Why I did controlled comfort | Sleep training a non-sleeping baby
I’ve talked a lot in my blogs about sleep – or rather lack of it. And I come back to it a lot because sleep is vital – it helps you to function as a person rather than wandering aimlessly from one day to the next on a level of exhaustion that not even a 365 day bender could give you. And I can assure you it’s less fun, just imagine a 365 day bender.
Anyway I digress, we got into bad habits with Sofia of feeding her when she cried and we couldn’t settle her; so she was fed to sleep. It was great as we got our evenings back but the night times were horrendous. For 4.5 months. I tried every massage class, sensory class, NCT class, cranial osteopathy, different milks, basically anything with a mention of ‘aids sleep’ in the sub text. I laughed about it but over time it started to get me down. Everyone else’s babies started to settle and sleep – yet mine was still up 8 times or more a night.
So I did a bit of research and I found Jo Ryder of Twilight Nanny. Stuart and I decided that if we had to we would get Jo to come and ‘live in’ with us for five nights to get her sleep under control. I went for a consultation first and it was good to get some reassurance that she should be able to go through the night with the amount of milk she was consuming in the day, or to at least only have one wake up. Not eight!
So what did the sleep nanny recommend for us?
Controlled comfort. Not a believer in the cry it out method, I was pleased to hear this! She also advised to get rid of the dummy to avoid ‘dummy runs’ – that wasn’t particularly tricky as Sofia wasn’t particularly bothered by a dummy.
What is controlled comfort?
It offers the child reassurance that you are there but you don’t talk to them, pick them up or give them anything – in our case, it was milk and dummy.
So night one I set up camp; chair, cushion and pouffe with a blanket to go over my head whilst I play candy crush. Controlled comfort here we come!
It was horrendous. And halfway through the ‘ordeal’ not only was my patting arm aching, I made the mistake of looking at her little sad face in the cot. And my children are brilliant at perfecting a devastated dropped bottom lip face.
1hr 3 mins it took of full on screaming (sorry neighbours) whilst I just sat tapping in a regular heartbeat type pattern on her arm/chest/tummy. And she stopped and slept. The rest of that night. I didn’t though, I kept waking up to check she hadn’t cried herself to death.
Night 2. 45 minutes of crying and anger. Then she slept.
Night 3. She slept. The whole night.
It took just three nights to get a child who suddenly started sleeping 12-13 hours straight with no fuss. How was she not a tired mess before? She was clearly like us underneath – a lazy sleep loving sloth! And I suddenly wish I had done it a lot sooner. Suddenly, I saw parenting in a whole new light… a new day appearing had unicorns sprinkling glitter with every breath I took, the sun shone out like diamonds every time I pulled back the curtains at a reasonable time in the morning and fairies sung songs into my well slept ears, you get the idea. It was heaven and I realised just how hellish the previous 4.5 months had been
So, as Arlo approaches 4.5 months old and with his sleep patterns seeming to be worse than ever I’ve decided now is the time. He’s probably the right time as he hasn’t yet picked up too many bad habits, as long as I know he has had enough milk throughout the day then there is no reason that he cannot now sleep for longer spells and not need milk (they advise between 4-6 months babies should be capable of doing long spells of sleep), he has also started having solids.
My tips for sleep training:
- Be consistent.
- Be in it for the long haul – don’t start the process and then give up; this goes for that night or the duration of time until they ‘get it’
- Forward plan and schedule out your time – it may mean that you take a couple of days out of your usual weeks routine to stay in and ensure you can follow it through at every nap time
- Include the training into part of their usual bedtime routine
- Incorporate key words into the ‘night’ process and keep them the same so they know what part is coming next; ie – I say “Goodnight, I’m going downstairs now, I love you, see you in the morning” and then I leave the room, and I do this every time
- Because they will cry, it may be worth ensuring that your other children/your working other half move out of the room and set up camp elsewhere where they can at least enjoy a peaceful nights sleep (no point the whole family being knackered!)
- Have a strong mindset – it is tough, they will cry but don’t stop until the message is across and they’re self settling and sleeping – they need this help and encouragement and you need your sanity back
It goes without saying, I am no expert, but if your baby struggles with any health related issues then check with a professional before carrying out any training.
There are many articles on sleep training and many different sleep training methods. A few of my favourites, and the ones I have used when refreshing the techniques learnt from Jo at Twilight Nanny are;
- Babycenter – Finding the right sleep training method for your baby
- Parents – Ten steps to sleep training success
- Netmums – Five common sleep training techniques
- Snugbaby.net – Help, my baby won’t sleep