Unique small humans need unique and individualised sleep approaches
Charlotte’s Mum got in touch with our Auckland-based consultant, Louise, after she’d been working with another sleep consultant (from another company) for two months. As well as catnapping during the day, 6 month old Charlotte was waking four or five times overnight and her Mum and Dad were struggling.
Charlotte’s Mum was unsure about letting Charlotte cry. Having travelled a long road to fall pregnant with Charlotte, who was eventually conceived via IVF, Charlotte’s Mum felt guilty that she wasn’t enjoying the baby that she had so desperately wanted. Not only contributing to Charlotte’s Mum experiencing some post-natal depression, Charlotte’s sleep challenges were also impacting the whole household, as her parents were at odds on the best course of action and had come to dread bedtime.
Horses for courses – no ‘one trick ponies’
For the previous two months, Charlotte’s Mum had been coached through hands-on, in-room methods to settle Charlotte, but these weren’t working; she reached out to Louise in desperation. Louise talked Charlotte’s Mum through alternative methods and they made a plan for an overnight home visit.
While Charlotte’s Dad was OK with a crying method, Charlotte’s Mum wasn’t so sure. While some children (and parents!) are suited to methods that see a parent stay in the room to help teach their child to fall asleep, this doesn’t work for everyone and, after two months, it wasn’t working for Charlotte. Louise’s experience meant that she could recognise that Charlotte’s alert and stimulated temperament required a different approach, and was able to explore other techniques with Charlotte’s parents.
They agreed instead on ‘spaced soothing’. Leaving Charlotte to try to settle on her own for an age-appropriate time, before going in to soothe her via touch and talking, but without picking her up from her cot.
Space to settle
That first night, with Louise’s help, Charlotte’s Mum got Charlotte down to bed as usual. She cried (on and off) for 40 minutes, during which time Charlotte’s Mum went into the room for a couple of quick check-ins. From there, Charlotte fell asleep and only woke twice overnight for feeds. The next night was when the real magic happened; Charlotte went down to sleep at bedtime, with less initial protest and then slept all night, without waking up for a feed.
Charlotte’s Mum credits Louise with helping give her the confidence to let Charlotte find sleep on her own. Although this wasn’t without any tears, the crying and check-ins were managed, and she didn’t spend the night fighting with Charlotte’s Dad about how they should handle it, or caving in and feeding Charlotte to sleep. The so-called ‘harder’ method initially resulted in far less crying overall and once she’d seen it work successfully, Charlotte’s Mum was able to follow through.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though…
While the overnight sleeps were relatively easy to adjust, Charlotte’s day sleeps were still causing problems. By day five, there were still no marked improvements in her 45 minute day sleeps. Assisted naps – whereby a baby is held, walked in the pram or driven for the whole duration of their day naps for a couple of days in order to get used to sleeping at those times – wasn’t working.
Charlotte’s Mum had arranged her week to prioritise Charlotte’s sleeps, but despite the changes to her routine, Charlotte’s catnaps persisted. If anything, consolidating her night sleep had meant Charlotte had a lower sleep drive during the day. Once again, Louise had to call on her repertoire of techniques to find what would work for Charlotte.
Follow up phone consults throughout the week enabled Louise to uncover why things still weren’t working; Charlotte’s room simply wasn’t dark enough. On day five, Charlotte’s Mum put up proper blackout blinds and that changed everything, resulting in a 1½ hour lunchtime nap that first day. Alert and easily stimulated Charlotte needed the extra darkness to be able to settle into a restorative rest.
A happy ending
Charlotte’s parents were shocked and happy – hardly able to believe how quickly, and extremely, their nights changed. Now that one of them wasn’t spending two hours or more in Charlotte’s bedroom every evening to settle her, they were able to actually eat dinner together – and at a respectable dinnertime, no less! Linked sleep cycles during the day also worked to give Charlotte the restorative daytime rest she required, and her Mum the reprieve she needed to feel recharged and enjoy the happy awake times she spent with her little girl.