sleep school

You might remember that a few short months ago my baby girl was a great sleeper and I was praising a certain book for getting her into a routine. Well I should have never been so quick to proclaim it, because once she hit 4 months old, everything fell apart. There’s an awful thing called the 4 month sleep regression that I had no idea about till it hit – in short, a baby’s sleep often gets worse for about a month at this time. Unfortunately in our case though, things never went back to normal. Previously we consistently had 1 hour naps in the morning and afternoon and a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day. I never realised how good that was until it turned into three 45 minute naps a day (and I mean, exactly 45 minutes!)

We put up with it for a while, hoping it would get better on it’s own, but when 45 minutes turned into exactly 36 minutes, I wasn’t waiting any longer. Long story short, we got a referral to Tresillian.

Tresillian helps babies with sleep issues. We did a day stay as our daughter’s problems are mainly related to catnapping, but if you have problems with nights as  well you can do a residential stay, which lasts for around 5 days.

What happened on the day?

We arrived at 9am and were assigned a nurse for the day, who asked a million and one questions about our family health history, as well as our daughter’s temperament, sleep patterns and food intake. She also watched her eat and play before giving us her tailored recommendation about what had the greatest chance of working for our daughter. We then practiced the suggested settling technique and tried to get her down for a nap. While she slept we were briefed on a suggested routine and given advice on solids.

What were the specific recommendations?

As I mentioned, the recommendations Tresillian gives really are tailored for your child, so what they recommend is different for every baby. Our daughter is extremely alert, so we were told to keep her up for longer than we had been (putting her on a schedule for a baby that was slightly older than she was) to make sure she was really tired and to teach her to self-settle. Self-settling is sometimes a code word for ‘cry it out’, but not in this case (thank god!). Basically, it’s based around the concept of ‘sleepy but awake’.

I’d previously been cuddling my daughter until she was solidly asleep because it worked, but was told that it was now probably causing the short naps. A sleep cycle is 30-45 minutes (so about as long as she was sleeping), which suggested that she was coming into a lighter sleep at the end of the first cycle, discovering I was gone and waking up because she was confused. The key is to cuddle her until she’s sleepy, put her down and let her actually fall asleep in her own bed. If she cries I’m to pick her up immediately and restart the process, but put her down again once she’s sleepy but awake. This is to be repeated four times or for 40 minutes before I give up and cuddle her to sleep.

We were also told to increase her food intake so she was eating three meals a day and introduce finger foods and purees with more texture, as she’d been on solids for about a month at that stage.

Did it work?

There’s been a definite improvement (I’ve written this post while she had a nap – it lasted 2 hours!).

The problem is that it hasn’t been consistent – some days she’ll have two 36 minute naps and that means she’s overtired and difficult all night. However we have had several factors working against us: I’ve returned to work, so her routine isn’t consistent. If every day was the same it would be much easier to get her into a routine.

Starting daycare means she’s also picked up a few colds, and all rules go out the window when your baby is sick – they just want to be cuddled for comfort. She’s also teething, which means multiple wakeups and lots of tears for days on end.

However, taking all of that into account, we do still get approximately five days a week with at least one longer nap, so I think that’s a reasonable improvement. She’s also the most difficult for me! It’s a little easier for everyone else.

Would I recommend sleep school to others?

Absolutely. As I mentioned, the advice is really tailored to your child, so I feel it’s a bit more likely to be successful then if you just read a book and try to implement it at home. Plus day stays at Tresillian are covered by Medicare (you need a referral) so there’s really nothing to lose.

Have you been to a sleep school, or struggled with a baby who doesn’t understand the beauty of sleep? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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