Guest Post by the lovely (and very well rested) Elle Watmough
We’re finally here! We’re ready to delve into the – sometimes – complex world of infant sleep and all the fun that goes along with it.
I always wanted my first blog post to come from the perspective of someone who has experienced the highs and lows firsthand. Having a Sleep Specialist talk about sleep can be super interesting and often eye-opening, but having someone give you their own personal experience is most likely a little more relatable!
I asked one of our clients, Elle Watmough to answer some of your most asked questions.
1. What led you to contact The Sleep Dept for Jagger?
Well, first and foremost it was the fact that I had reached complete and utter desperation from 10 months of sleep deprivation. Jagger was waking every 2 hours at night and needing all her short 40min naps in a moving pram. In the middle of summer, I was exhausted, over it and completely overwhelmed. I had been toying with the idea of getting some professional help for a while but constantly made excuses. In the end, I was so tired I just didn’t have a choice. My only regret was and still is, that I didn’t do it sooner.
2. Did you put off seeking help? If so, why?
I did. Jagger would have a couple of weeks of TERRIBLE night wakings (every 40 mins to every 2 hours – incredibly unsettled) and I would put her in bed with me, then attempt to transfer her back to her cot when she was asleep. Most of the time it didn’t work and I would end up with an overtired, hyper baby in bed with me at 1:40 in the morning. Every time I thought I was getting to my wit’s end, she would miraculously have a better night and I would tell myself “oh she must just be in a leap.. oh she must just be teething”. I actually booked in with other sleep specialists when Jagger was about 6 months old and canceled. Repeatedly. I thought I was being cruel letting her cry, so I didn’t. Then I came across The Sleep Dept and you told me that it didn’t have to be like that. And that we would both be much happier and better of with some rest. I still put it off, but when Jagger formed a bad habit of going to bed and then waking up after 40 minutes and wanting to party I knew things needed to change. At that point, I could only get her to go back to sleep if I got her up out of bed, let her play for an hour, put her in bed with my stepdaughter to watch cartoons and she would doze off. I didn’t want to go on like that. It was 10 pm before I even had her in bed and then she was up constantly. Putting it lightly, I was a mess
3. What were your concerns before beginning?
When I thought of sleep training I immediately thought of “crying it out”. I felt mean doing that and I had read so many natural parenting articles on how babies are MEANT to wake during the night even after 6 months. I agreed with all these articles because it made me feel better about what was happening, but truth be told, after putting it off for months, I was desperate and ready to try anything.
4. How did you justify the cost?
Originally I had booked in for a 3-night stay which was obviously the more substantially expensive option but I was desperate and I figured I would be able to pay it off somehow and it was worth it. Eventually, we only needed the bedtime routine package which was much less but still had amazing results. I know it is a lot of money, but it is worth it to have someone by your side day in and day out, at all hours, reassuring you. Once you get your sleep back, you wonder why you didn’t do it much sooner. People don’t think twice about dropping that sort of money on a couple of nights out or some new clothes. In my opinion, this was much more worthwhile.
5. How did you feel once you received the program?
Really good to be finally starting (and sticking) to something. I was also incredibly nervous. I had worked myself up into such a state about Jagger’s sleeping, I really wasn’t sure if it could be fixed. I was unsure, but Erika was incredibly supportive and told me that she had no doubts we could get on top of it.
6. Describe that first night of sleep guidance?
The first night was the hardest. We started with one method of sleep guidance, which meant I had to be in Jagger’s room. I was quite overwhelmed as I hadn’t ever allowed her to cry. Needless to say, it got easier after that first night (for both of us) but there is no doubt it was hard. As Erika told me, crying is a babies form of communication and it is the only way they know how to protest. Jagger wasn’t impressed with me and was probably wondering why I wasn’t picking her up and taking her outside. Although that first night was the hardest, I was on the phone constantly to Erika through the whole bedtime routine and she kept me going strong, reassuring me that what I was doing was correct and so too was Jagger’s response. That made things a hell of a lot easier.
7. Were you confident in implementing the program? Or did this come after you started seeing results?
Honestly? I was so desperate for sleep that I committed to the program 110%. I did everything Erika told me to do and told her when I wanted to try something different that I was more comfortable with. For me, being in the room while trying to get her to sleep was much much more stressful and made me incredibly anxious. I was much happier sitting outside her door while she protested than sitting in there. Erika then sent me a new plan and we went from there. After that night, because I was more confident, and Jagger knew what to expect it got much easier. I couldn’t believe how quick it was. The first night she protested for one hour. The second night it was 25 minutes and the third night 8 minutes. From then on I could put her down to self-settle and she would talk for a bit and fall asleep usually in less than 10 minutes (and with no crying). She still is a FABULOUS self-settler and I can put her down in her cot at any time of the day or night, wide awake and she will put herself to sleep, thanks to Erika.
8. What was your breakthrough moment?
Night three. Jagger went down wide awake after being awake for 3.5hours. We did our normal bedtime routine of dinner, bath, and play. She had half of her bottle, and I put her down into her cot awake. She talked for 8 minutes then went quiet. I went in and she had fallen asleep. That had never happened. No screaming, no tears, no protesting. It was amazing. She stayed like that for 10 hours. Had a bottle at 5 am then went back to sleep until 6:30 am. I was a new person almost instantly.
9. What was the hardest part about implementing the program?
Listening to her cry when I put her down. Looking back this was much more difficult for me than for Jagger. But no one wants to hear their baby cry. The good thing was this protesting went on for two nights then stopped. She hasn’t cried at bedtime since. Once you realize its normal communication for a baby and that you aren’t “being mean” it is easier to accept.
10. When did you know that this was going to work?
When she self-settled in half the time of the previous night on night 2. Also on day 3 when she started having 1.5-hour naps in her cot. Game changing.
12. How do you deal with regressions/developmental leaps/sickness?
Jagger started daycare in Feb and got quite sick for the first time. She ended up with the flu and also gastro. Went off her food and wouldn’t take any fluids or her bottles. We ended up in the hospital with her for dehydration. But guess what?
Although she probably felt horrible, her sleep stayed on track, which was fantastic as it allowed her body to heal, rest and recuperate. She still slept 10 -12 hours straight all through this ordeal and I believe it is because she had mastered self-settling. Of course, if she had needed me I would have got up to her, but she didn’t. She needed the rest and that’s what she got. She was a hell of a lot better off for it too.
13. What advice would you give to those who aren’t sure whether they are ready to begin a sleep program?
Just do it. Stop putting it off and sitting on the fence like I was. I made SO many excuses and both Jagger and I were miserable. My marriage took a hit because I had no energy and was stressed out, anxious, snappy and frustrated. My two stepchildren had to deal with a whingey, tired mum and poor Jagger had to deal with my constant frustration. I am a much better mum and wife now that I am getting adequate sleep and as soon as she started sleeping I noticed she hit her milestones much quicker. She started crawling right after she had been sleeping through for two weeks. Oh and that’s what I forgot to mention! Since Erika helped us, Jagger now sleeps 2 x 2-hour naps a day or a morning nap of 1.5 hours and an afternoon nap of 2.5 hours and 12 hours at night. Pure heaven. And I get to enjoy her so much more because of it.
14. Overall, describe your experience…
No one can understand how horrible sleep deprivation is until you have been there. This is single-handedly the best thing I did for myself, my baby and my family. I am a different mum now. I can go away with my husband for the weekend and know that Jagger will sleep for my mum. I couldn’t leave her before with anyone because I didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with no sleep. Erika changed our lives in more than one way. I only wish I hadn’t left it so long, but if we have another bub I know I will implement all of the things I learned through this experience with Jagger with the new baby.