If you're the sleep-deprived parent of a wee baby, chances are you’ve begged, bargained and beseeched your baby. "Please. Just. Go. To. Sleep".
Certified Child Sleep Consultant, Erica Hargaden has been there. She joined Brenda Donohue on The Ray D’Arcy Show to share her top tips for helping your baby to get to sleep – and stay asleep.
Erica had a rude awakening when she became a parent. She knew it would be tough and that sleep would be in short supply at the start, but she wasn’t prepared to still be struggling eight months in. At that time her son, Quinn, was waking up between six and 12 times a night, sleeping for 45 minutes at a time, building to a maximum of two hours. Fair to say she was wrecked. The sleep deprivation took a toll on her, her husband but also on her wider circle of relationships.
"It made me quite insular, I didn’t want to go out of the house. I wanted to stay at home because I was barely coping with what was happening at home, so going out and up the town frightened me a little bit."
Luckily, Erica’s mum came to visit at this time and saw that her daughter was struggling. She moved in for the next two weeks and they worked together to get a structure around sleeping, feeding, napping etc.
"It took time and consistency and patience. It does take work. Your expectations also need to be real."
Keen to give the support she enjoyed from her mother, to others struggling, Erica decided to learn more about paediatric sleep, which culminated in her becoming a Certified Child Sleep Consultant. Following on from that she established Babogue Sleep Solutions in 2017 and now works will families to achieve better sleep all round.
Brenda shared some of her children’s sleep struggles, remembering nights where she had to stay by the cot for two hours before crawling out of the room on her hands and knees, desperate not to wake the baby who had finally fallen asleep. She wondered was it possible to effectively 'train’ babies to sleep; Erica was clear in her response.
"You cannot train a newborn to sleep, absolutely not. You can put in place structures and foundations that will lead them towards good sleep as they mature and grow. As a child gets to between four and six months of age, their sleep matures a little bit further. That is kind of a key time where you can mould things even further."
By the time the baby is six weeks old, however, feeding is likely well-established and it’s possible to start introducing some routine. Forget ‘never waking a sleeping baby’, Erica – much to Brenda’s shock – advocates waking a baby at 7am every morning and starting the day with a feed.
"Wake a baby every morning at 7 o’clock and start the day with a feed … I get that push-back an awful lot, but if you think about it, if you have a situation where you’re missing feeds throughout the day because maybe they’re napping through feeds, where are they going to make up that nutritional need? At night. If you wake to feed during the day with a newborn, then you may get longer stretches of sleep at night."
Listen back to the full interview above.
You can hear more of Erica’s tips and her answers to listener’s questions, here.