Rewind to the day I stopped breastfeeding Mabel to sleep, when she was 7 months old. The very moment that the milk stopped coming and she started flailing around on the boob and we both decided we were done – that was the very moment she stopped falling asleep in my arms.
As the months ticked on, I came up with other ways to get her to sleep. I’d lay her in her bedside cot and feed her to sleep with a bottle as I lay in the bed alongside, creeping outside when she was snoring away. When she got older, I’d lie her next to me in the big double bed to feed her. And when she stopped falling asleep doing that, I’d lie next to her and cuddle her until she finally dropped off.
This all worked well and I loved those bedtime cuddles – but as the months ticked on, it was taking longer and longer for her to fall asleep. She’d try to stand up, she’d try to roll, she’d laugh hysterically, she’d whip me in the face with her cuddly elephant, and she’d cry with frustration. A few weeks ago, with my husband in Dubai and my boys downstairs with their grandparents in their pyjamas, it took over two hours to get her to sleep. And as much as I enjoyed that sleepy time with her, that was the moment I knew that something had to be done. It wasn’t fair on either of us – I was frustrated and Mabel was over-tired. We both needed to come up with a better plan.
Step forward Katy from the sleep consultancy Slumbertots.
Katy is a Certified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant – and she’s also a mum-of-two, meaning she understood exactly what sleep deprivation feels like and how we feel as mums when bedtime isn’t going well. She’s also lovely – like really, really lovely. Warm, relatable, gentle, and helpful. She can work with you anywhere in the world, as the consultations are by phone/skype, whilst a lot of the support is by email. I highly recommend reaching out.
But back to my story. After a consultation (Katy offers 15-minutes free consultation to all parents), Katy came up with a 10-day plan to help me get Mabel to sleep happily in her cot. Katy works with parents that want all kinds of different things for their babies – and I made it very clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to simply leave the room and let her cry. With that knowledge, Katy came up with a very gentle 10-day plan, where I would gradually retreat from the cot.
Over 10 days I would move from sitting right by the cot and comforting her – to being able to walk straight out the room by the end of day 10. It sounded amazing, but I have to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes that it would work – I just couldn’t imagine Mabel ever settling herself to sleep.
I don’t want to go into exact details, because it isn’t really fair on Katy to give away the tricks of her trade, but let’s just say that I followed the plan to the letter – and I was amazed by how quickly it worked. Katy offers a couple of Skype calls throughout the plan too, alongside email support, which means that you can check in regularly, ask questions, and be reassured that it’s all working OK.
Night one was the hardest, but I was still pretty amazed by how quickly she settled down and went to sleep (it genuinely wasn’t that hard at all). The middle of the night wake-ups were also tricky for the first few nights, because whilst Mabel didn’t always wake up during the night, she wanted to come into the bed for milk when she did and I always obliged. However, after a few nights of staying in her cot (with me comforting her and laying her back down to sleep), she understood that she would be staying in her cot and learnt to settle herself back to sleep.
So now I’m at the end of the plan, how does bedtime go now? After her milk and her bath, I kiss and cuddle Mabel to say goodnight – and then I place her in her cot. I say ‘Sleepy Time now, Night Night. I love you!’ and I walk out of the room. And she goes to sleep! I’m still in shock.
The first night that I walked straight out, I went downstairs and put the monitor on and heard silence. I sat with the boys in their pyjamas, cuddled them as they watched the CBBC Bedroom Story – and I got to read them a story when they went up to bed. I hadn’t been able to do this for a long time, as I’d been with Mabel on the bed – and I was so, so thankful that Katy and Slumbertots had come into my life.
Highly, highly recommended!