Welcome to the Nurturing Sleep Blog!
My aim is to empower parents to support their children through sleep and parenting difficulties in an emotionally approriate way, so that each an every baby and child who experiences my Nurturing Sleep approach feels Happy, Safe and Reassured.
Enjoy the blog.
|Posted on 1 October, 2015 at 10:10|
You’ve got a consistent bedtime routine in place, naps are great, sleep is flowing nicely... then along comes the daylight saving time change which potentially threatens all your hard work and upsets your well planned routines!
At the end of the October British Summer Time ends so the clocks ‘fall back’ an hour in keeping with Daylight Saving. Time changes like these can be disruptive for babies and young children because they affect their biological clocks and biological rhythms, so adjusting to new sleep times can be a bit of a struggle. With a little forward planning though, the adjustment to daylight saving time changes can be made easier for all!
Sleep experts suggest making changes to children’s waking/sleep times in small steps, so start making gradual changes about a week before the clocks ‘fall back’ an hour. The aim is to move your baby or child’s daily routines 15 minutes later every 2 or 3 days. If your child’s bedtime is normally 7.30pm and wake-up around 7am, the first step will be to move bedtime later by 15 minutes to 7.45pm so wake-up becomes a little later too, and naps will also become 15 minutes later. After 2 or 3 days move the routines another 15 minutes later and repeat until you are putting your child to bed at 8.30pm, which then becomes his normal bedtime of 7.30pm when the clocks go back an hour.
Practical Tips for Success.
Although there will be some timings you can’t adjust, like nursery or playgroup times, aim to shift all your daily routines 15 minutes later at each step during the ‘adjustment week’. The timing of mealtimes for example helps set children’s internal biological clock and sleep/wake cycles, so move your child’s mealtimes 15 minutes later too in relation to sleep times and your planned bedtime.
Adjust nap times by 15 minute increments as well. Try to avoid longer than usual naps - unless your little one is unwell or there is another reason for an increased sleep requirement.
Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes later too so it remains consistent and predictable. The rituals you include within your routine help create feelings of security and emotional wellbeing for children by providing a predictable, loving wind-down to sleep.
If your child enjoys favourite television programmes as part of the after tea or pre-bedtime routine, consider recording some programmes in advance so you can continue to include them in routines during your adjustment week.
Lots of outdoor play and fresh air will help promote sleep and help your child to get to sleep quicker!
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to inform and not for medical diagnoses or treatment. Please contact a health care professional if you have concerns about your child’s health.
|Posted on 30 September, 2015 at 5:00|
My daughter, Sally, has never been a good sleeper. There were 2 main issues: 1) she always woke in the night and ended up in our bed with us and 2) there were many nights when she’d stay awake in the night for up to 3 hours. Sally was a few months off full time days in school and many well-meaning family members and friends would tell me that when she did start nursery, she’d soon get exhausted and sleep through the night. However, I know my daughter. Instinctively, I knew school would not tire her out. In fact, it would probably make her mind more active, and therefore, more opportunities to lie awake at night. (And, I have been proved right!). So, I knew if I didn’t try and tackle her sleep, she’d get more and more exhausted. And, of course, an exhausted child is usually a poorly behaved one, who just can’t cope with changes to routine or new experiences.
Sally was that baby who would only fall asleep in your arms being rocked or in the vibrating chair. She was that baby who would literally scream the place down if you left to fall asleep on her own. This was right from the moment she was born, and she was now fast approaching her 4th birthday. Consequently, her father and I were exhausted. Nearly four years of disrupted sleep, night after night, was taking its toll on us.
During her 4 short years, we’d tried everything to try and get her to sleep in her own bed through the night. The “controlled crying” or “cry-it-out” method was the worse one we tried. She cried so much that after 5 minutes, she’d be close to throwing up. It just didn’t feel right to let a small person cry so much, unsupported and alone. It just felt wrong. And, it felt also like it would never work anyway. We tried it twice – when she was around 18 months and 2 ½ and both times, we gave up very quickly.
We tried the “sleepy cushion” which we sat on whilst she fell asleep, and every third night it would move further and further out of her bedroom. And, it worked! We could sit outside her room and she’d eventually fall asleep. But, that was it. It didn’t make any difference to the night time wakes, and after a bout of chicken pox, we were back to where we started – the sleepy cushion firmly back in her room!
We’ve had a mattress on her floor in her room – night after night after night… that lasted about 3 months. We’ve had her bed in our room – again for about 3 months. But, all we got in the night was “I want to be in the BIG bed” – didn’t matter she was right next to us.
So, in the end, we bought a king sized bed and just resigned ourselves to the fact Sally would sleep in our bed forever (or so it seemed!). But I knew this couldn’t go on forever, and with her fourth birthday approaching, I knew it was time to try and tackle it, hopefully, once and for all.
I was mooching around Mumsnet, and one thread was asking for any recommendations for a sleep consultant – with a gentle approach. One name kept coming up – Ann Caird. So, I looked on her website and was struck by how her approach was just what we were looking for. She didn’t look to train the baby/pre-schooler to sleep – instead, she tried to find out what possibly was causing the little one to stay awake, and try to address the underlying fears or concerns. As she said, sleep training was just like putting a plaster on a wound without trying to treat the underlying causes. This was music to my ears, as I’d always felt Sally “feared” sleeping on her own – and sadly, there’s no reasoning with a 3 year old, there’s no magic wand to take away their deep rooted fears, as they really can’t communicate appropriately how they are feeling or what they really fear.
I contacted Ann, and after an initial telephone conversation with her, giving a little bit of history, we both felt that she could help us. She was able to work with us during August/early September, so this would give us an opportunity to start the work during the summer holiday and into the start of Sally’s school.
The process includes completing an in-depth questionnaire, going right back to how the pregnancy and birth process was. I must admit, just completing the questionnaire felt cathartic – a chance to relive things, and maybe start to look at the situation with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
Ann’s method is to try and get to the underlying causes of the sleep issues. To try and understand what the child might be feeling. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, as, let’s face it, the child will rarely turn round and tell us what they’re really feeling or why. Then, she aims to builds confidence, to give the child a feeling of control, to gently address any fears, but all the time allowing the parent to support, to be there and help the child through the process.
And, interestingly, the sleep programme didn’t start with the evenings or the nights. It started with play!
Another important part of the programme was Ann’s approach to tantrums. Before we started, Sally could have some humdingers – screaming her head off over the smallest of reasons – usually because we’d stopped her doing something life threatening or because she’d had the green spoon when she always has the purple spoon to eat her yoghurt! But, my approach was always to try and control the tantrum; to try and lower the volume, to try and stop it. Inevitably, this led to the tantrum escalating, and me getting more and more angry.
Ann explained tantrums from Sally’s point of view. The reason for the tantrum didn’t matter – they weren’t about getting at me, or because of the colour of the spoon – Sally just used this as an excuse to “let off steam”. She explained that as a little one without the ability to fully explain feelings and emotions, these feelings and emotions can, and do, build up and a tantrum is just her way of “letting it go” – channelling release in the loudest possible way!! So, Ann’s approach was to let them happen, but to support her as she went through the “tantrum” until finally, she collapsed in a flood of tears and would want hugs and cuddles with Mum in such a special and connective way.
So, second day into the programme, Sally had a tantrum – and this time, I got on my knees, and just waited. And, instead of everything escalating, after Sally had a good scream, out came the tears – big tears – but also cuddles. We’d cuddle and cuddle, and then she’d just jump off me and run off as if nothing happened. Job done!!
Well, a few tantrums in, I felt totally different to how I had at the start. I no longer feared them, I no longer felt the world’s worst Mum who couldn’t control her 3 year old… instead my attitude to tantrums now are “bring them on”… as I view them as Sally’s need to let off steam. She only really has them every now and then – and usually when things have been brewing up for a few days. In fact, they’re not really tantrums now, as Sally usually just goes straight to the crying part.
For example, at her fourth birthday party recently, things were becoming a bit overwhelming. She was becoming clingy to me and I could see a lot of tension building up. Let’s face it, she was looking forward to this party for ages – and being the eldest in her year, was the first one to have a party and so all the focus was on HER. Well, thank goodness a balloon popped, as Sally used it as an excuse to have a damn good cry – with lots of cuddles from me whilst I waited for the tears to abate. The tears were way out of proportion with the balloon pop, but I just knew Sally needed that cry to let off steam. And, she had a really good sleep that night!
So, that leads me back to the sleep. After the 2 weeks play, we started on the long road to sleeping in her own bed all night, without the need for Mum or Dad to be “there”. Ann’s approach is to involve Sally as much as possible – give her as much control over the situation as possible.
Ann told us at the start that there might be tears, but in no way, was this controlled crying. And, she was right. Putting Sally to bed, or during the night, when she was challenged to break the imaginary cord between us, there were lots of tears, but instead of leaving to cry on her own, we’d be there to support, to let her cry as a way of letting go of the fears.
Ann’s explanation about crying makes sense. When our child cries, our first instinct is soothe them and stop the tears. To say “sushhhh, there’s no need for tears” and to try and make things better. But, when they are crying because they have so many emotions inside they need to get out, when they need to cry to demonstrate just how deep their fear is, by stopping the crying, we’re saying their feelings and emotions are not valid. By letting them cry, but being there for them, we’re validating their feelings. And, let’s face it, when we feel emotional, a damn good cry does us the world of good.
So, where are we now? We’ve finished the six week programme. Sally is in her bed all night, but she does still wake up a few times, and calls out to make sure we’re still there. We’re not quite there yet – but we’re on the path, and I think, given time we’ll get there. We’ve got the tools. We know when to push Sally a little further along, to challenge her, to bring out the tears, but equally, we know that we can’t do that continually – we’d be too exhausted and I think Sally’s fears are so deep rooted we’re better off treading lightly and gently, and allowing her to settle after each “challenge”.
We also know when Sally needs to let off steam – when a tantrum won’t be far off, when she needs to have a good cry and usually, after a good cry, we know we’ll have a far more settled night too.
Ann’s approach has been enlightening. It’s opened my eyes to see things from Sally’s point of view. Why she has this fear of being on her own, I don’t know. It might be something from the traumatic birth experience, it might be something completely different. All I know, it’s been pretty much all her life, but, hopefully, given time and a few more challenges from us, we’ll get there.
What you get from Ann is understanding, explanation, support and encouragement. You get to go at your pace. It’s not easy at times. During the most challenging times, I found myself at night lying awake on the floor outside her room for hours, waiting for her to drop back off to sleep. But, if you get too tired, or too emotional yourself, Ann will suggest a back off and a gentler approach. You don’t get a quick fix and you don’t train your child to sleep. What you get is an explanation for the possible underlying causes, and then methods to try and overcome these, to enable your child to sleep for themselves.
Overall, I feel I understand Sally better now. And together we’ll get there.
|Posted on 22 September, 2015 at 0:15|
When our daughter, T, was around 4 months old, she started waking multiple times per night - 8 wakes was classed as a 'good' night, but she would sometimes wake up to 18 times. I would breastfeed T back to sleep every time, as it was the only way I knew, but it had become impossible to transfer her back into the cosleeper cot without waking. This meant I was in our bedroom cosleeping with T in our bed from 7pm onwards, as she was rolling and we didn't dare leave her alone on the bed. I felt as though she was holding me hostage in the bedroom! On nights when my husband was working away I often didn't get any supper, and had to take T to the bathroom with me whenever I needed the loo through the night. When he was at home, I would stand in the kitchen and wolf down my meal as quickly as possible, usually having to return to the bedroom halfway through to feed T back to sleep, or listen to her cry in my husbands arms. I was absolutely shattered with tiredness and although T had always been a happy, easygoing baby, I started to struggle with the daytimes and was often in tears.
Daytime sleep was no better. At around the same age T started fighting naps. She would become overtired and although it still worked at night, for some reason I was unable to breastfeed her to sleep anymore during the day. After a lot of walking/driving she would eventually fall asleep in the sling, car or pushchair, only to wake again after 30 minutes.
We were exhausted and although I loved the closeness of cosleeping and carrying T in the sling I had become resentful of the situation. I had no time to myself, was snapping at my ever-patient husband and was confused by all the conflicting sleep advice on the Internet. We started a bedtime routine, attempted rocking to sleep, implemented ideas from a well known gentle sleep solution book, but nothing seemed to make a difference. My husband and I were adamant that we would never do controlled crying or cry it out, no matter how bad things got, so after four months of serious sleep deprivation we contacted Ann at Nurturing Sleep. We chose Ann as her unique approach really resonated with our parenting style and the fact that we wanted T's emotional wellbeing to take priority.
Before starting sleep work we thought it would be hard work and even more tiring than what we had already experienced but we were so wrong! It was surprisingly easy, enjoyable and not at all tiring (in fact we saw brilliant results really quickly, resulting in more sleep for us all!). Ann was so supportive, patient and understanding. She encouraged us to go at our own pace and gave us so much confidence. Before we started I was also worried that we'd be wasting our time as I thought T had some teeth on the way; but during the six weeks of sleep work T cut four teeth and went through a developmental leap, and she still managed to sleep well - we couldn't believe it!
After six weeks we have achieved all of our aims, which we never thought possible...T is now sleeping through the night for 11-12 hours in her own cot, in her nursery. She falls asleep happily, after being put to bed by me or my husband, and wakes up in the morning giggling and babbling. We have our evenings back and more importantly we have the energy to be the parents we want to be. T also naps in her cot, which gives me a wonderful free hour in the morning and 1.5-2 hours in the afternoon. The most important thing is that we feel totally comfortable with how we helped T learn to sleep. We were there for her every step of the way and continue to be there for her whenever she needs us. Working with Ann has had a huge impact on our family life and we will be forever grateful to her!
|Posted on 16 July, 2015 at 14:20|
Resolving baby and child sleep problems is an emotive subject at the best of times! There are many different approaches, theories, strategies and so much debate. It can be very confusing trying to tease out which theory or approach is best for your family.
Rarely though, in mainstream sleep approaches is there deep consideration about how a baby or child actually feels in relation to sleep. There may be a passing thought that the baby may be upset or will protest when left to cry for 5 minutes, 10 minutes alone on the first nights of sleep training. Often these considerations are offset by the ‘magic’ claims of sleep training that within 3-5 nights the baby or child will be settling and sleeping like a real pro!!
And maybe he will... that’s what parents want to hear, and that’s a great justification for the temporary upset... well, maybe.... for some....
When decisions are made by adults about which approaches and strategies are used to resolve sleepy issues, one big assumption is made, and that is:
We know how the child feels! And the child will stop feeling what he feels within 3-5 nights of sleep training.
I question: How can we know how a baby or child feels when they can’t tell us? Even as adults we struggle to understand our feelings and emotions, and sometimes we can know how we feel but don’t know why we feel like we do... and we also know that what happened to us 6 months ago or even last year can still affect us now... and probably will still affect us this time next year!
Food for thought on feelings
I find myself telling parents on a daily basis – “I don’t know! Honestly - I really DON’T know!” we laugh because I just don’t know!! Laughing defuses tension around not knowing, and we then figure out that it’s OK not to know – because how can anyone really know what a baby or young child is feeling? And, who has the right to assume or dictate how a young child feels anyway?
So, I have come to the conclusion that it’s really OK not to know, and this is why:
We ask the question: how does this baby or child feel? If we then admit that we really don’t know, we take the step to viewing the unique child, a child who holds his own feelings and emotions, his own special thoughts and feelings which are based on his own unique journey through life from the very start. Just like each one of us reading this article today.
We respect the unique child by our admittance of “not knowing”, which drives our curiosity for the possibilities and depth of a child’s feelings.
Feelings, emotions and sleep behaviours.
In my experience (a whole wonderful 30 years of it!) children’s sleep behaviours have much deeper meanings than what we see and experience - the observable behaviour. While some transitional behavioural issues can be due to developmental leaps, maturation or ill health, in many cases problematic sleep behaviours are an indication of the child’s underlying feelings and emotions – just like adults! I’m sure we can all think of a time recently when stresses and frustrations have built up and we’ve lost control, cried, argued with colleagues or partners, shouted or snapped at children.. or maybe we were lucky enough to have a listening ear to talk it all through. We all have some experience of how our heightened feelings and emotions have affected our actions and behaviours.
Babies and children are the same, but because typically we have simplistic expectations of ‘good sleepers’ or ‘bad sleepers’ we make the assumption that child sleep is purely behavioural, and forget – or just don’t make the relevant connection between behaviours and our feelings.
What kinds of experiences influence children’s sleep?
Anything and everything! Any difficult or stressful experience – just like adults! The list is endless: birth experience, prenatal experiences, separations from birth, hospitalisations, separation anxiety, feeding difficulties, illness, developmental frustrations, new nursery or childcare situations... siblings... relationships, visitors, parties – I’m sure you can think of a few more yourself too.
Sometimes just one experience like a bad day at nursery can offset bedtime settling for a preschooler, but more often stresses accumulate over days, or weeks sometimes even years for young children.
Bedtime is the time... the time when feelings come to the surface and the time feelings are most difficult to control because babies and children are tired and vulnerable to their feelings.
It’s the time when feelings are most accessible and when children are expected to LET GO... to fall into sleep; However -
It’s difficult to LET GO of mummy or daddy (because it feels scary to be alone with my big feelings),
It’s so hard to LET GO... (when mummy and daddy walk away at bedtime – why aren’t they helping me?),
....to FALL INTO SLEEP alone (when those big feelings keep coming back into my head...)
As adults it’s easy to consider and address just the ‘problem’ behaviours, but there’s every reason now to look beyond the behaviours to question the depth of feelings of each unique child:
The toddler who runs after mummy as she leaves the room – a dozen, 20 times... 50 times!
The 9 month old baby who needs to feel the comfort of his daddy’s arms to fall into sleep – or he cries hard and long!
The preschooler who demands, “just one more story...PLEASE!!!”
We all need sleep – Parents, babies and children alike – we need sleep. So, when we’re thinking about how to resolve sleep disturbances, my message is:
Let’s work with respect; let’s NOT make assumptions about baby and children’s sleep behaviours;
Let’s look deeper, admit we don’t know... question more.... seek out the uniqueness of each child and be open and receptive to the emotional roots of sleep disturbances.
Ann Caird © 2015.
Please note: All my work is protected by Copyright.
|Posted on 14 July, 2015 at 6:40|
We were at the end of our tether. Although we have a gorgeous 1 year old boy, M, his sleep issues were really impacting the whole family. We also have another son who is 5 and at school.
M wouldn't go down in his cot during the day - meaning walking for hours with him in the pushchair in all weathers. He wouldn't settle in the cot at night, was co sleeping with us for most of the night and was on the breast for the majority of that time.
We knew we had to do something about it, and needed help.
At the time we were apprehensive and nervous about the process, thinking that it wouldn't fit in with our daily lives and would be hard for our son to cope with. We were anxious about changing but knew we had to.
It was also really important to me to continue to breastfeed. We'd been told by various people this wouldn't be possible if we wanted improved sleep patterns.
Then we found Ann.
6 weeks later, our son was sleeping in his cot for nap time, was settling himself at night, was staying in his cot in his own room, was no longer having night feeds and was sleeping through the night.
Ann begun with a thorough assessment of M and our overall situation in order to formulate a plan of action. For the first time I felt positive and actually thought we could achieve our goals.
We followed a step by step plan, dealing with the underlying issues along the way. Importantly, we found that you control when to move on to future steps, based upon what you feel comfortable with. The plan is also tailored around your daily family life.
Ann's support was absolutely amazing throughout. She was always available and went above and beyond what we had expected.
Going through this process with Ann has improved our lives no end.
If we have another child, we are confident that we could encourage good sleep from the outset based on the background, skills and techniques Ann has passed on to us - if we did have issues we wouldn't hesitate to get Ann's help!