Is there just not enough coffee in the world to get you through the day? Is your small person pulling an all-nighter and leaving you exhausted? Maybe it's time to call in the Sleep Police...
Getting your child to sleep well through the night is the holy grail of early parenthood. After all, we all know that a well-rested child is more likely to be curious, energetic, happy, playful and eager to learn – which is all well and good when you have a dream sleeper who pops into bed without a murmur for 12 hours solid sleep a night! But what about those of us who have kids who treat bed time as they would a trip to the gallows? Tracy Tristram has a small person with a big sleep problem. So she enlisted much-needed help in the form of a sleep consultant in order to regain her sanity and not have to wake up in a racing car bed every morning….
How to get your child to sleep through the night
Once upon a time I was a smug mummy. You know the ones? The type whose children adore bedtime and who love nothing more than a glorious daytime nap on top of a solid night’s sleep… But Karma well and truly bit me on my sizeable bottom when it came to baby Number Three.
When Baby Number One arrived, I didn’t have a clue about basic baby stuff, much less getting the small, noisy things to sleep. But the ‘buzz book’ of the time was Contented Little Baby by Gina Ford. It worked! Well at least it did for us back then. Black-out curtains, routines and strict nap times were a cinch as it was just myself, The Husband and The Baby. He slept through from 12 weeks. So yes, I became one of those horrible smug mums who just didn’t understand other mums lamenting their lack of sleep because of their nuisance non-sleeping babies. I knew it was their fault. They didn’t buy Gina Ford.
Number Two came along five years later. What Gina’s method didn’t bargain for was the fact that she had reflux. And with an older one to juggle, the rigid timetables were not always achievable. Thankfully, Number Two loves sleep. She would sleep for three hours during the day and still be happy to go to bed at 7pm and not re-surface until 7am. No rocking or patting required. My smugness continued.
And then Number Three. A rule unto himself from day one and a whirlwind of energy who laughed in the face of Gina’s book and routines. Ten years had passed since my first dealings with Gina, and my attitude had changed a lot. I was no longer prepared to listen to my baby cry because he wanted a cuddle. And so he was always cuddled and never cried. He refused to have a dummy and he refused to be alone. And I couldn’t let him cry. Kids are small and totally reliant on you for such a brief time in the grand scheme of things… And so I resolved that it didn’t matter if Number Three didn’t sleep through quite as quickly as they had, and it didn’t matter if he wouldn’t be alone.
Number Three is now three and a half. He (and therefore I) did not have one night’s full sleep in all that time. He still needed me to lay next to him to fall asleep, and then when he was in the Land of Nod I would dash from his room to see the other two into bed, grab some dinner and then go to bed knowing it wouldn’t be long until I was summonsed back to his room. I would wake up in a racing car bed every single morning. I was no longer smug. But I was tired.
So tired that when a mutual friend mentioned my problems to sleep consultant Louise Duncan of Petite Dreamers, Louise got in touch to see if she could help me ensure I never sleep in a racing car again.
Why hire a sleep consultant?
Of course the market is flooded with sleep training books galore, and most of them would probably work if you had the hours to spare in order to read the book before you get round to the implementing part. But for me the biggest draw of hiring someone to help me was the fact that I had someone coaching me, directing me and telling me what to do. Much like a personal fitness trainer, really. I have zero dedication to exercise and therefore I need someone to make me do it. I feel the same about having hired a sleep trainer.
Is there an underlying health issue?
While most children are able to sleep through the night by around nine to 12 months, there are cases where the child may have an underlying medical issue which needs treating before solid sleep patterns are obtainable. We found out when Number Three was two years old that he likely has asthma and he actually went down with pneumonia and anaemia before he turned three. My gorgeous little tot was really rather sick, and I am sure his ongoing health issues back then also contributed to his poor sleeping patterns. We bought him an air purifier (check out our guide to coping with The Haze to find the best ones available here in Singapore), changed his diet (Less milk! More food!), and since then, thankfully, his health has improved immensely. And so with no medical issues to excuse the sleeping issues, and him still not being able to sleep without me, we knew that we needed The Cavalry.
Louise Duncan may not have turned up on my doorstep on a white charger, but she did come through my front door with a wonderfully positive attitude and a sympathetic ear. Our first consultation in person was after having already spoken several times via email and telephone, and also after I had filled in a comprehensive questionnaire about my son Rafferty’s sleeping habits. Never once did I feel judged or made to feel as if I had failed. Louise understood and was a huge support from the start.
She met Rafferty (whom I had pre-warned about having a visit from The Sleep Lady) and engaged him in the proceedings as much as possible. And then we went through the plan that she had written just for us, we spoke about my concerns and worries for the sleep training process, and she gave me some really great tips to implement as part of the plan in order to help make it all as easy as possible (for Raff AND for me!).
I felt positive and ready to go into battle, especially knowing that I had back-up! That same day I went out with Rafferty to buy a load of $2 Daiso prizes for him, bought a clock with big shiny numbers, took my pillow out of his bed, and put a chair in his bedroom for me to sit on for the first nights of the plan. I literally time watched the whole day, waiting for 6.45pm, the magic time at which we’d begin and Rafferty would start sleeping on his own…
The first night was tough for us both. I am not entirely sure who it was toughest for, truth be told. Probably me. There were a lot of tears. And Rafferty cried too. But after a noisy initial battle a miracle occurred… Rafferty went quiet, glared at me for a final time for not being in bed with him, and went to sleep. On his own. I left the room feeling tired, emotionally drained, but also victorious. And guess what? I did not wake up in the racing car the next morning! My three-and-a-half-year-old son slept through the night without calling for me for the first time in his life!
It had to be a fluke? Or perhaps Louise was not a Sleep Consultant at all but actually a magician? When she called that morning to check how we went, I could barely believe it myself. Raff was busy playing with his new $2 dinosaur prize, and I was drinking a cup of tea without the need for matchsticks to prop up my eyelids.
The whole sleep plan was a 10-day affair and whilst there were some blips along the way, these were really very minor. In the 10 days I had an amazing nine nights of uninterrupted sleep! Now we cuddle up for stories and then I leave him with his bedraggled chosen ‘lovie’ (a suggestion from Louise that Rafferty adopt one of his cuddly toys as a sleep buddy) and his Green Eggs & Ham book and off I go. To my other kids. My husband. And my dinner. And a night of blissful sleep in my own bed! I has helped that Raff is at an age where I can reason with him a bit. It also helped that his big brother and sister have made a huge fuss of his successes. But really this has worked because I was in the right mind set to do it, and because I had an amazing coach who talked me down when I needed it, bolstered me up when I was upset, and generally was a huge support through the whole process. Louise Duncan, I thank you. My family thanks you. And my sanity thanks you.
Louise Duncan’s five steps to getting your baby to sleep through the night
Using a Sleep Consultant worked miracles for our family, and I only wish we had done it sooner. So, if you are tearing your hair out from sleep deprivation or worried that your little one is not getting enough rest, then Louise could be your woman.
Louise says that if your baby or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, the first thing you should know is. that you’re not alone! Studies show that up to 30% of babies have sleep problems, and that 75% of parents would like to change their babies’ sleep habits. The good news is that there are some quick and easy things you can do – starting now – to help your little one starting sleeping all through the night… and taking long, restful naps during the day.
Here she shares some great tips for parents tackling a sleep issue:
1. Choose an early bedtime
The best time to put your baby or toddler to bed is between 6pm and 8pm. This ensures that your child will be able to get a solid 11-13 hours of sleep during the night. (And yes, that is how much sleep children should be getting every night up until the age of about 10.)
2. Put your child to sleep in the same place every night
Whether your child has a room of their own or shares a room with parents or siblings, it’s important that you put your son or daughter to sleep in the same place every night (and for naps during the day as much as possible.) Putting your child to bed in a familiar place lets them know they are safe and that they are in a place where sleep is expected of them.
3. Create a predictable bedtime routine
Consistency and predictability are really important to babies and toddlers. When they know what to expect at bedtime, it makes it much easier for them to make the transition from waking to sleeping – and that’s why creating a bedtime routine is so important! A good example of a bedtime routine might be something like this:
6:20pm: Bath time
6:35pm: Put on pyjamas
6:40pm: Nursing or bottle (Do NOT let your child fall asleep while feeding!)
6:55pm: Story or songs
7:00pm: Into crib or bed
Your bedtime routine shouldn’t take more than about 45 minutes, and it’s very important that the routine is the same every single night. The repetition and predictability are what let your child know that he or she will soon be expected to fall asleep.
4. Put your baby to bed awake!
If you’ve been rocking, nursing, or otherwise soothing your baby to sleep, this is going to seem like a tough one… but it’s actually the most important step! It’s only by letting your baby fall asleep without your help at bedtime that he or she can learn the skills necessary to stay asleep through the night.
5. If your baby wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before intervening
Everyone, babies and adults alike, will actually wake up several times every night. For most adults, these wakings are so brief that we don’t even remember them the next morning. However, many babies will immediately start to fuss or cry when they wake up. This is simply because they haven’t learned how to fall asleep on their own. If a baby has been nursed or rocked to sleep at bedtime since birth, it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t know how to fall asleep independently. The good news is that many babies can figure out how to get back to sleep within just a few minutes of waking up in the night!
If your child continues to fuss or cry for more than a few minutes, you’ll want to go in and offer some comfort, but it’s important to let your child do the work of falling back to sleep. You can speak softly to your child and do some gentle rubbing or patting, but you should avoid picking your child up and rocking or nursing back to sleep.
So there you have it: the five most important things you need to know about getting your child to sleep through the night. Of course, keep in mind that every child is a little different. There’s no ‘magic formula’ that will work 100% of the time for every baby!
Sleep consultants in Singapore
As with employing any kind of specialist consultant or service, your choice always has to be a good fit for you and your family. So if you are thinking about hiring some help from a sleep consultant, here is Singapore’s dream team:
Louise Duncan, Petite Dreamers Sleep Solutions, p. 9828 6264; e. [email protected]
Zoe Chu, Singapore Supernanny, p. 9238 8060; e. [email protected]
Tammy Fontana, Baby Sleep Fairy, p. 9030 7239 (prefers SMS initially); e. [email protected]
Jacki Roche, Sleep Solutions for Babies, p. 91150370; e. [email protected]
Nicole Booth, Calmer Kid Sleep Solutions, p. 8322 3302; e. [email protected]