Saturday, 5 May 2012

Sleep Training Day 1

As anyone who regularly reads this blog will know, we've been having a very difficult time of it at as Son 2 is still nowhere near sleeping through the night, even though he is now 14 months old (see The Cruelty of Sleep Deprivation.. He is very very much like a newborn, sometimes waking up to 3 times a night. Even though we are now able to factor it into our lives, it is still wearing away at our spirits and our health. It is getting to the stage where I am so tired I shake from head to toe for minutes at a time, I have lost my appetite and suffer from the most chronic heartburn. This cannot go on.

In desperation I turned to my usual source of information, the internet.  I had already argued with spoken to the doctor and health visitor, to no avail. I just couldn't agree with their theory of leaving him to cry endlessly.

Anyway, we think we might have found our saviour, knight in shining armour, general good egg in the form of sleep expert Brenda The Nanny:

"Brenda has been helping babies, children and parents for over 30 years. Originally trained as an NNEB (National Nursery Examination Board) Nursery Nurse and Montessori teacher, Brenda qualified in Liverpool in 1979. Maternity training followed when she worked in the Special Care Baby Unit in the Al Corniche Hospital, Abu Dhabi looking after premature and sick babies. Since March 2003 she has worked as a full-time night nanny and sleep consultant in London, the UK and abroad."

I think I have found the right person.

Last night we had our first skype "meeting with Brenda". I could tell hubby was reluctant as things are so bad he is now of the opinion nothing anyone can say or do will help us or change the situation. I was hoping Brenda would help to change his mind.

We started our meeting talking generally about babies and how they think. Brenda believes that by four months babies already have the skills to differentiate between each parent and can read how "tough" each parent is prepared to be and behave accordingly. She also mentioned a word I definitely associate with Lewis, DETERMINATION. She said that the majority of the babies that she sees are very, very determined. That is so so true for Son 2, if he wants something, nothing and nobody will put him off, and he will carry on and on until he gets it. Babies like that are particularly difficult to sleep train as they are very resistant to change and will shout very loudly about it! She also said that Son 2 has now formed a lot of habits that would have been a lot easier to break at 6 months. She also picked up on something that I had not noticed: we treat him like a newborn, if he cries we give him milk, if he has a tantrum, we pick him up. We never allow him an opportunity to settle himself or learn to be more independent. We are molly coddling him.

So here are some new rules:
  • No sleeping in the car or pushchair.
  • No morning naps.
  • No naps in the afternoon for more than an hour.
  • Keep everything the same every day.
Brenda also gave us a new routine as she said that Son 2 is desperately crying out for boundaries and to know what is going to happen at set times each day. This is evidenced by his latest habit - biting. He bites us all the time especially when he is tired (which is all the time), GIVE ME BOUNDARIES, he is telling us.

Here is the new routine (he is 14 months by the way).
  • 6.30  get him up.
  • 7 am - milk feed then little play/get dressed.
  • 7.45 - breakfast.
  • Then go out somewhere.
  • 11.45 - lunch time (have as main meal).
  • 12.30 - nap for no more than one hour. If he wakes up before one hour, leave to cry.
  • 5pm - a light tea.
  • 6.15 - bath.
  • 7pm - watered down milk (for better digestion) and story.
  • 7.20 - go to sleep/we leave the room.
Brenda also mentioned the importance of having a really dark room and using sleeping bags to stop baby from getting cold or escaping from the cot!  

Now for the night waking! Brenda said the best approach is....leave to cry. He usually wakes between midnight and 3am for his usual milk feed. Brenda insists he does not need this and is just waking up out of habit. We must not under any circumstances get him out of his cot as this gives him confused signals. Hubby was a bit worried he might be sick or need his nappy changing (number 2) so Brenda said to go in after a minimum of 25 minutes, check him, lie him down again, shush him a bit then leave again. 

So today is day 1, of the rest of our lives that is. I instantly feel that we have taken control and things are going to get better, what do you think of our new routine? Do you agree with leaving babies to cry?


  1. Good luck Hun. As you know I also have a determined young gentleman, so will be seeing how you get on with extra interest! I really must try and get us sorted now at 8 months rather than leave it. Perhaps crying is he only answer. Tho when have tried previously he doesn't give up! Really hope you have found the right solution for you guysXx

    1. I think it is the only answer as we have tried EVERYTHING else. Thing is it's not just about that but having the whole routine worked out properly. We've never had a routine with son 2 as I wanted to be more of an attachment parent but it hasn't done him any good. It seems to be working so far!x

  2. We were in a very similar situation when our son was 18 months. It had got so bad that my husband and I were going to bed in separate rooms at night - as our son was waking earlier and earlier, and coming into our bed earlier and earlier too. Like you, we were at our wits end, and similarly, we also sought outside help too. A lady called Andrea Grace. (She has some video's on You Tube I think.)

    In our case, the main problem was I had always stayed with him to settle him at night, so when he then awoke, he couldn't resettle himself. And of course, he also had the expectation of coming into mummy's bed too. I had tried everything myself and nothing seemed to work. I don't disagree with the cry it out method, but I felt sure this wasn't for my son as when I had tried it it had resulted in tantrums and screaming for up to an hour, and took me as long to calm him down afterwards! (Another strong willed child.) So for that reason, we tried a different method. Rapid return. It took about 4 weeks for us to see some real results but it was so worth it, and I found the weekly phone calls with an 'expert' of great help.

    Good luck with it. I really hope you see some results ( and get some better nights sleep soon.) x

    1. Thanks! Out of interest what method did you try? Our son also goes absolutely beserk, being sick etc when we leave him to cry. But for some reason last night he only cried for 15 mins then went straight back off again, maybe he could sense our new resolve I don't know!

    2. Ours was the Rapid Return method. It's a bit more gentle than the crying one, because you return continually ( on the first few nights only leaving them to cry for 1 minute or so - gradually leaving it for slightly longer as time goes on.) The idea is that if you continually return, settle quickly and then leave with aural cues 'it's nighttime, time to go to sleep', then they will gradually start to not cry, settle themselves more easily, and then stop calling out/ be able to settle themselves when they wake.

      The hardest thing I've found with all this, is that we still need to press the 'reset' button even after all our hard work. So, if he's been ill or teething, often I have to have a few nights afterwards of reinforcing these principles to get us back on an even keel again.

      I do so hope that you get it sorted, because I know that by the time we did it, I felt pretty broken by it all. Positive thinking and a strong will to succeed are the way forward :0)

  3. I agree with Nanny Brenda, I never leave TC to cry but she self-settled from an early age. I have this ongoing "discussion" with Mr J about the room being blacked out because it works! NB's routine looks like ours, she stopped sleeping in the buggy & car from about 12 months, too much going on for her liking to sleep! She sleeps from about 7.30pm to 8.30am & has one 1-2 hour sleep at 11.30am. No afternoon naps as they impact on her night sleep. She is very strong willed but loves her sleep. If she does wake during my evening I go in, re-cover her if necessary & just whisper go to sleep, maybe stroke her hair or back (because I love doing it!!) & off she goes again. I never take her out of her cot unless she is wet (virtually never)I believe in routine & boundaries but not at the expense of a miserable baby/child so a balance should be set once you have got him into a rhythm of going to bed/sleeping/staying put. I did Rapid Return with my first child and that worked too, none of this is new, I have a book from 1956 that I found in a bookshop and its full of Gina Ford type routines before Gina Ford was Gina Ford :)) If you haven't used sleeping bags so far it may be too late, we used them from about 3 months but now she doesn't like them, too restrictive for her.
    Now, does Nanny Brenda have any tips on fussy eaters & toilet (she hates the potty!) training :)

    Wishing you success with the sleep training, your health is very important xx

    1. Thank you. It really has impacted on every aspect of my life and I feel has affected my well being too. We decided not to "do" routine with son 2 as we wanted to try the attachment parenting "method". Big mistake, son 2 is a grumpy tired boy because of our mistake. I have never heard of rapid return, will have a look. He's always had a sleeping bag, it's really a must isn't it.
      I suspect her view on fussy eaters would be quite simple: if they don't eat the meal you prepare then throw it away and they get nothing else until the next meal time! In terms of toilet training try a reward system or do what I did which was a role play with a dolly.
      It's going well so far, will keep you posted!

  4. Sounds as though you are on the right track. I had a similar sounding number 2 child (usually the strong-willed, stubborn ones!) who was v resistant to change. We did a lot of what you are doing and it seemed to work eventually. Stick with it. On another note, we did leave her to cry one night until she went to sleep mid sobs and when going in one morning her bed was covered in sick....felt so awful!

    1. I really hope we are, we are desperate. The being sick thing is awful isn't it, Brenda did say it was ok to check them for that sort of thing though be prepared for utter indignation when you leave the room! I never thought I would leave a child of mine to cry but I don't know what else to do!

  5. Our eldest is 31/2. He needs one of us with him to go to sleep. He settled himself until he was 2, was Ill and 18 months later I am on the verge of a breakdown. We have been to sleep clinic, tried every kind of training possible and he stands at his gate and will scream until he pukes if we are not with him. We have an 11 month old across the hall so the screaming affects his sleep too.

    I just really don't know what to do. I feel you pain x

  6. I'm no expert (clearly) but I remember watching something on "supernanny" or similar about that. I seem to remember the advice was pick them up and lie them down in bed, close the door and hold the door shut for about 2 minutes, then repeat (8 million times).

    We had something similar when we transferred our eldest to a bed. I only had to do it for two nights then he never got out of bed again. Hard to do though when you are exhausted. Good luck.x

  7. Hi
    Really interested to hear how it all went. I hope the work you did with the sleep consultant worked and you're all sleeping better now?


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