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!”