Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sleep Training

Life has gone on since my last post and my tiny baby is no longer so tiny. In fact he is 4 months old and had sadly learned some terrible sleep habits. The longer I am a mother, the more I notice that the first question people ask me about my baby is, "Does he sleep well?" At first, I guess he did sleep well for a newborn, and I never minded answering that question, but as the months have passed I began to see a change for the worse. Then when people asked me how he slept, I would say "Oh, like a baby," meaning that he didn't sleep well, but I assumed that this was a normal state of affairs. Well, it is a normal state of affairs for most parents, but not a healthy one or satisfactory one either. At 4 months, my son would no longer go to sleep and stay asleep for his naps during the day. I was still feeding him multiple times during the night and he was getting more and more miserable to live with. Finally, I reached the end of my patience with his terrible sleep and sought a cure.

After speaking to numerous relatives, health professionals and combing the Internet for advice, I half heartedly tried numerous methods to achieve some good sleep. But the advice was too random and inconsistent and I was unable to persevere for more than a day. After many frustrated attempts at new sleep methods, my mum called to say she had found a great sleep website and a great sleep program for babies. It was called "The Sleep Sense Program", run by an American lady named Dana Obleman. After a quick read of the reviews and testimonies, I decided that it was worth a go and we signed up for just over $100 AU.

For our money we received an e-book outlining the program, a personal workbook to chart our son's progress, email support, several telephone conference times, and most helpfully, daily coaching videos to walk us step by step through the first two weeks. The program begins at night, but I was keen to get started and so I began during the day with naps. Possibly I made things hard for myself by doing that as my poor baby protested rather violently and spent over an hour screaming at every nap time. He refused to sleep for more than about 10 minutes in his cot all morning. After sitting through that amount of screaming, I started to feel very crazy and my mum came to my rescue with some moral support. Her support certainly proved invaluable as I waited out the crying at nap times through the day and when I felt ready to give in (which was pretty much every time my baby cried).

So, you may ask, what does it involve? Many people have questioned me about crying, did I let my baby "cry it out"? I know that many mums cannot stand the thought of their baby screaming without picking them up to provide comfort, I am very much one of those mums. But I have searched for 'gentle' alternatives and they are few and often very slow to work, if they work at all. Most experts will say that some crying is not harmful to infants. I did believe this with my head, but not my heart. It took seeing my baby cry, refusing to be comforted even in my arms before I gave up and thought that if he wanted to scream while I held him, he may as well scream in his cot while I sat there beside him. The two scenarios are not all that different. Thus began sleep training.

I won't outline the day by day progress, but it is enough to say that my son, who had never before slept through the night, began sleeping from 7pm to after 6am on the 3rd night with no night feeds. If that isn't convincing enough, he has done that for the last 5 nights in a row. I don't even hear him cry out in the night any more. He also is going down for 3 naps a day without being fed or rocked to sleep. Sure, he still protests at most of those naps and sometimes they are only 30 mins in length, but we are getting there! Only 2 weeks ago, we would be lucky if our baby slept a broken 11 hours in a 24 hour period. Now he sleeps up to 15 hours in a 24 hour period, with 11 of those in a solid stretch at night.

These are still early days for us in our sleep journey, but I can truly see the light at the end of our long sleep deprived tunnel. There are side benefits too, in this sleep training process...

 I have learned to rely more on my husband's less emotional strength while waiting for my baby to help himself learn to sleep.
I have become a more confident mother with a clearer understanding of my baby's sleep needs.
I have seen a dramatic change in the temperament of my son, going from a baby who was grumpy all the time to one who smiles and actually laughs regularly now!
My baby no longer takes up to 10 snacking feeds through the day and night. He now has 5 good, large feeds through the day and even enjoys one little meal of pureed vegetables in the late afternoon.
I have actually had more than 8 hours sleep in a row for a couple nights now!
I have my evenings back to enjoy down time with my husband,and I have been able to eat my dinner like a civilised person, no more indigestion from rushing the meal to deal with a cranky baby!

I am so thankful for this process. It is a joy to have a happier baby who sleeps well. If your baby struggles to sleep, check out the Sleep Sense Program, it may well be the answer to many of your struggles!

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