20 January 2009

We did it! (With help from my Fairy Godmother)

If you have read some of my earlier posts, you may recall me bemoaning the rough nights and broken sleep with our baby, Scrag... particularly since we took him to Mauritius in October.

It seems it was a bit much for his little system, all that travelling and time-zone changing; then came teething and bad habits were cemented with shushing and rocking and cuddling and feeding to sleep... everyone was walking on eggshells when it was nap-time... nope sorry, eggshells are just TOO NOISY - you'll wake the baby! Walk on pins and needles instead!

It's been pretty crappy. Of course in the middle of all this we've had birthdays and funerals and Christmas and holiday road trips...

At my wits end (literally) I was on my way to the Doctor to get a new prescription for anti-depressants less than two weeks ago. I haven't had to go back on them since Scrag was born, but that's how bad things had gotten; I was starting to crack.

Some kind friends had offered to take Dash swimming that morning, and I was just getting in my car as they arrived to pick him up. They were also the lovely family we recently went camping with... I told them where I was headed and why; and the hubby said, "my mum's a retired sleep specialist; she worked for Plunkett for years and she's amazing... shall I get her to phone you?"

YES PLEASE! I was so desperate.
Well... this lovely woman phoned me that evening. She asked for lots of details about Scraggy's patterns, and said, "Don't worry I will put together a plan for you."

The problem? He couldn't self-settle PLUS... he wasn't getting enough solid food to eat :(

Too much of the old "breast is best" and not enough of the protein and chewable stuff.

She emailed me through a detailed plan the next morning. And I put it into practise straightaway. Religiously. And would you know... it works??? (See below for her Sleep Plan)

Turns out this lovely lady is something of a legend in our parts; I call her my Fairy Godmother.

We went camping for three nights with her son and daughter-in-law; they can testify that Scraggy did pretty jolly well. He learnt to self-settle very quickly. I just pop him in his bed, and he sometimes grizzles, but often just goes off happily to sleep. By the third night on the programme he was no longer being fed at night. He would wake and cry for a little bit but then go back to sleep.

Then last night, first time ever... 12 hours!! Without waking, he slept through the night.
And the good thing is, I know it's not a fluke. It's the start of new things. Yippee, thankyou Jesus for sending me such a wonderful Fairy Godmother.


She sent me the following email, which changed my life...

When I used to work at this stuff I would go and see a family and spend several hours with them asking questions and explaining things and then giving out the plan. Obviously you and I have significantly shortcut the question time but I still feel confident enough to know that we are looking at a behaviour issue and not a health problem and even the teething issue is minimal in the greater picture.

  • Your son is a natural fighter of sleep. This does NOT mean he cannot learn how to sleep better but that we, on his behalf, need to monitor his body signals more since he (the personality part of him) can more easily fight off tired signs even though the body part of him still needs sleep and reacts badly when it doesn’t get enough. Overtiredness often looks like ‘something is wrong’ and indeed to some extent this is true since none of us function well when significantly overtired. I often find that all kinds of so-called ‘pain’ problems disappear once the tiredness factor has been dealt with. Anyway, ‘fighters and ‘stayers’ definitely need to be ‘managed’ more since they feel they will miss out on the world if they close their eyes for too long! We will help him learn to self settle. Some of the reason he is waking at night is because he has not learnt how to always self settle and hence, when he reaches REM sleep he stirs and cannot get himself back to sleep without waking the household. For him, breastfeeding is a cue to sleep... hooks you in big time. Also affects how much he eats in the day... no wonder breakfast is off the timetable.
  • It sounds as if you have been either given the wrong information or maybe misinterpreted what has been said about what is needed at this age regarding food requirements. This business of ‘breast is best’ has led many mothers (you are not alone in this) to see ‘food’ as some kind of inferior product to be put off as long as possible. In reality, while breast is indeed great if you can give it as much as possible till 6mths (not all mothers can and their babies do just fine!), AFTER 6mths they need to not only start solids but get onto a reasonably full range of foods relatively quickly (by nine months their range of food should be quite extensive). Not only are the infants' stored iron supplies diminishing but also their body size is demanding more calories and by nine months they should be able to handle a variety of textures as well. So I’ll change the meal pattern as well.
  • This is a busy household with a lot going on. No surprise that you sometimes get busy and attention to detail goes. Attention to the task at hand also decreases when YOU are tired, which undoubtedly you are with months of not sleeping properly. So, over the next few days be as ‘routine’ as you can be (you still need to live a life) but just be aware when routines are seriously out of kilter and draw yourself back a little.
  • Lastly, it sounds to me as if you might be ‘making life easier’ for everyone else in the household except yourself?? I say this rather cheekily, but your comment about not wanting to let baby cry because it might wake everyone else means not only that you think they can’t handle it for a couple of nights while you sort it out (they CAN) but also that you might think he will cry and disturb the household for ages to come... not so, he WILL change quite quickly for you once he is set clear signals as to what you want. And he won’t hate you for it (me being cheeky again) and he will be MUCH happier with a lot more sleep and eat better for you.

READY? Here goes with what I want you to do. The MOST important thing is to follow through consistently with the plan till the desired change takes place. The ONLY way baby can learn is by consistency... and time (remember, it will only take 3-5 days to make a significant difference once you start the program, but those days can be tough).


Day 1:

Start with the evening. Use a sleeping bag (best at this age because it means you can feel secure that he is warm enough and safe enough to leave. At this age many babies are quite mobile in bed and we can’t keep them covered. No need to wrap...well past that now). To adjust for a warm versus a cool night just adjust the amount he wears.

Bedtime: Feed him at the 6.30pm breast as usual, but make an effort to have him awake (or at least not fully asleep) when he goes to bed. Leave him to self-settle. Leave him UNATTENDED for as long as it takes him to go to sleep. He MUST fall asleep by himself please. Naturally you can go and check on him once you are SURE he is asleep, but that is more for you than necessity.
During the Night: When he wakes in the night (whenever that might be... do not wake him and don’t worry if he wakes at times which are different from usual)... feed him (do not change him unless you are sure he has had a poo). Do not talk to him, avoid eye contact, firm hands, deliberately feed him less than you usually would (You will be reducing the feeds over a couple of nights). As best you can, make sure he is not fully asleep when put back to bed. Leave him again....same as before...he must self settle no matter how long it takes.
Continue through the night till he wakes at approx the usual time. He can have a small breast feed but at about 7-7.30am; give him breakfast... solids and the remainder of the breast feed to follow (as much as he wants now).
Morning Sleep: When he is put to bed for the morning sleep, give a small breastfeed but definitely he needs to go to bed awake this time (sleeping bag) and once again he needs to be left to self settle) no matter how long it takes or how much noise he makes etc. Do not worry as to how long he sleeps for... as long as he has had SOME sleep get him up when he wakes and give lunch at about 11.30 am... solids first then breast (as much as he wants).
Afternoon Nap: For the afternoon nap he can have a small breast feed but once again must go to bed awake and must fall asleep by himself.
Dinner needs to be about 4.30pm... solids and breast, then bath then final breast feed (as much as he wants).
Into bed awake (definitely) and leave him as before. Now, in the night when he wakes I want him to have only one small breastfeed (same conditions as before) and ANY other wakings he is to be left to self settle unattended. You can choose which feed to give but probably best to give the 10-30pm feed. Do note however, that once we start to change things their usual routine starts to disintegrate (it’s meant to!) so waking times may vary).

Day 2:
When he wakes in the morning he can have a very small breast feed but breakfast is to be about 7-7.30am (from now on). Same as yesterday.

Morning Nap: For going to bed (for his morning sleep) NO breastfeed... just into bed and leave to self settle etc. However, IF he is still awake at about 9am you can give him some early morning tea... finger foods and water, before going to bed. But otherwise it won’t matter if he has it or not at this stage. Likewise, if he wakes early he can have finger foods and water on waking and lunch can be about 12 md instead of 11-30am. Make a judgement call.

Afternoon Nap: Same for the afternoon nap. NO breast before going to bed but if time permits he can have afternoon tea (finger foods and water) either before or after his sleep depending on when he goes down and how much he sleeps (remember, sleep times may change now).

is the same as yesterday. Now, this time, when he wakes in the night there is to be NO attendance for any waking... he is to be left alone till he definitely falls back to sleep by himself. Naturally you can check him once he has fallen asleep if you want to (no need really but you might feel better) but also don’t try and stay awake especially... you know he is warm and safe because of the bag.

OK... continue like this because this is your new pattern.

For the time being he can keep the small breast feed when he wakes, but DO be wary if breakfast does not seem to be good... milk is very filling and may take away his desire for other foods. You be the judge of what is acceptable, but just remember that breast alone is not OK at this age. Likewise, I remind you that his morning and afternoon breastfeeds he had before going to sleep have been replaced with finger foods and water (morning and afternoon teas) but the timing of these will depend on his sleep pattern. Sometimes they have quite big amounts at these times and sometimes very little. In fact, for ALL meals be they snacks or main meals the secret of good eating is to offer whatever meal you have planned, he either takes it or not (you don’t worry either way) and when he seems to be finished the meal you take him away and do something else till the next scheduled mealtime.

Regarding the other children and the possibility of them waking in the night while there is noise going on, they are both old enough to be able to understand what is going on. Explain to them what you are doing etc, and reassure that they shouldn’t be disturbed but if they do they are to go back to sleep as mummy and daddy are doing etc etc.....be confident about their ability to cope.....you do not need to rescue them in any way......if THEY play up, then go to the ‘ignoring them’ scene as well.....they will soon get the message! And I remind that this will all be behind you in 3-5 days if consistently carried through.

I have to say that putting this plan into action was easier than what I had previously been doing. since then, Scrag has been a great sleeper. When he has been unwell, he may wake through the night, but it only takes a night or two to get back into routine. God bless my Fairy Godmother, Pat. :)

What I do hear is:

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Sammy said...

Yay Simoney that's such great news! You are right it's not a fluke but the start of whole and rested nights for you...xxxx

Unknown said...

Thats awesome Simone. You must be soooo relieved and truely blessed. Nothing like getting a bit of sanity back when you get to sleep the whole night.

Good luck on the weaning, teething, and solids.

meg said...

Yippee! Broken sleep is a killer. It's amazing when you get your sleep back, makes all the difference in the world. x

Sarah (Chez Lee) said...

This is so great to read and very timely for me. I ended up on anti-depressants 9 month's after having both my older girls - due to sleep deprivation and general exhaustion.

My youngest is now 6 months and I have just reached the point of knowing I need to start making changes or risk the cracks appearing again. I'm feeling a lot stronger this time round and reading this post has been tremendously helpful. Thank you so much (and to your Fairy Godmother!).

I'd also like to add how brave and open of you to write about your experiences of living with depression.

I also find writing about my experiences very healing, but all my family live in the UK and my blog is a 'life-line' for the grandparents. Though I have dark days I don't tend to write about them on my blog, for fear of worrying and upsetting them.

Wishing you and your wonderful family all the very best, Sarah

Dee said...

We have just had to do something similar and a friend sent me the link to your post for encouragement. Thanks for this!!! :)

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