• Cara Goulding

Sleep Training

Let me tell you a bedtime story.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who like to sleep, she slept for all her naps, she slept through the night. She slept through football matches and hoovering. On people, in prams and lying in her bed.

Her parents were overjoyed and smug. 'Look at our clever little girl!' they cried.

Then one day the little girl stopped sleeping like a newborn and started sleeping like an adult and suddenly her Mummy found herself up 1,2,3,4 times a night trying to settle her daughter to sleep. In the day, the naps stopped happening in her bed and she refused to sleep anywhere but on her Mummy.

After many weeks of this a friend suggested white noise. Having already tried this the Mother was dismissive at first but thought she would give it one more try. What Joy it worked! Suddenly the rocking and the white noise helped and naps became easier.

Of course there came a day where rocking was not an option and suddenly the Mother realised, 'How am I meant to get her to sleep once she flies the Moses basket nest?!'

The day came all too soon, and the little girl rolled in her tiny bed. It just wasn't safe anymore and it was time to move to her cot. But now there was no rocking motion so it was difficult for the little girl to get to sleep in the day.

At night she could roll around and make herself comfortable, dreaming of the days events, but the little girl did not want to nap. Why would she when there was so much for her to see and do?

In despair the mother decided that the only thing she could do, the only way to teach her daughter to sleep was to leave her to battle it out. Little girl vs Sleep. No distractions. Just some white noise and a full tummy, a clean nappy and some sleepy eyes.

At first the little girl cried. She cried and she cried and she cried. For 45 minutes the Mother sat at the bottom of the stairs in tears herself because she didn't want to hear her daughter crying. It went against every maternal instinct. But she knew that if she went upstairs the little girl had won, and she'd know that she was the boss.

Gradually over the week the little girl learnt that when she went into her bed it was time to have a sleep. She fought it less and less, and soon was drifting off in under ten minutes. Sleep had won the battle.

Her Mummy breathed a sigh of relief, her Daddy rejoiced! For they knew as hard as it had been their little girl would benefit from all the extra sleep. They knew what was coming. They knew she would need all her energy for the next battle. Little Girl vs Crawling!

The Reality

I never thought I'd be a mum that sleep trained. The thought of leaving her to cry just seemed mean and if you are a mother you will know that it genuinely hurts your soul a little bit when they do.

But once we had moved after finally getting her to take to her naps in the Moses basket, she of course, outgrew it and then we were back at square one with the cot.

If I tried to rock her and then put her down, she woke up. If I put her down and lay a comforting hand on her, she'd scream. If I stood over her she'd just lie there looking at me and crying. It just wasn't plausible to have her nap on me all day, for a start my back was in agony from holding her.

After talking to a few people and getting their opinions I decided that tough love might have to be the way forward.

I didn't read any information on sleep training, or anyone else opinions on it either. I know that there are lots of different methods you can try, so if you are here looking for tips on those I'm afraid I don't have any! I just kept it simple.

I make sure that she's fed, has a fresh nappy on and is sleepy and then I put her in her cot, close the door and walk away. No matter how much noise she makes I won't go back in to her because eventually she'll learn that cot = napping.

I know that being in that room isn't a problem and the cot isn't a problem because she's started, pretty much, sleeping through the night again. So she's just being stubborn (she gets it from me, go figure).

So the first time, feeling like the worst mother in the world, I left her upstairs to cry and God that first day was hard. It took so much willpower to not go upstairs and scoop her up and reassure her that I love her and that I'm always here for her. Eventually she went to sleep but it left me feeling drained.

We are now nearly a week and a half into the two weeks I set to see improvement and I'm happy to say that it seems to be working. The last two days she has gone to sleep in just under 10 minutes for all her naps which is a huge achievement for her.

I'm able to get so much more done because I'm not either having to hold her or rock her to sleep. I can put her down, wince through 10 minutes of crying and then have time to do things. Eventually I'll put her down and she won't cry at all, she'll drop straight off to sleep.

I know that this method isn't for everyone. Like I said before, I didn't even think it was for me. It divides opinion, just like Baby Lead Weaning/Traditional Weaning or Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding but at the end of the day if you are doing what you think is best for YOU and YOUR child then crack on and ignore how other people are raising their children.

We are all just trying to raise decent human beings, and if you feel comfortable and happy letting your child co-sleep, or nap on you, if you use the Ferber method or if they only fall asleep in the pram outside then do that. As long as the child is safe and looked after then the rest is just preference.

If you are going through sleep training right now, keep going. I'm saying this for my benefit also because it is hard to listen to and you do feel guilty but as my friend said to me, 'We are their parent, not their friend and at some point we need to start making decisions for them that they aren't going to like. But you are helping them by being strong'.

Cara x