Poor sleeping habits with a second child
Ethan’s Mum wasn’t new to the parenting game; she already had plenty of experience raising his six year old brother who, for more than the first two years of his life, had woken up constantly throughout the night. This time around, Ethan’s Mum was determined to do things differently, and armed herself with parenting books detailing sleeping techniques for babies.
However, 8 month old Ethan was, nevertheless, sleeping poorly - waking frequently throughout the night - and his Mum was feeling confused and, of course, very tired. Unfortunately, Ethan’s Dad wasn’t in a position to help establish good sleeping habits either, because his job involved working away one month on, one month off.
A gentle approach
Many new mothers can probably relate to the desire Ethan’s Mum had to be “very gentle” and rush to her baby the moment he started crying. She wanted to be a gentle and supportive mum so would often feed him in an attempt to help him settle with minimal crying, and this had got him into a habit of expecting frequent feeds throughout the night. If Ethan was still crying after that, his Mum would co-sleep with him as a last resort.
Eventually Ethan’s Mum realised that things weren’t working for her family and called Samantha, who visited for an evening home consultation. Samantha worked with her to understand more about Ethan’s situation and find practical sleeping techniques that would work as part of a very gentle approach. One thing that Samantha quickly noticed was how stressed and anxious Ethan’s Mum would become at hearing her baby cry. Samantha explained some of the many reasons why Ethan was crying, and what to expect, so that his Mum felt reassured and could understand what was going on with him.
There were several techniques that Samantha suggested implementing straight away. One was to make the room darker, which immediately made a noticeable difference. Another was to change Ethan’s solids and avoid giving him meat at dinner time “because it’s more difficult to digest and can cause discomfort that creates or contributes to wake ups.” Samantha also asked about Ethan’s nap patterns, and noticed that he was spending too much time sleeping during the day, which helps explain why he was so awake at night!
Ethan’s Mum started with the “pick up, put down” technique, and would feed Ethan if he got especially worked up. She stayed right beside the cot the whole time and touched him for reassurance, which did calm him. That first night, it took 40 minutes of being in the room for Ethan to finally go to sleep. During that time, Ethan was fed twice and picked up and put down a couple of extra times as well. Although the two feeds might seem like a lot, Ethan was used to feeding frequently so his Mum and Samantha knew it would take a little time to change that habit.
When Ethan woke up again at 8:30pm, it only took 25 minutes to get him re-settled. He had, in fact, already learnt to start self-soothing, and he was able to sleep for almost 3 hours straight after that. Samantha explains that babies are “trying to make sense of sleep time. If the person in charge is cool, calm and consistent then they’re more likely to be calm too.”
Settling in for a long snooze
Even the very next evening, Ethan was sleeping for significantly longer bouts between feeds. Ethan’s Mum no longer feels as anxious about her child crying and has learnt to wait a little before going to help him settle. By the end of their time working together, Ethan was down to one feed per night and happily settling himself to sleep. Ethan’s Mum wishes that she used Samantha earlier for her eldest child! But she’s also relieved that Ethan is sleeping well now, and that she has more time and energy in the day to give to her eldest son. Things are also a lot easier for her to manage when her husband is away for work.
Samantha points out that, like parenting techniques in a book, you can have a world of advice, but you still have to work out what techniques will work effectively for your own parenting style. “Often it’s about coming up with a solution that helps a Mum to have the confidence in what they’re doing!”
Ethan’s Mum said: “I am absolutely delighted with the progress so far! I can't believe I suffered for two and a half years with my first child before he slept through the night - if only I'd known back then! It really feels like Ethan is thriving on this new routine. I seriously can't thank you enough. This has definitely been money very well spent.”
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