With a 15-month old baby that has yet to sleep through the night, Janice Butler finally gave sleep training a try with the help of All About the Baby Sleep Solution, the bestseller from sleep expert Lucy Wolfe. Here are the results.
Whoever coined the phrase, 'sleep like a baby' either didn’t have a baby or struck gold and got very lucky with a baby who slept from the word go. I, unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky. Before you have a baby, you can’t comprehend the obsession you’re going to have with your child sleeping and eating, two things you foolishly believe come naturally to them.
Turns out they definitely don’t.
I don’t understand why they don’t want to sleep; if someone was to put me to bed at 7pm every night after a warm bath, I’d be a very happy individual, but it seems my son hasn’t grasped this little pleasure yet.
At 15 months, we still haven’t had a full night’s sleep since he was born – yes, that’s 15 months of broken sleep.
Apparently, what we’ve been doing is called ‘accidental parenting’ and we realise ‘we’ve done something wrong along the way’. It’s not something to beat yourself up about, but at some point you have to take a step back and evaluate where you went wrong during the haze of early parenting that has led to the torture of endless sleepless nights.
Our problem was the bottle: we gave it to him for everything – when he cried, when he was hungry, when he was napping, when he'd wake at night. He doesn’t have a soother or a blanket, he has a bottle and he adores it. We knew what we had to do but actually doing it was another thing.
Enter Lucy Wolfe from Cork, dubbed the ‘Baby Whisperer’, an in-demand baby sleep consultant who has just released her second book, All About the Baby Sleep Solution. While most people can’t afford to hire Lucy’s services, having her book is the next best thing, once, of course, you stick to what she says, often harder than it sounds.
Being 15 months, Matthew was down to just one nap a day but according to Lucy, he was having this too early in the day (12 to 2pm). She advised that we move this out an hour to 1 to 3, which she describes as the ‘dream’ nap time for his age. Apparently, putting him down earlier was creating a too long a gap between his naptime and bedtime. The first few days of this were difficult as he struggled to stay awake past 12, but to be honest, this was the easiest part of the whole process and he happily now naps during the ‘dream’ time.
We had a pretty good routine when it came to bedtime: bath, chill-out time and cot. From there, however, it all went downhill. We would give him a bottle to settle himself to sleep and while he’d be asleep by 7.30pm, he would then be awake from 9pm and every two hours throughout the night. As Lucy says in the book; "The bedtime sleep segment is the one with all the power."
She recommends dinner at 5pm, his last bottle at 5.45pm-6.15pm, then bath and bedtime routine at 6.30pm and into the cot for 6.50pm without a bottle. That last bit filled us with fear – how on earth were we going to get him asleep without a bottle? I won’t lie, the first few nights were rough and Lucy warns that this can take up to an hour the first night. It took us an hour and a half but that hour shortened quite quickly thereafter. Now we’re on about 15 to 20 minutes.
For this period, Lucy has a ‘Stay and Support’ approach which she details in the book. It’s an alternative to controlled crying and pick-up/put down method which you’ll read about in many manuals. It involves lots of physical and verbal responses and techniques to help your baby be calm enough that they can get to sleep by themselves. It’s really tough at the start but stick with it, it does work.
Lucy recommends one parent does it for the first two nights and the other parent takes the following two nights. The end result is that your baby will learn the skills to get themselves to sleep without an aid such as a bottle, if they wake during the night.
At the start of the process, you can still give feeds during the night, but less frequently and these are to be reduced each night until night four where you go cold turkey with no night-time feed.
We’re two weeks into this now and while we’ve had ups and downs, there’s a massive improvement in his sleep. We’ve gone from waking every two hours to maybe one or two waking episodes in the night, and he goes back to sleep by himself. Also, his wake time has gone from 5.30am to 6.30am, which is a game-changer. I would have paid any money for this a month ago; it only took a pandemic to try it out – and Lucy’s book of course!
All About the Baby Sleep Solution by Lucy Wolfe, published by Gill is on sale now from Dubray Books, bookstation.ie and as an eBook on Amazon Kindle and in the iBook store.