Iíve finally fulfilled my ambition of posting something on the success stories section as my dd has now been sleeping through for 3 weeks, so I consider that to be pretty much established Ė hooray! Iíve had some amazing help and support from the BW community through this site, especially these experts and moderators who I canít thank enough: Sara (Tersaseda), Emma (Brodieís Mummy), Jo (Calebís Mummy), Yazzie (Adamís Mum), Jane (Jay3), First Time Mom and Evgenia. Iím nowhere near their level of expertise, but thought Iíd share what Iíve learnt in case its of any use to anyone reading who is in the same position I was in 4 months ago when I first started BWing with my then 5 month old.
My dd is 9 months old and although we arenít 100% perfect on the sleep front, Iím more than happy with it. She currently sleeps for between 11.25 and 12.25 hours each night, rarely wakes, but if she does she settles herself within a minute or less. She usually only takes one decent nap (sometimes am, sometimes pm) and the other is usually short (always 35 mins) but she seems happy with the sleep sheís getting, so maybe thatís all she needs (she usually gets about 2 hours sleep in total during the day). When I started BWing I was absolutely desperate, although determined not to use CC/CIO, and I was fairly sceptical about it working even though I spoke about it confidently to my dh. I think in the back of my mind I was hoping we could just hire someone to come to our house and solve all our problems like magic (like Tracy used to do)!
DD started off life as a great sleeper (she is spirited but I think thereís a bit of angel in there somewhere too) and often slept for 6 or 7 hour stretches from being only a few weeks old, even though she was exclusively bfíd. Then I began to have problems bfing, really BAD problems (thats another story!) which resulted in alot of broken sleep for both of us and feeding was always very stressful and tearful. It also meant I was very inconsistent with her sleep. Sometimes she came into my bed when dh was working nights, sometimes I tried to keep her all night in her moses basket, which was sometimes upstairs and sometimes downstairs in the (light, noisy) living room. We had no bedtime routine, no nap routine, I always put the lights on to feed her during the night, I did LOADS of ap-ing (feeding to sleep, rocking, music, etc) ... the list of errors goes on! I tried the No-Cry sleep books and just couldnít get them to work, in hindsight this was because I kept on trying to feed her to sleep and she needed to break that association, but I wasted alot of time on them. This resulted in my dd being even more confused (and my dh) and me getting less and less sleep and doing more and more ap-ing. By the time I came across Tracyís book by chance on Amazon (and was attracted to all the positive reviews) she usually woke over 20 times per night, only slept in her crib if she was sneaked in there asleep, and never slept longer than 90 mins. Her longest nap time was 15 mins and she was permanently grumpy and tired (as was I). She had extremely long NWs too, her record was 5 hours (Iíll never forget it, from 1.00am til 6.00am when the birds were singing and the sun coming up).
My relationship with dh was getting seriously rocky and I would have signed an affidavit to swear I would never have another baby. I felt I was letting them both down and I was a miserable, exhausted, depressed, snappy, pale, spotty, anti-social, wreck. I didnít enjoy my dd as much as I should have done, we hardly ever left the house and basic things like cooking a meal or speaking to my Mum seemed like an effort. In short, other than throwing health problems into the mix (and luckily my dd has had no reflux or teething or anything else to make things worse) it was about as bad as it gets for my family.
To begin with the BWing was very hard to stick with, it was such a radical departure from what Iíd been doing and although he was a great support, dh didnít have that much time to help (working and studying combo) but Iím SO glad I carried on. It took no time to see small changes but longer than Iíd expected (about 3 months) to achieve the success weíre now enjoying. If you are just starting and finding it hard going, STICK WITH IT, it really works. If Tracy developed this from working with over 5000 babies, yours will be no different (like mine wasnít, although I was convinced she would be). DD now goes straight to sleep as soon as sheís lowered into her cot and it takes only a couple of mins (into the dark room, into her grobag, into her cot) to settle her for naps and night time sleep.
I have resisted using pu/pd partly because I know it would be exhausting and partly because Iím unsure it would work on my spirited lo, I just see it as a last resort that so far Iíve never had to use. So to begin with (dd was 5mo) we used sh-pat and followed the plan in the BWSAYP book on p.32 (except for the pu/pd part), radically changing everything about how we facilitated ddís sleep. She found it hard at first, had to be helped to sleep constantly, and still woke alot during the night. But within a few days there were noticeable improvements, as the new experience of consistency began to sink in for her. Her NWs reduced in number and length and she started to take 3 naps a day (albeit with alot of support). She still wasnít sleeping independently but at least I knew what to do when she woke.
Sometimes the sh-pat sessions were themselves exhausting and I regularly leaned over her crib for 90 or more minutes at a time, gradually reducing my sound and touch, only to find she woke up again after 5 minutes, then I started again. But slowly, over the weeks, there were improvements and then they plateaud .... I didnít realise it at the time but I was intervening far too much. I used to stay in the room for all her naps and sleep right beside her crib (at the foot of my bed). Whenever she moved, murmured or made any sound at all, I was so paranoid that she would feel alone that I leapt up and intervened, never giving her the chance to settle herself and probably creating (or cementing) an inability to transition through sleep cycles.
Throughout this I sought support and advice from the naps and NW boards and always got kind, patient and knowledgeable input. I could never have got where I am without their help, not least because my interpretation of Tracyís books was often limited and it took a fresh perspective to make me realise why. In one of her sleep interviews, Tracy says that ultimately you canít keep relying on books, instead you have to learn to read your baby yourself. Like learning a new language, at first I found this prospect so intimidating as to seem virtually impossible. I didnít understand more than a few phrases but the ladies on these message boards are all fluent, they translated for me, and now I can at least understand the basics.
Eventually, we succeeded in a few significant changes (in no particular order) which got us here:
1. Dropping the cn (6.5mo) which had always been the easiest nap of the day, then one day, literally without warning, dd refused it and never took one since!
2. Dropping the df (at 8mo) which I phased out gradually. By this time, dd was having one bottle of formula a day at the df (dh loved to do it), so I watered it down more and more over about 8 days then stopped it altogether. All in all it was a success and totally painless, she woke around that time, habitually, for a few nights afterwards but was easy to resettle.
3. Dropping the night feeding altogether (8m 1w old). The first time she STTN was the first night with no feeding at all. She had been keeping up a habitual (but genuine Ďlearned hungerí) feed around 3am for ages and I was having limited success in reducing the time I did it for (it was a bf). Then she slept through til 5.30am and the habit was broken, so I resolved not to give her any more NFs again. Instead she had the same quantity of milk before bedtime (before PJs) to Ďtank her up.í It was tempting to give her a bit of milk when she woke around that time for a few nights, as it sometimes took up to an hour to resettle her, but within a week or so she slept through that time. A Peadiatrician told me that a baby needs to be about 16lb before their stomach is large enough to hold enough food/milk to keep them going through the night - this weight is reached at different ages for different LOs so its best to go by weight rather than age when working out whether its fair to expect your LO not to need night feeds. As it happens, my DD wasn't weighed on the day she first STTN, but from working it out on her chart she was about ... 16lbs!
4. Sleeping in her own cot in her own room. DD was in a moses basket at first, then an intermediate crib, so when it was time to move her into her own room (7mo), I did it gradually by moving the crib a foot or so at a time, out of our room, across the landing and into her room over several days. The crib then sat inside her new larger cot for a few nights until she got used to that and finally she went into her big new cot. It worked beautifully and she accepted the changes easily. In hindsight she should have been moved sooner as dh and I really were tiptoeing around our bedroom, whispering, cautious of even turning over in case it made a noise!
5. Sleeping truly independently. DD was about 6mo before I had the confidence and courage to really put her down awake and not intervene to get her off to sleep. She took to it instantly, I was amazed! From then on I did less and less to put her down and now its just the right wind down and atmosphere in the room forming a sleep cue, so I just put her grobag on, pop her in the cot with some goodnight words and she sends herself off.
6. Resettling herself. I never properly identified the mantra cry so just thought she didnít have one and that didnít apply to us, but I was intervening too much when she woke (or before she woke). Sara the Naps Moderator switched the lightbulb on for me by convincing me to listen when she stirred and hang back, to really wait for the ĎI need youí cry and not go in unless I heard it. Iím not very good at cries, but that one rises in pitch and volume and never lets up. It made an enormous difference immediately, as dd had been mantra crying about 90% of the time that I was rushing to her side! Overnight she started resettling herself most of the time once I let her and she never cried for more than 2 minutes maximum (usually more like 10 seconds on average). I felt terrible thinking of all the times she had been trying to settle herself and I dived on her, touching, patting, sh-ing, talking, etc. I must have been annoying her so much!
7. Tweaking and almost perfecting the EASY routine, especially the A times. Weíre still not quite there as her naps arenít always great, but adjusting A times has been key in improving both day and night sleep for us. At first I didnít see how they could make much difference, especially not adjusting by 5 or 10 minutes, but they really do, and sleep really does beget sleep. I can see now when my LO is OT (and that she was OT for months before this programme began to help us) and the EWs this causes are like the false dawn I get after a night of stress or a few drinks (a distant memory!), and truly cannot be helped by a later bedtime as I had tried at first.
8. Not being changed at night. My LO has always been in real nappies, which are great for the bank balance/conscience, but need changing more frequently than disposables. Once I was trying to get her to STTN I started using disposables at night only, in the hope she wouldn't need changing. I tried every brand but every night at least once she had a soaked leg and clothing (she slept lying on her side) and everything had to come off and be changed, which was hardly sleep-inducing. All Mums who use disposables seem to be loyal to one brand and many won't agree with me, but I found when I tried them last (because they're the most expensive!) that Pampers night time ones worked! They fitted perfectly and can hold 12 hours worth of wee! And in the end they cost less, because I literally only every use one pernight, instead of 2 or 3 cheaper ones.
I hope some of this can help you if youíre in the same place I was in a few months ago, and however hard youíre finding it, it will pass quickly and youíll be glad you stuck with it. Although I felt like I was in hell for a while, I can honestly say I'm glad to have gone through it all, as through trying to really understand my baby's communications, I feel miles closer to her, and that I know her so much better. One thing I read which helped me during long and difficult NWs was that you should imagine yourself in 5 or 10 years time looking back at this .... will you be proud of how you handled this situation?
Finally, here are some little tips that I learned the hard way!
ē Get a chair or stool for marathon sh-pat sessions, otherwise your back may never recover! I found a small childís chair was perfect for sitting alongside my ddís crib
ē If you hear your LO stirring for a NW/EW you will have at least 10 or 20 seconds grace before you may be needed so use the time to sip your water/visit the loo, otherwise youíll need to when you are stuck in there for ages!
ē Darken the room by really blacking it out, use foil, paper, anything. We currently have a blackout blind AND a black tablecloth nailed over the window in DDs room, It doesnít exactly look like a showroom but it works!
ē Radio 4/BBC World Service on a low volume is a fine substitute for a white noise machine (lovely talking voices, hardly any music), and if you get it through a clock radio, you can always see the time when youíre in the dark with your LO
ē Grobags instead of blankets (once theyíre a few months old and canít wriggle inside them) canít be kicked off or over the head. Genius.
ē Tuck your childís lovey in between you when you feed so it seems safe and familiar, and picks up your scent too. I bfíd my dd and tucked the lovey over the other breast during feeds.
ē When your LO is tiny, cold sheets can wake them up when they are laid down, so dh used to take the mattress out of the moses basket and lay on it for 5 mins so warm it up while I was winding dd down. DH liked having this job and DD got the scent of Daddy on the sheets too.
ē If you have to get your LO to take a nap somewhere else (don't make a habit of it), make it the cn, and buy a travel cot. Ours was a pop-up one that folded up to a very small neat size in a little bag, and was £10 from ebay Ė the best and most well-used thing we ever bought, I think! You can take your familiar sheet, lovey, music, etc with you to make a home away from home for sleeping purposes.
ē If you have an ipod or MP3, put your wind down music on it for naps away from home, and get a battery operated speaker, so it can be used abroad, in the car, in a power cut, anywhere!
ē You have to be committed to see changes, and you have to make your LOís sleep a priority, but sometimes its okay to do things to protect your mental/emotional health, like go out and let your LO have a sling/pram/car nap, see friends, get a coffee or go shoe shopping - take a break from baby/sleep obsessing, just for a couple of hours and it will recharge your batteries .... and if youíve been really stressed it can break the cycle of transmitting this to your LO and Iíve found it can somehow reboot your BWing if youíre at that point.
Good luck, you can do it!