Sleep training about strategies, not strictness
For Noelle, night-time had been for co-sleeping; cuddles with Mum and Dad and feeding on demand.
While her parents felt this was a lovely start to life for her, they’d began to feel that it might be time to move her into her own cot soon. Noelle was waking 4-5 times during the night and her mum had taken to sleeping in another room with her.
By the time Noelle was nine months old, her mum Kylie was tired and knew it was time to make some changes.
Unsure quite how to break the patterns she’d created, Kylie did what so many others do; she turned to the internet. And there was no shortage of information there!
Kylie spent the next four months trying all sorts of different things to help Noelle learn to settle and sleep independently.
“It was really stressful. I would stay in the room for over an hour trying to get Noelle settled and we both just felt traumatised! It was really hard, but we struggled on. One night Noelle was so upset she made herself physically sick in her cot and I felt horrific – so guilty. I wasn’t being fair or consistent. She’d had such a lovely start to life and now I felt like I was torturing her each night.”
Beyond all the internet advice
Exhausted and at her wit’s end, Kylie contacted Brisbane-based baby sleep consultant, Abby, for a phone consult.
“As a first-time mum, I wanted reassurance and an idea of what I could expect – as well as someone to troubleshoot and problem-solve with. I needed consistency and someone outside my family to help me through.”
Kylie and Abby clicked right away, as Abby found out about her parenting style, Noelle’s personality and the shape of their days, so that she could tailor her advice and strategies to suit.
“She was really open, non-judgemental and encouraging and I appreciated that she was also a mum herself. She listened to what we’d already done and gave me all the information. It was like having a friend on the end of the phone.”
Until that point, Noelle’s mum had been a happy attachment parent and Noelle was thriving; sleep felt like the last piece of the puzzle. Noelle was used to feeding on demand, lots of close physical contact through babywearing, and being fed to sleep.
Having attempted more gentle, in-room methods without success, Kylie and Abby decided that an ‘out of the room’ method would be best to try with such a vocal and wilful wee girl. “As well as educating me on things like biological sleep windows, Abby gave me a step-by-step guide, with contingencies – based on everything we’d discussed.”
For Noelle, the plan started with some tweaks to her bedtime routine, so that her breastfeed wasn’t last thing in the evening anymore.
The first night settling Noelle into bed was challenging, but Kylie stuck to the plan; leaving the room for five minutes to begin with, then eight and ten, despite Noelle crying out.
“After the timed intervals I would go in and give her a hug and some reassurance, however, I tried not to lift her out of the cot and when she was calmer, I would say goodnight and leave again. The first couple of nights were hard, and we did a few of those ten minute stretches!”
Making the approach her own
As the week wore on, not only did Noelle start learning to settle herself, Kylie was learning too.
“I began to read Noelle’s sleep cues better and adapt her routine a bit.
I understood that the key thing was not to put Noelle to sleep, and to make sure she didn’t need to rely on me for that, but I loved discovering that some of my gentle methods and the rituals we’d shared before could still be incorporated.”
Within a fortnight, Noelle was sleeping through the night and going to bed without tears.
“It’s no longer a big drama, and she knows what to expect come bedtime,” Kylie says with relief. However, it hasn’t only been Noelle’s evenings that have changed.
Not only is the household feeling like they’re back to a normal situation with everyone sleeping in their own rooms, Noelle’s mum and dad were finally able to have their first evening date night.
“I feel as though I got a bit of my life back. I’d been giving my all to Noelle – which I had expected to do – but I’ve realised I need some downtime and a chance to recharge too.”
Above all, Kylie appreciated the holistic approach that Abby took.
“It wasn’t just about sleep! I picked up general parenting ideas and considerations – and Abby empowered me to start the process of weaning Noelle. I was really struggling with that, but we got down to less feeds at night and now she’s only feeding twice a day. The change in her appetite during the day, and her intake of solids, has been immense. She’s eating more; the benefits truly have been far-reaching!”