Structure + routine brings freedom + flexibility (as well as a much better night’s sleep!)
The first few months of Evie’s life had been a dream! The first baby in her coffee group to be sleeping through the night, Evie may not have been managing much in the way of day sleeps, but she was getting 12 hours of zzzzs overnight – “and I know which one I would rather!” her mum Amy laughs.
However, come the four month mark, it was as though a switch flicked. “Evie started waking up first every four hours overnight, then three hourly, every couple of hours – and eventually each hour. We were up for close to an hour, every hour, and we had to rock her back to sleep!”
Needless to say, Amy and her husband Rick were shattered. Not only were they not getting enough sleep, but they felt they were no longer doing Evie justice during the daytime either. They were just too tired. Rick would sometimes have to take the day off as he was too sleep-deprived to safely drive the 40km trip into Christchurch for work. And it wasn’t just her parents who were struggling… Evie became fussy and much more needy, where she had originally been relatively content. “I think she was just so tired that she didn’t have the patience for anything,” Amy describes.
A call for help
After more than six weeks of trying to ride it out, with the sleep situation continuing to worsen instead of get better, Amy and Rick were at their wits’ end. They were not only tired, but they felt stuck at home and alone, as Evie wasn’t happy to be cared for by other relatives. They made a decision – and reached out to Christchurch-based sleep consultant, Lauren.
“Rick talked to Lauren on the phone initially and, within a week, she came to stay for an overnight consult,” Amy explains. “I was pretty nervous in the lead up, but Lauren put us at ease as soon as she walked in. She really listened and explored what would work for us – and then she made it all seem really simple.”
Lauren could quickly identify where the main challenge was coming from; Evie was falling asleep in her parent’s arms and then expecting (and wanting!) to be there when she woke up again. Because Amy and Rick had already tried a ‘pick up, put down’ method, they quickly agreed – in consultation with Lauren – to give spaced soothing a go.
The night it all changed
That first night, Lauren helped Amy and Rick put Evie down without the rocking – a process which took 30 minutes to begin with. “It was hard to sit there and listen to her cry,” Amy admits. “But we went in at intervals and patted her, and whispered encouraging things. After she fell asleep that night, Evie only woke twice during the night – which was already a huge improvement. It was like Lauren came into our house and waved a magic wand!”
However, it wasn’t all Lauren’s work. Amy committed to strictly following the schedule of feed and sleep times Lauren had provided for that first week – a move that gave Evie the consistency she craved and the follow through she needed. Although Amy admits that it was also much easier to maintain when the results were so positive…
“That first week, Evie slept like she never has before! We were getting day sleeps from her finally and we had to wake her from every nap and in the morning. She was stirring no more than twice during the night and when she did, we had a technique to help her settle again quickly – no more standing in her room and rocking for an hour, hooray!”
Freedom and flexibility don’t usually come from strict routines
One of the things that Amy was most surprised by was how much more flexibility her days have now that there is a framework in place. “I thought that adopting a routine would mean we never got to leave the house, but actually the opposite has been true,” Amy explains. “Now that Evie is better rested overall, we have a bit more freedom and it’s much easier to plan things and commit to activities with relatively set sleep times.”
It’s certainly true that things are very different now in this South Island household. Evie now wakes once – at most – in the night. Otherwise, she sleeps through. And when she does wake, it’s for a quick feed in the dark before going easily back to sleep in her cot. Add to that the fact that Evie’s also having 3.5 hours of sleep during the day, which never happened before.
“We’ve got some normalcy back,” Amy enthuses. “Evie goes to bed at 6pm, so we can make dinner and actually talk to each other. And Evie’s so much more receptive and patient. She smiles and laughs with us and her development is amazing – it’s as though she now sees life as a curiosity.”
“The training was for us really, not for Evie,” Amy explains. “She hasn’t really done anything differently and, honestly, I think she was so ready and waiting for us to help her figure out how to sleep on her own. That period of terrible sleep was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and consulting with Lauren truly did change our life! So many people reassured me and kept telling me that it would come right, but where we were just wasn’t sustainable – mentally or physically. Lauren helped us see that it was OK to let Evie have a try of falling asleep herself, especially as we were there to reassure her along the way. We needed that – and so did Evie!”
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