My interest in helping babies and children sleep came out of my own experiences with my first born baby. He suffered from bad silent reflux and a cow’s milk allergy which went undiagnosed until he was 5 months; the pain and discomfort he suffered had such a negative impact on his ability to sleep. Even worse, it wasn’t properly managed with the right medication and diet until he was 1 ½ years old. By that time I was a certified non-sleeping zombie doing anything to get my son to sleep just so that I could fall in a heap and get some rest. I hadn’t wanted to succumb to props to help him sleep. However, I found myself rocking, driving, using the dummy, letting him fall asleep on me (the list goes on, I really do have all the t-shirts). I knew they were not positive sleep associations but I was desperate as my husband had a job working abroad for months at a time and I just needed some sleep. I often felt like a failure because I couldn’t get my son to sleep for long periods or get him to sleep through the night.
A ‘good’ or ‘contented’ baby in our society, it seems, is a baby who sleeps a lot. How well your baby sleeps is one of the first areas of parenting by which new Mummies and Daddies are judged by others. So of course baby sleep is a source of incredible anxiety and frustration. ‘Is he a good baby?’ was an irritating question I got asked a lot in the early days of parenthood. Yes, people wanted to know whether my son was ‘contented’ and ‘slept well’, but what a way to ask! Had I said yes then they would’ve classed him as ‘good’ and congratulated him (I saw my friends’ babies getting cheered for being ‘good’). Other babies though, who for a list of reasons may not sleep well, are seen as ‘troublesome’ so I received sympathy and (countless) tips on how to improve my baby’s sleep habits. ‘Put him down and let him cry’ was a common one.
Over time, the problem just got worse and the effects of my sleep deprivation were far reaching. When sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have the time to complete all of the stages of the deep restorative sleep needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. I was a mess. I was often irritable with my loved ones, and felt negative about most things (sleep affects stress hormones, plus when you don’t get enough sleep it impairs your higher levels of reasoning skills and your ability to solve problems); I put on weight (sleep helps regulate the levels of the hormone ghrelin and leptin which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness) and I was often ill (sleep affects our immune system).
I had a beautiful baby girl in a short time frame – who also has silent reflux and a milk allergy, of course! With my husband working away my stress had doubled. On one hand I was looking after a demanding 2 year old who needed me to help him fall to sleep and who woke up several times every night. On the other hand I also had to look after an equally demanding newborn baby who needed fed regularly and who developmentally couldn’t sleep for long periods. My body and mind were on the verge of a breakdown (long-term sleep deprivation can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety). I just needed some sleeeeeep!
When my husband came home after 2 months away he did a lot of research and hired a sleep therapist, Hannah from Surrey, to come and help us. Without her knowledge and support – and my willingness to accept her teachings – I would not have achieved the happy bedtimes and restful nights that we all now enjoy… not to mention the added bonus of happy, fun daytimes from having a family who sleeps well. And it happened within a week! One of my best memories from the sleep training was tucking my (then) 2.5yr old son into bed, walking out of his room and hearing him sigh contentedly saying “ahhh, busy day, busy day” just before he fell asleep in his own bed, happy and unassisted by me. I cried tears of happiness; it was just amazing.
I was hooked from that first night! I knew then that no one needed to go through the sleepless torture that I went through. Being a parent is hard enough without doing it on a few hours sleep a night. I decided to leave mainstream teaching and retrain as a Sleep Therapist. In addition, I worked closely with Hannah (who I’d formed a friendship with) and many of her families so as to broaden my experience before I started out on my own.
Something as simple as sleep gave me back my zest for life and it was enough to drive me to learn more, retrain and qualify to help other families in need of sleep and a happier life. When you are ready to make that change to your child’s sleeping habits just get in touch for an informal chat to answer any questions you may have.
My recommendations are always tailored to your needs and are offered without judgement on the way you parent and the sleep situation you have found yourself in… we can even compare stories about the things we have done to get our children to go to sleep (ask me about doing squats in the middle of the night!).
With good sleep,