Long-term followers of mine will know that for all of Baby Sunshine’s strengths, sleeping is not one of them. Throughout the first two years of her life, baby sleep eluded us. Not only was she a notoriously terrible napper (20 minutes was considered decent!), but she was also an absolutely awful night time sleeper (3-4 wake-ups was considered run of the mill!).
It was around month 10 that I took to the blog to offload about how exhausted I was as a new mother, and how, no matter what I tried, our little darling just would not go to sleep. For months, I tried to convince myself that this kind of baby sleep was normal, but it wasn’t until her 24th month of life that I finally cracked and admitted defeat.
Sophia was still sleeping in our bed. She was still breastfeeding at all hours of the day and night. I was so tired that I was having to nap when she napped, and let’s face it, twenty minutes just wasn’t going to cut it for me! I needed some help.
I enlisted the help of Lauren from Little Sleep Stars, a trusted and established sleep consultant based in the UK, who promised me that we would crack this together. And crack it we did! Believe me when I say that the time we spent working on this issue was one of the most worthwhile investments that I’ve made so far in Baby Sunshine’s life.
If you’re interested in how we solved our baby sleep dilemma, and if we ever made it so far as helping Baby Sunshine to *whispers sleep through the night, then have a read of my baby sleep diary which I’ve religiously kept over the past couple of months. It’s been quite a journey!
19 March 2018
Had my introductory video call with Lauren from Little Sleep Stars this morning, via the meeting link that she provided me with via email. We talked through our family routines and Sophia’s sleep habits, and then Lauren explained her background and described her approach to sleep training and the type of support that she’d provide us with. I was relieved to hear that she advocates gentle methods, with minimal to no crying involved. I was even more relieved when she told me that most parents come to her thinking that their child won’t adapt very well to the changes they are implementing, but in reality nearly all do. I agreed that I would like to proceed and came away from the call feeling optimistic about what lies ahead of us!
20 March 2018
Filled in the online questionnaire that Lauren sent us to fill out. Laughed out loud when I typed out how many hours sleep Sophia has on average. Wondered to myself whether she was the worst case Lauren had ever taken on. Booked in our next meeting via Lauren’s handy online system. Excited to get started now.
23 March 2018
Just had my first full consultation with Lauren to go through my survey responses and discuss the approach that we are going to take. She had some very interesting insights about why Sophia’s sleep was the way it was, and I realised that I had unwittingly been making it harder for her to sleep and to stay asleep by rocking her to sleep every night. Luckily Lauren reinforced that her sleep habits and patterns aren’t set in stone, and that a ‘gradual retreat’ approach would work best in our scenario, with us tweaking the plan along the way according to how Sophia is getting on. I am slightly nervous but excited for the change. The hard work starts tomorrow.
24 March 2018
I did it!! The first night is over with, she’s fast asleep and I’m so relieved. We went through her usual routine of bath, teeth, pyjamas, book and then bed, apart from this time it was in her very own cot in her very own room. After I turned off the light, I gave her a long hug and told her how proud I was, and that no matter what happened I would always be there. It took her about two and a half hours to finally drift off because I was sitting right next to her cot and she kept reaching through the bars to check I was still there, but this is all new to her so I expect it will be easier tomorrow. When she was breathing deeply I crawled out quietly, kamikazi style, and went to pour myself a glass of wine. The journey to freedom has begun!
25 March 2018
1 AM: Why is this happening? She’s fast asleep, and I’m wide awake staring at the baby monitor!
3.25 AM: I felt like I’d only just closed my eyes when we had our first wake-up from Sophia tonight. I went in, gave her a hug, told her I was just next door and sat down beside her until she drifted back to sleep. It took just the ten minutes this time, thank goodness!
7.15 AM: Heard Sophia talking to herself on the baby monitor and rushed in to give her the biggest hug in the world! So proud of her, and of us! She slept all night in her bed, with only one wake up! We did it!!
11 AM: Had a check-in with Lauren to tell her how it went last night. She suggested keeping everything the same but responding less to Sophia’s requests for attention tonight. Going to give it a go.
8.30 PM: A marked improvement on last night! I couldn’t believe it. She stood up a couple of times but I just ignored her and eventually she just lay down and went to sleep. Double wine tonight.
26 March 2018
7 AM: BABY SUNSHINE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2 YEARS LAST NIGHT! I REPEAT: BABY SUNSHINE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!
8 PM: After three nights beside her bed, and feeling bold after so much success, I moved the chair to the middle of the room tonight to begin our phased approach of me moving slowly out of the room after lights out. It was a nightmare! She fidgeted more than ever, and kept standing up and calling out to me. Realising my presence was more of a hindrance than a help, I made the decision to give her a kiss and tell her I was going now. Couldn’t quite believe it when she then settled down and was asleep within 5 minutes. Kept staring at the baby monitor in disbelief.
28 March 2018
11 AM: Had a catch-up with Lauren to let her know I’d broken the rules and left the room before we’d finished going through our phased approach. She laughed and congratulated me. There is no right or wrong way to do this apparently – all children respond differently and mum’s intuition is usually right. Felt a little bit proud and gave myself a big pat on the back.
19 April 2018
Things have been going so well that we got a little cocky and did something we never do, because it’s never worked before…daddy put Sophia to bed tonight. I watched him reading her a book on the monitor, and resisted to urge to run in there and join them. Then he switched out the light and I waited for her to call out for me, but…nothing! For some reason, I wasn’t quite as triumphant about this win as I’ve been about some of the others.
1 May 2018
I haven’t written anything for a little while, as most nights have been following pretty much the same pattern. I don’t want to gloat (actually, who am I kidding, I totally do!), but our former sleep thief is now an absolute star at both nap time and bed time. We had a slight blip when she started waking a little earlier in the day than we would ideally like, but with Lauren’s help, we shifted her nap and bedtime to a slightly later time (only 15 minutes or so) and that seemed to do the trick. Had our final call with Lauren the other day, but I know she’ll always be on hand if we need to call on her again. I’ve really valued her sound advice and support, her fact-based and gentle approach, and I wouldn’t change a thing right now.
Scrap that, there is definitely something I would have changed – I would have contacted her a year earlier!
Reproduced with permission. To follow Polly's amazing travel, food and lifestyle blog, head over to http://www.followyoursunshine.me/
Sleep Solutions On-Demand
When your child isn’t sleeping well, it can be all-consuming. I know because I have been there! To save you spending hours trawling the internet, only to end up more confused than when you started, I have created Sleep Solutions On-Demand - allowing you to access the best-quality information and gently improve your little one's sleep, without tears or training.
Sleep Basics On-Demand is a series of ten concise, easy-to-digest videos to help you nail naps, banish early-rising and everything in between, putting my knowledge and experience at your fingertips 24-hours a day.