Sleeeeeeeep......what is that? You barely remember what it is to get more than a few hour of sleep right? You are obsessed. It is all you think about, you search the web for, you ask your friends, anyone you see with a baby. You even pray and bargain with the Sleep Gods for this elusive sleep from your baby.
As well as obsessed, you are now getting overwhelmed with all the information that you dig up. So much advice. So much conflicting advice. Where to start, what to do????
Find yourself a trusted expert source. It might be a person such as your child health nurse, it might be a sleep specialist. You may like to check in with our previous post on "5 Things You Should Consider When Choosing A Sleep Consultant" as a guide. You may be lucky enough to have a great mum/aunt/sister or just a good book that resonates with your parenting style. Try and stick to one style of information rather than too many alternatives which not only confuses you, but also your baby.
Here at Caroline's Angels Baby Sleep Specialists, our sleep model is based on getting the foundations right for healthy sleep. So rather than just looking at a short term rip, tear and bust approach, we encourage parents to look at their own individual child and work on enhancing a good underpinning base for great to sleep to be the result of doing this.
For example, if you are rocking your baby to sleep in your arms, but notice that your baby then wakes 6-10 times per night and insists on being rocked back to sleep. We would look at how your baby feels when initially falling asleep. Your baby is with you, being held close with lots of deep touch on your upper body, with quite possibly some rocking and shhhing going on to further aid them falling asleep. There might be a dummy too. Take a moment and take a mental snap shot of what that feels like for your baby. Everything they experience as they drift off to sleep.
With that mental snap shot in mind, now compare it to what your next mental snap shot is of when your baby wakes. Your baby stirs from a sleep cycle over night in her cot. She quickly notices that the deep touch around her is no longer there. That she is on a hard surface, not as soft and warm as falling asleep on my parent. There is no one right there close by, she can't hear the singing or shhing, and she feels very still, the rocking has gone too. She understands that she feels very different to how she fell to sleep and expects to feel now. She cries out for her parent to come and help her.
You only fed her an hour ago and so you don't think that this is about hunger and needing a feed. You eventually come despite trying to leave her to manage this situation on her own but she just can't. You try to settle her back to sleep in the cot but she is having none of that. Eventually you pick her up and like magic, she drifts back to sleep. You both give a sigh of relief. The boxes have been ticked for your baby. She recognises these feelings and can now go back to sleep.
This is now the tricky part.
While you might be starting to understand that the waking overnight is linked to how your baby falls to sleep. It is now about how you are going to manage the much needed changes in HOW your baby falls to sleep. In order to help your baby settle to sleep with much less help and eventually self settle, we suggest that you break the process up into much smaller steps. This will help both you and your baby manage these changes without distress, and reach your goal. In old and outdated methods of teaching a baby to sleep well, such as 'controlled crying' or 'controlled comforting' it was suggested that you spend a few days completely doing an abrupt extinction style method so your baby was no longer used to being fed or rocked to sleep. For many parent - baby unions, this led to distress and making sleep worse. Parents then so distraught abandoned this and simply accepted that their baby was going to remain dependent upon their help and being very wakeful day and night.
If you are a parent considering improving your baby's sleep, don't despair. There is a lot of support for you that doesn't not require you to entertain these abrupt extinction methods. With no model that we felt acceptable to base our practice on, Caroline Radford and myself who are both Midwives, created our own model - Dynamic Sleep Connection™ in 2016. This gave parents and health professionals a platform and guide to assist babies to healthy sleep habits. By breaking the elements into 5 Steps and creating a sound underpinning for your baby, this factors in your baby's mental health while addressing sleep. If you are wanting trusted advice to guide you to healthy self settling practices, you may wish to check out our Dynamic Baby Sleep Guides. These are instantly downloadable so you can start improving your baby's sleep today. https://carolinesangels.com.au/resources/dynamic-baby-sleep-guides/