better about her going to nursery where she’ll have to nap in a cot and me going back to work without being quite so exhausted or still being the sole comforter or needing to breastfeed so much at a point where I’ll be thinking about weaning. We look forward to the day she does eventually sleep through and it would be great if her afternoon naps were a little longer most days (the morning ones have gotten loads better…) and it took a little less time to get her off, but for now you leave us happy customers
And things just kept getting better and better!! This is the email I received just a few days ago!!
21st June Hi Sarah – just wanted to get in touch to let you know that she slept through the night last night for the first time!! She went down at 6.50pm and woke up at 6.30am!!! Amazing!
And the following days email summed up their whole sleep solutions experience – and made me realise how lucky I am to be able to work with such amazing parents on a daily basis!
22nd June Would you believe it – the same again!!
We heard her making the odd noise but it never turned into anything and she seemed to just settle herself. Naps are going well too – she takes max 15 mins to go down in the morning and then will sleep for an hour or more (I’d say 9 times out of 10 we end up having to wake her), and the afternoon one, although can take longer to get her off at anything from 10-30 mins, is also consistently good now with her staying down between 45 mins – 1 hr 20.
We’ve also managed a couple of times to put her down and pretty much leave the room straightaway (as we were getting the impression we were distracting her) and she’s put herself to sleep!
I think what’s also good is that there’s no real crying at any point, when she is going off to sleep – even if it’s the afternoon one and she’s taking 30 mins – she just babbles and wriggles about but then all of a sudden just conks out. And any input from us just involves shushing – I can’t remember the last time I had to go and put my hand on her or stroke her etc. And the bedtimes are great with her asleep within a few mins of going down! It’s so nice to have so much more predictability to the day and night. It’s an incredible change considering this time two months ago she was waking 5x a night and only napping on me!
Thank you so much again.
The above story demonstrates how my gentle, calm and consistent approach is reassuring for parents and their babies or children, and how improvements in their child’s sleep can be seen very soon, once they begin to implement the strategies and techniques from their personal sleep plan.
If you are struggling with your little one’s sleep, please do contact me, to see how I can support you with improving their sleep, and ultimately improving your sleep too.
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