I’ve just returned from 5 days and 5 nights at sleep school and I’ve been getting a lot of messages and questions. So I’m blogging my experience to hopefully answer them all.
Firstly, let me start by saying I’m a big fan of sleep training. I trained Jack at home at 6 months (he’s 2.5 years now) and I firmly believe it set a strong foundation for his continued healthy relationship with sleep. Yes it turned to crap when he was unwell, teething or going through age-related sleep refusal (wanting Mummy or Daddy to stay in his room until he falls asleep/crying when we leave etc) but as soon as the tooth has cut, the illness over or the developmental phase passes, he’s back to sleeping well.
If the training is going to work, it is going to work quickly. Everyone has an opinion on sleep training/controlled crying/responsive settling or whatever you want to call it. In my experience, it isn’t leaving your baby to cry for so long until you have emotionally damaged them so much that they stop calling out for you. It’s gentle, monitored and hands on. It is being present in helping them learn that their bed in a safe space and that they don’t need to be fed and sedated with milk back to sleep. Even as adults, we all wake briefly during the night. The difference is, we know we’re safe and slip quickly into our next sleep cycle without needing any help. It doesn’t take much for a baby to learn this either. I also have to mention that I’m not a medical professional. I’m speaking purely from my own experience and those of people I know who have also given their baby the gift of sleep. Yes that’s cliché, but it’s exactly what it is. The gift of a full nights sleep and to wake refreshed.
When I applied to the mother and baby unit 6 weeks ago, it was because Easton wouldn’t self settle at night. His days were fine, but if left in his cot drowsy but awake in the evening, he would cry. A loud, emotional cry that I couldn’t ignore. I tried, waiting to see if he’d eventually be able to settle but I don’t think I ever lasted more than 5 minutes. He’s such a happy baby that hearing him cry frayed every one of my nerves. Therefore, I fed him to sleep and gently and quietly transferred him into his cot, praying he’d stay asleep. He also woke frequently overnight but that wasn’t my main concern. It was getting him to sleep initially. If I couldn’t pull off the transfer into the cot, then I’d be back at square one. I had no downtime, I felt miserable and exhausted. Then 10 days before I was due at sleep school, he miraculously started self settling at night and kept it up. By then it was too late to cancel and I wanted assistance with ceasing the multiple overnight wakings and feeds that I knew at his age were unnecessary.
I arrived on Monday and was discharged this morning. For the first two days, when he was due for a sleep, I would tuck him into his cot and the nurses would then take over in order to observe his patterns, assist in solving whatever problem we arrived with and ensuring he was getting enough sleep. When he woke, I got him up and we could do whatever we liked until his next sleep was due. In the evening, after the dream feed, I was offered a sleeping tablet (optional) and sent back to bed and would only be woken to feed him if he failed to respond to settling overnight. YES! A FULL NIGHTS SLEEP!!
On Wednesday we were encouraged to ask questions, get more involved and watch some settling. So during the day when I knew Easton would probably stir, I watched the nurses resettle him to lengthen his day naps. Their methods were easy and effective, but nothing I’d thought to try before. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. There will be some crying and grizzling which is always hard for me to listen to, but the improvement was incredible.
Thursday & Friday were about taking control and making all the decisions regarding Easton’s sleep in preparation for going home. This can be daunting, but the nurses are friendly, kind, encouraging and always right there for guidance throughout the day and night. Though, for the entire duration of my stay, I didn’t have to leave my bed and tend to Easton between 11pm (when I finished the dream feed) and 6.45am, which was the earliest he woke. He learned fast. A+ buddy!! Tonight is our first night at home so we’ll see how he goes.
During my stay, all the mums attend a group session per day to discuss parenthood, settling, understanding sleep routines and how to consolidate the routine at home whilst also working around illness/teething/holidays/childcare and older children. We also all received a visit from a GP to discuss any medical issues and had a blood test (again this is optional, though it’s a good idea as iron deficiencies or thyroid imbalances can also be a contributing factor in maternal exhaustion).
Menus were filled out each day, just like any hospital stay and meals delivered to our rooms at set times. The food was fairly good though no one would complain when we all had 5 days off cooking! Easton’s solids were prepared as well. There is also a kitchen where we could make tea, coffee, toast and grab juice. One of the ladies even had a pizza delivered and kept the rest in the fridge. So you can be as self-sufficient as you want.
We were free to come and go as we please during the day, and of course could take our baby with us, so long as we were back for their naps. I packed everything such as his pram, bouncer, favourite toys and play mat even though there were two designated toy-filled play areas where the mums and I sat playing with our babies.
I was expecting to be able to catch up on movies, TV and books but I hardly did any of that, except for between 7.30-11 waiting to go in and dream feed. It was way more social than I expected which I loved! However, all the rooms are private rooms with double beds and their own bathrooms, so you aren’t sharing. This allows for time to yourself whenever you want it.
I came home this morning and Easton slept for just over 2 hours for his first nap, as he should for his age. Though he hasn’t done that for a long time!
Overall it was a tremendously positive experience and I’m SO glad I went. If there’s something I haven’t covered, please reach out to me and I’ll happily answer whatever question you have.
Here’s to healthy sleep for all of us!
Have a great weekend everyone.