‘I attended a virtual baby sleep class and now my 10-month-old rarely wakes overnight’
Reprinted from Bounty, July 7, 2020 | As told to Fiona Wright
Lauren and James from Illawarra, NSW, were beyond excited when they welcomed their gorgeous baby girl, Emilia into the world.
But, the couple had no idea how tough the first year would be. Here, Lauren shares how attending a virtual baby sleep class was life-changing for her little family-of-three.
“At 10-months-old, Emilia was still so unsettled, up every two hours throughout the night and the only way she would settle back to sleep was with breastfeeding, which meant only I could settle her. I was exhausted, drained, and my poor husband James was left feeling helpless,” Lauren begins.
“We needed help getting Emilia to settle without breastfeeding so that James could take over when I was falling off my feet, but in Illawarra where we live, there isn’t any local free parenting service, so we were very much on our own,” she explains.
After a local nurse referred the family to Karitane, they were delighted to be booked in for their Residential Stay services in Sydney – four full days of 24-hour support from professionals. But days prior to their appointment, COVID-19 happened and due to restrictions their stay was cancelled.
“We were devastated,” says Lauren. “But Karitane were quick to offer us their new Virtual Residential Stay service: video calls on a private secure platform, phone calls, emails and texts which meant we could receive the same four days of support services, virtually, within the comfort of our own home.”
“Initially, we had very mixed feelings about the efficiency of a virtual service, asking ourselves if virtual support be as good as being face to face? Would it be enough? Would we be able to achieve the outcomes we wanted? However our minds were immediately put at ease, as the clinicians treated us like VIPs.”
“We had access to two professional clinicians whenever we needed them as if they were right there in my home. I was able to contact them when I needed them by whatever means was avilabale to me in that moment (by either video call, text, or phone call) and I would get an immediate response – there was no waiting time.
“I thought I was going to need lots of support through the night because this is when Emilia was up every two hours and would only go back to sleep if I breastfed her, but actually with the changes we made during the first day with the help of the nurses, Emilia ended up sleeping through the night, only waking once. I couldn’t believe because of the changes and work we implemented during the day, the night just immediately fell into place. Because we got the day time routine right, the night had a flow-on effect.
“We learnt to have a consistent and predicatble bedtime routine – we would have quiet time before bed, then go to her room and put her into her sleep bag, read her a story, put on some white noise, close the shutters, and then do “responsive settling” which is very hands on method that places Emilia in her cot without removing our hands and lightly patting her whilst saying the words “bed time” and continuing to do this until she begins to dose off. We then very gently remove one hand, continue with the other, and then eventually take the other hand away too. The more calm she becomes (with practice) the less we intervene.”
"Over the four days we learnt how to settle her without breastfeeding – separating breastfeeding from sleeping – so that Emilia didn’t just rely on me and James could also settle her to sleep.
“I was overwhelmed and tired and there were ups and downs through this process beecause not only was I (and my husband) learning something new, but we were also helping Emilia learn something new and different too, which meant big changes in routines which had flow-on effects to the rest of her day.
“I had reservations of whether the new techniques would work at the risk of pushing her current routine further out of whack and doubted whether she would ever fall asleep without my breastfeeding her. But when Emilia slept through the first night of implemented changes, I knew I just had to commit to the next three days and nights and we’d be cheering!
“We established goals and desired outcomes such as falling asleep in her cot without the need for my breastmilk, meaning dad could also put her down, and lessening her nightly wakeups to the amount we learned was age appropriate for her. For Emilia, it was two sleeps during the day of one to two hours, changing her sleep associations and responsive settling techniques.
“Our new routine implemented quiet time before bed, getting into her sleeping bag, reading her a story in her room before then putting her down in her cot followed by lighty patting her whilst repeating the words ‘sleep time’ as she dosed off.
“As parents, you hear and read about many different techniques around sleep and settling, however, Karitane took out the confusion were able to provide us with techniques that were specific to our baby and our needs.
“There is so much information out there on how to settle your baby – controlled crying being one example – but this plethora of advice, although has good intention, can be so overwhelming and does not suit the parenting styles of all parents and families – it certainly didn’t suit ours.
“Muting and filtering through all the overwhelming advice we read and heard about by working with a professional to establish and simplify what specifically worked for our style of parenting was lifechanging.
“The best thing about Karitane’s Virtual Home Visits is that we were able to access the support within our own home environment. We were able to learn these skills, new sleep associations for Emilia, responsive settling techniques and what were normal sleep patterns for her age, and implement them immediately in the comfort of our home setting.”
What I went through was awful. I used to feel weak, guilty, lonely, and hopeless. But, with the support and guidance from Karitane - as well as my family and friends - I am back to my happy self again. In fact, I am now stronger and more confident in myself than ever before – I feel like I’m a better person.
“We saw changes as soon as day one of the stay, which then continued onwards throughout and following the stay. With what we learned, Emilia now rarely wakes, sleeping 10-12 hours most nights and James can now settle her too, when she needs, which helps her dad feel so empowered.
“The bonus is Emilia’s development has also taken a leap forward – she’s able to focus over longer periods during the day on activities and play times and overall she is noticeably more engaged and present.
“She has a noticeable sense of security in her new predictable/consistent routine, where she seems to know and understand what’s coming next and when it is bedtime and is ready to relax into falling asleep. Of course, some days are better than others but overall it’s a huge improvement with her falling asleep on her own, in her cot. It has literally been lifechanging!
“I highly recommend Karitane’ support services to anyone who is seeking parenting support. You can even self-refer online. It has empowered us to be more confident parents.”
Reprinted from Bounty, July 7, 2020 | As told to Fiona Wright
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