Setting Olive up with the skill of self-settling
For the first eight months, Olive had been a “super cool” baby.
However, the nights were difficult. “Olive would take a while to settle to sleep at night,” her mum Serlina recalls.
“She’d get to sleep about 7pm, but wake again at 10pm for a feed. It could take up to two hours to get her back to sleep at that point, before we’d be up again at 2am with Olive wanting to party.”
A little early bird, Olive then seemed ready to start the day around 5:30am. Initially Serlina and her husband put the broken sleep down to teething.
Other times they gave some leeway as it seemed Olive was going through a developmental leap. However, after eight months, they knew that their ‘giving it some time’ approach wasn’t working.
“I felt as though we were in a vicious cycle of waking and then taking ages to get back to sleep. I didn’t know what was going on! My husband and I would do shifts, so no-one was getting any sleep. We were all exhausted – Olive included!”
It wasn’t specifically the exhaustion (although that was very real!) that drove Serlina to seek help. A couple of her friends had worked with Sydney-based sleep consultant Narisha and had good results.
“They told me it was actually possible for an eight month old to sleep 12 hours at night, so I thought it was worth a try.”
From halfway there to a success story
Serlina reached out to Baby Sleep Consultant for support and did an initial free consult with Narisha. “We talked through the issues we were having and Narisha assured me that we were on the right path, but only halfway there. She believed that a phone consult would see us right.”
It helped that Serlina knew her stuff; this wasn’t her first experience with a sleep consultant. “When Olive was five months old, she went through a massive regression and we called a different sleep consultant to come in. That helped at first, but the results weren’t lasting. What we did get was some settling techniques, which we were using, but perhaps not as effectively as we could. Often I was helping Olive to settle, but then going back in too quickly the second time.”
Following a full phone consult – and taking her cues from what Serlina was already doing – Narisha came up with a plan for Olive. To start with, it was about establishing more of a routine around bedtime, so that Olive knew what to expect. Then Narisha put some suggested timings around the controlled crying approach.
“It got harder before it was easier,” Serlina remembers. “Those first couple of nights were quite heart-breaking, as I would sit outside her room with the video monitor and could see – as well as hear – her protesting before I went back in to give her a cuddle.”
On the third night, the tides dramatically started to turn. “It was so quick for her to settle that night! My husband and I were waiting in the lounge in disbelief. It was quiet; had she actually gone to sleep?” Serlina laughs.
That night Olive slept for a solid nine hours; possibly her longest stretch ever. What was even better was that she woke after nine hours, did a little snuffle, and went back to sleep independently! “It was clear to us at that point that Olive was feeding during the night out of habit; clearly she didn’t need it!” Serlina adds.
Good night sleeps also bring greater shape to the day
Although overnight was the biggest challenge for Serlina and Olive – as well as it being Narisha’s focus area to start – there were some challenges during the day too.
“We didn’t really have a set routine and Olive was largely leading me,” Serlina admits. “It was hard to plan anything or get out of the house!”
Narisha’s approach was a good one; tackling night sleep first is often easier as the biological drive to sleep is stronger in the evening.
Happily, the night-time improvements quickly started making the days easier too.
“Narisha gave me a guide for the ideal daytime sleeps, based on the awake times for Olive’s age. It took a little bit of tweaking, but now our days are far more consistent – and naps are much easier to plan around,” Serlina enthuses.
Four months on and wee Olive has recently turned one; it’s been relatively smooth sailing ever since. Olive hasn’t had another feed during the night.
When she has occasionally woken, cried out, and not managed to go back to sleep on her own, a few minutes of cuddling from mum or dad is enough to help her drift off again.
“I feel lucky to have such an adaptable baby,” Serlina shares.
“And that extra sleep has been so amazing! At first we didn’t know what to do with our extra time in the evening, and I wake up a lot more rested now. It’s made me realise that I wasn’t always enjoying spending time with Olive when I was so tired. The extra sleep has led to a mood change for me as well.”
Serlina admits that she’s a strong advocate for sleep training.
“I think of it as a little pain for a long-term gain. But really, I think it’s important to help babies develop the skill of self-settling. Doing so means doing both your baby, and yourself, a favour!”
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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