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Sleep school and new skills

Sleep school and new skills

Following a week at 'sleep school', Kylie wonders what life (well, sleep!) will be like upon their return home ...

Following our week at Masada Mother Baby Unit, we entered a period of self imposed 'house arrest' where Caspar and I stayed home every day as recommended by the nurses so that he could do all of his sleeps in the cot. Leaving Masada, I was worried about how we would go with the transition to being back at home. As you would expect, the first few days at home Caspar was quite unsettled and unfortunately Caspar went backwards with his sleeping habits from what he had been doing at Masada.

I started to get quite anxious about going back to the situation we had before Masada. Every time he would wake after one sleep cycle during the day, or would wake and call out during the night, I would get very edgy and anxious. I realised that I had anxiety about going back to the level of anxiety I had pre-Masada. But, after three weeks of house arrest, diligently sticking to the Masada 'rules' and a lot of stressed out pacing the hallway by me, Caspar really started to consolidate all that he learned at the Mother Baby Unit. He was able to put himself back to sleep after waking from one sleep cycle during the day, and went back to sleeping through the night until 7am or 8am.

I started to relax and really enjoyed the peace and solitude I got when he was doing a big morning sleep, or once I had put him down for the evening. I also loved getting him up from a 'successful' nap and seeing the beaming smile on his face when he saw me leaning over his cot. Four weeks after Masada we went to Noosa for a week of holidays. I spent a lot of time getting organised before we went so that we could replicate the sleeping conditions we had at Masada and at home (a very dark room, the cot sheet set up etc). Caspar was pretty wound up and overstimulated by the airport and plane, cried a lot on the flight and managed only a 20 minute sleep in my lap for the whole first day. And for the first two days of our holiday he was all over the place with his sleeping. My anxiety started to creep back and I started wondering why we'd ever attempted something as ridiculous as a holiday! But he quite quickly recalibrated and was able to go back to pretty good sleeping patterns.

Once we returned from the holiday it took another day of unsettledness, but he was then able to resume a good pattern of sleeping during the day and night. I am starting to realise that I need to trust Caspar, and myself, to draw on the skills we have both learnt and get back on track after any disruptions to our usual programming. Having anxiety about anxiety is pretty useless, especially when I have a baby who is happy and healthy and doing really well with his sleep, growth and development. Now that we have been home from holidays for a few days I have started to take Caspar out in the afternoons - to meet a friend at a cafe, for doctor's appointments, running errands or for a long walk. I am starting to relax now and trust that he will either sleep at his nap time in the pram, or if he doesn't, it won't ruin our entire routine, and he will get back on track the next day.

Expert response from What Were We Thinking! expert, Sue Doogan

Thank you Kylie for your honesty – you have reassured many parents in similar situations that there will be hiccoughs here and there, but if you stick to the principles (and evidence based research) it will work out - “and the beaming smile on his face” makes it all worthwhile. (And that you can in fact combine babies and a lovely holiday!)

When you find yourself tired, anxious, sleep deprived it is hard to see “the forest for the trees”. Trust in yourself & give yourself (& your baby) some time. Re-read the WWWT Feed, Play, Sleep routine ( http://bit.ly/1wOA6wQ ). Write the routine on your phone or some paper & stick it on the fridge, on the wall in the nursery, in the bathroom, anywhere where you constantly see it to remind yourselves. Also banish any thoughts that it will “work” the first time you put your baby down to sleep. You know it will work because you and your baby have done it before but you must be patient – the job description of babies and children is to test the boundaries! (Remember back to when you were a child/teenager!!!)

As Kylie points out, we need to be consistent so that the babies can consolidate what you are teaching them. (This consistency applies to many things not just sleep routines but that’s for another day!) You absolutely can combine holidays, social activities, appointments etc. with a feed-play-sleep routine BUT with some slight adjustment and realistic expectations. Take on board Alex’s blog from 30th June – “One thing a day rule”. This includes coffee, sightseeing activities, house guests, functions, etc. Be honest, do you really feel like socialising when you are anxious and sleep deprived?

Never feel alone! There are many people willing to help you if you still feel you are anxious and struggling but you have to tell people and ask for help! Don’t struggle on alone – it isn’t worth it. As Kylie so beautifully stated “having anxiety about anxiety is pretty useless”.