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William was about 6 months old before I admitted to my husband that I had been at least partly no, mostly responsible for our son's sleeping problems. I was terrified to let William sleep. And he knew it.
The fear started due to some difficulties in pregnancy but was etched into my being during the emergency caesarean. After a 38 hour labour, his heart rate had dropped several times and I feared for his life.
In hospital he barely slept, and at home his poor sleeping continued. He would wake often and demand to be fed to go back to sleep. For months I struggled with between two and four hours sleep a night. Even if he slept, I was awake, worrying. During the day I was running on adrenalin, but over time my ability to cope slowly diminished. I became sick, for months, and I was ashamed that I could not give my son the attention he deserved. Then Will became sick, for months. He lost his 'spark' and I missed the real William terribly.
On top of this, Will's precocious language ability and advanced behaviours caused me to believe he didn't need as much sleep. At six weeks old, crying in the middle of the night, he responded to my, "I don't know what you want!" with the reply, "Drink!" as clear as day. Within the next two weeks he said, "I love you" and looked at himself in the mirror and said, "William, hello." He could tell me before he was going to do a poo at only four months old. He would wake in the middle of the night full of energy, ready to play and wanting to share a new achievement. I let him think this was okay. It wasn't. Over time, his health was affected to the degree that I thought there was something terribly wrong with him. We had him tested for all sorts of ills. His only problem was sleep deprivation.
When it came time for Will to go into his own cot, the sleep problems escalated. As soon as we put him in his cot he would start screaming. After trying for a week, he ended up in our bed. He slept, but I couldn't. I was scared of rolling on him, or him falling out of bed, or becoming covered in the sheets. This went on for months until I could no longer cope. I knew it wasn't in his best interests to have a mummy who was not coping.
We tried again to get him into his own cot. If we managed to get him into his cot, he would wake within the hour and demand to be fed to go back to sleep and then wake again within an hour.
I couldn't sleep with him in my bed, but in his own cot neither of us was sleeping well.
All the books I'd read hadn't given me any real plan to help him.
The attachment theory really felt right to me. Listening to what the child wants, following their cues. It seemed so right, so natural. But I had abdicated my knowledge of what was best for my child, and assumed that my baby, new to the world, would know what was best for him. Sadly, he was unable to teach himself how to sleep.
We followed the 'feed, play, sleep' routine. We had a bed time routine, the bath, books and stories. He had plenty of independent play time during the day, and plenty of mum and dad's attention. He was feeding at the recommended spacings. He had a daily routine. He was loved, no, adored. He still would not sleep.
We tried the "Lay down" approach, which resulted in him thinking that standing up, then laying down, was a game. When he realised it wasn't, it caused him to deliberately poo himself. He would stand up and push and push and then cry out to be changed. I was certain that any approach that made a child deliberately poo themselves was not right!
I'd tried sleeping next to his cot, patting him when he woke up and all manner of 'gentle' methods to help him sleep. He became so frustrated and tired that even feeding him, rocking him, singing, patting, white noise and shushing would not help him get to sleep.
The 'best' advice anyone could offer me was, "Let him cry it out." I was determined not to do it. I could not bear the crying. My husband had insisted we try it, as nothing else worked. It did not work. I knew there had to be a better way, but no one could tell me what that was. We obviously weren't doing it right, people insisted. We needed to go to see 'The Sleep Doctor' and do it properly. So, when he was nine months of age, after months of waking every ½ to 1 hour, we took him to 'The Sleep Doctor'. His only advice was to put him in his cot, close the door, and not let him see us for 12 hours. Now, I don't know how I did it and I desperately wish I didn't.
Fortunately we had installed an infra red camera in William's room. Otherwise we would not have seen him pull himelf up and dangle over the edge of the cot, ready to fall.
Now, he would only fall asleep in the car. He was terrified to go into his room and would not go into his cot without screaming. We were all in a terrible mess. During the day I had to drive to get him to sleep and I was up all night trying to placate him. I felt desperate, hopeless, lifeless, helpless. And so terribly, terribly sorry that I had let my son get into this horrible state.
Enter: my angel…
Sheyne Rowley. I had sent an email a few weeks earlier, not really expecting a reply, not knowing if she would really be able to help anyway. She would be busy. There must be a lot of other people waiting. Surely she doesn't really get to these emails. Yes, yes, and yes.
In summary, in a couple of days, Will was sleeping… in his own cot, without crying or screaming. To my utter amazement, he was going to sleep HAPPILY!
One key to Will's improvement is the blindingly obvious. He is a BABY. He likes to feel secure. He likes to know what is coming. He likes not having to be in charge. He likes mummy and daddy to guide him. So, to help him feel secure in bed (and also to stop him climbing out!), we put him in a SafeTSleep. I wasn't sure about it at first. I wasn't sure at all! It seemed wrong to tie him into bed. But, he loved it – more than he loved mummy holding him all night. Now he could really sleep. We also used a sleeping bag as part of his bedtime routine. He gets excited about hopping into it and giggles as we do up the 'zippedy zip zip zip'. If I ever have another child, I will make sure I WRAP them before sleep!
But a major key for me, which no one had touched on before, was confidence. That what we tell him about bedtime, by what we do, or by what we feel about it, he will feel and believe. I immediately relaxed. It was in his best interests that I tell him that bed was a safe place. There was nothing to fear. He would be okay. And he was. He slept through the night for the first time in his life.
The first time I spoke to Sheyne it was clear that she felt the same way about children as I did. I almost cried that someone else felt so strongly that they should be respected and treated with dignity. I said to my husband, "We have to do this. It's so right. It makes sense. She feels the same way I do." I was still sceptical though. Nothing else had worked. But her strategies DID work. Quickly. Easily. Because they were right.
Sheyne has a very special gift of understanding children and she has worked hard to hone her knowledge of their needs. I'm amazed at the depth and breadth of her knowledge and understanding. I'm also amazed at her generosity, to share her gift with others.
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