Hello Sleep – I’ve missed you

A month ago, under the guidance of a sleep consultant, we started sleep training with Cameron and it has utterly transformed our lives. Cam has gone from waking every hour and a half at night to sleeping for 11 hours or more. What’s more, he usually goes down for his naps with very little fuss, and using the system, anyone babysitting for us can get him down too. He is thriving and I am a functional human being again!

As you can gather, the rewards have been huge, which has made it much easier to stick with the program on the tough days (of which there have been plenty). There have been lots of tears (mostly Cameron’s but some of mine too), resolve has fluctuated and occasionally doubt has crept in. Our sleep training story is not one of those miraculous 24 hour transformations – heck, a month in, Cam’s naps are still incredibly inconsistent! But having gone through it, I am firmly on the side of sleep training because not only does it work, but I can see the benefits decent sleep has had for our entire family.

Simply put, we had to remove all props Cameron was using to sleep (i.e. feeding and rocking) and give him space to learn to fall asleep by himself. Initially that space was filled with lengthy protests and plenty of tears but in a surprisingly short amount of time that stopped. Now when we put him down after his bath, he rolls over and mostly we don’t hear a peep from him until 6 am the next morning. The change is so dramatic that some days I have to remind myself it’s the same baby!

While it is true that Colin and I had to do the hard work in implementing the system, I am incredibly grateful for our sleep consultant, Petro Thamm*. She’s like a South African version of Mary Poppins – firm yet fun, professional yet easy to relate to and with a whole host of tricks and sage advice up her sleeve. And I needed that because sleep training was as hard as I anticipated it would be. In those first few days when I sat next to Cam’s cot, he would crawl over to me, put his arm between the slats and lie with his little hand stretched out, crying in confusion. It broke my heart and looking back now, I’m not sure how I managed! But knowing Petro was going to phone the next morning somehow strengthened my resolve.

The process of sleep training has been our first attempt at disciplining Cameron and we’ve learnt some big lessons. The first is just how consistent consistency needs to be. The second is that tough love is tough on parents too. The third is that there is a strong link between discipline and love. As Cam is testing boundaries more and more, we have plenty of opportunity to put these lessons into practice and are growing as parents in the process. To quote Bill Cosby:

In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.

Here’s to love, luck, courage and a good night’s sleep!

*Petro Thamm is a certified Sleep Sense consultant. To find out more about her program, visit her website at http://www.goodnightbaby.co.za