Alice was 17 months fed to sleep at bedtime and waking 1-2 hours overnight and feeding every time back to sleep, co-sleeping with mum. Mum was 6 months pregnant when she got in touch with me asking for help, she was beyond exhausted and worried about how she would cope when her second baby was born.
Mum’s sleep goals were: For Alice to sleep in her cot
For Alice and mum to have 4 hours stretch of sleep (ideally in her cot)
I explained to mum about how her goals were realistic and age appropriate for Alice.
Firstly we tackled quick wins. There are no magic fixes with sleep coaching but sometimes small changes can make a big difference; these are referred to as ‘quick wins.’ The quick wins we focused on were; creating the right sleep environment for Alice
making sure she had a good wind down and bedtime routine
optimum nutrition during the day
naps at the right time
age appropriate bedtime
feeding at the start of the bedtime routine
Often the best time to start working on your child’s sleep is at bedtime and concentrating on the time before midnight to settle them back to sleep rather than using the method (in this case feeding) usually used. Alice was 17 months old so although there are many reasons baby wakes through the night and so much more to breastfeeding than nutrition, we could look to lengthen the time of the first feed. Alice was waking around 9.45/10pm for the first feed of the night, so instead of feeding at this time we decided for dad to go in and settle her back to sleep. Alice did not like to be cuddled or rocked to sleep, so we decided that settling her in the cot and using voice and touch would be the best option. Often dad going in at a non feed time works well with breastfeeding babies. Now this was non a quick fix and I always talk to parents about long term goals where do you want to be 1 month from now, 3 months from now. Weaning off or stopping night feeds does not always mean baby will wake less but if you can find an alternative settling method for baby then it is possible to gently and gradually when age appropriate, wean off feeding to sleep and night feeds.
After 3 weeks Alice was waking once overnight around 2am so we had achieved the original sleep goal of 4 hours sleep, 4 hours before the feed and around 4 hours after as typically Alice woke up around 6am. She was also sleeping all night in her cot, which helped mum sleep better as Alice was a very wriggly sleeper and even when they co-slept mum wasn’t getting much sleep. By 6 weeks Alice had dropped the feed altogether and was sleeping in her cot from 7pm-6am and having 2 hour nap after lunch.
All babies are different and they all respond to things differently until you try you just don’t know. I have worked with babies and within a few nights we’ve reached the sleep goals and others it has taken few months to get there.
When parents get in touch with me the first question I ask are what are their sleep goals? Then if they want to change a particular habit or sleep method, why.
Often people think sleeping through the night is the goal of parents and yes that’s the dream! Often it isn’t age appropriate or realistic for baby to sleep through. When you ask parents their goals are much smaller. Also understanding why parents want to change the way their child falls asleep really helps, sometimes parents are tired of doing it that way, it’s no longer working or sometimes it’s because other people think they should.
(Alice is not the baby’s real name and I asked her parents permission before writing this case study. Your privacy is of upmost importance to me and I never discuss the families who get in touch with me. )