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About This Sleep Training Thing...

Date: 1 September, 2017
Tags: sleep routine, baby sleep, sleepless nights

It was 2 in the morning. There we were in a dark room, just me and my husband and this wailing little scrunched-up ball of pink only a few months old. A tearful mess, I was patting my baby’s tummy gently and saying, “Shush, shush” over and over.

I felt ridiculous.

We were trying the “Shush Pat” method of sleep training; one of many I’d found on Google during a desperate search for a definitive answer on how to get a baby to sleep.  This particular one had promised to reward several days’ perseverance with a magical baby that self-settled and slept all night. But in the dark of that night, with tears staining my cheeks, the physical self-imposed gulf between me and my crying baby seemed entirely unnatural. It flew in the face of my instincts and my overwhelming desire to pick her up, cuddle her and rock her to sleep with her fat little cheek squashed against my arm.

Unable to bear her tears any longer, I picked her up, held her close and filed the “Shush Pat” under “not for us”.

I ended up holding my daughter in my arms for most of that night, and the next night and the next, and for a lot of the next couple of years.

We’re all completely obsessed by the sleeping habits of babies aren’t we? Ask any new mum and the question she will definitely have been asked is, “is she a good sleeper?” or, “is he sleeping all night yet?” We’re programmed to believe that having our baby sleep (on our terms) is a prized skill that we must work towards with our baby. We must train our babies into the sleeping habits that fit most conveniently and appropriately in with normal adult sleep patterns.

As a result, the internet is awash with webinars, guides, articles, books, pins and blog posts, all promising to get your baby racking up the Zs all by herself in no time.  From controlled crying methods to gradual retreat, there are a lot of sleep training approaches to choose from and a lot of online “experts” on the topic, some making a tidy penny from it for their trouble.

Perhaps I didn’t stick at the sleep training methods for long enough, perhaps I was too soft and caved too easily, but I arrived at the decision that night that I would respond to my baby as and when she needed me, day or night, on her terms. Yes it was exhausting (I was holding down a full time job as a lawyer) and yes there were times it was challenging, but my daughter learnt that if she needed me I was there. And I am happy to confirm that that little wailing scrunched-up pink ball grew into a mischievous 6-year-old who, despite her lack of formal training, has become a fully-fledged sleep expert (just ask my husband who’s task it is to wake her for school each morning).

With our subsequent 2 children, we didn’t even attempt sleep training. We rolled with the punches and took it all one bleary-eyed day at a time; answering each middle-of-the-night wake up call as best we could and trying hard to instill in our babies only the knowledge that someone would always come and someone would always help.

There is no doubt that the early months with a baby are hard and it is tempting to search for a quick fix, a magic spell that gets your baby doing 12 hours straight a night without adult intervention. In my humble opinion, however, babies just need love not rules.

Trust your instincts - you really do know best. Babies cry because they NEED (not want) something. They need to be held close, to feel safe, to know that Mummy or Daddy is near. I don’t feel that we should deny a baby that.

And the baby stage is fleeting. All children sleep in the “right” way eventually. So ditch the books and the guides and hold your baby close; a day is coming all too soon when they won’t need that and you’ll yearn for one last night when they slept with their little head lying peacefully against your chest.



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