Get your bub to sleep for the price of a carton of beer.
It was the stuff dreams were made of. Our six-month-old, Harry, was sleeping like an absolute champ from seven weeks old. Down at 7pm every night and up at 6am.
Then, out of nowhere, it was utter madness. Harry would wake up every two hours, which would then wake up our two-year-old, and before we knew it the sleep deprivation, tantrums and crankiness kicked in for the whole house.
We needed help fast, and this help came from the best $40 I have ever spent (even better than snagging a case of Canadian Club on special over summer).
We decided to get in touch with a sleep consultant. We couldn’t afford to break the bank and didn’t want to stay overnight somewhere, so we took an unconventional path.
We found a mum online who helped other parents in similar situations via email, and my God did it work!
We were given a plan for success and the result is a minimum six-hour block of sleep for everyone, sometimes even more.
If you’re going through some restless nights, try developing a sleep plan. Here is how ours is broken down.
Before we got into the nitty-gritty details, it was important to know a few things to help us understand why Harry was waking up throughout the night.
We were educated about sleep cycles and how they are constantly changing.
We all have a body clock that is set by food, light and social interaction. (We’ll look at these in a minute). So Harry’s sleep cycle would re-set each day through exposure to light in the morning and darkness at night.
We all wake up multiple times at night. But more often than not, we return to sleep without even remembering the wake up.
So our challenge, put simply, was that we needed to teach Harry to re-settle himself so that when he woke up between sleep cycles he could settle himself back to sleep.
The sleep space
One of the first things we needed to consider was Harry’s ‘Sleep Space’.
This included things like the cot, sleeping bag, sheets, dummies, comforters etc. Essentially everything that impacted him falling asleep.
Sucking is an awesome calming reflex for babies, so a dummy is going to help massively. (A note on this, I don’t care about older generations who think dummies should be forbidden, if it helps I’m all for it!) Harry isn’t dependant on it but man it helps.
We also introduced a comforter (soft toy dog) to the scene to help him at night. We gave it to him during the day in general play and it seemed to work wonders the more he got used to it being around.
The other thing we had to think about was melatonin. It’s a hormone that causes sensations of sleepiness and is only released when it’s dark.
So, because light was stopping Harry from releasing this hormone, we needed to make sure it was dark for the 10-15 minutes of downtime before putting him to bed.
We also found it helpful introducing white noise to the sleep routine. If you don’t want to buy something to stick on the cot there are stacks of apps and YouTube clips you can use.
No, I’m not talking about my son going on the Michelle Bridges body transformation.
I’m talking about the importance of what solids we introduced. If you’re not at this stage yet, don’t stress, you will get there soon enough.
We needed to make sure Harry’s diet was full of sleep neurotransmitters, like serotonin and melatonin. These hormones need tryptophan and B complex vitamins, so foods such as turkey, chicken, nuts and bananas were awesome.
Plenty of protein during the day helps stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent night time wake ups due to hypoglycaemia (Waking up due to an adrenaline rush, dreams and nightmares).
Wind down routine
Don’t underestimate the important of creating a wind down routine pre-bedtime. Babies thrive on consistency and respond well when they know what is coming next.
The wind down routine needs minimal stimulation, so once we put this part of the plan into place the poor bugger was probably just so bored he decided to sleep instead.
There’s loads of things you can do but we just kept it simple: dinner, bath, bottle, bed. All done within about 30 minutes.
This technique, commonly referred to as controlled crying, really kick-started it all for us.
It’s not for everyone, so do some googling and see what might be relevant for you. In our experience it works.
Spaced soothing, or controlled crying, is the process of allowing your baby to cry for a pre-determined period before returning to briefly settle him again.
We would settle Harry for exactly one minute, then add more and more time to each stint in-between.
This taught him to begin settling himself, while importantly also knowing that we were still there.
We need to remember that babies go through massive FOMO and separation anxiety in that first 12 months.
If you’re trying this, it’s important that both parents stick to the plan. You can’t deviate otherwise all the good work is undone.
This is something we did well after experiencing sleep issues with our two-year-old.
Babies are going to wake up through the night and that is totally normal. Don’t expect them to knock out a solid eight hours from the get go.
Be patient. You should see improvement after around a week. If you’re trying all of this and still no luck, get in touch with Direct Advice 4 Dads and I’ll connect you with the mum that saved our sleep.
READ MORE FROM DANIEL FERGUSON: