When you bring your newborn home from hospital, the joy of getting to know each other can sometimes be overshadowed by the reality of living with the dreaded sleep-deprivation. Lucy Chesterton chats to Sleep Coach St Ives Cheryl Fingleson to find out the secret to making it through those first months with your sanity intact.
It’s pitch black and you’re in a deep sleep when the sound of crying breaks through your slumber. Groaning, you roll over and check the time on the glowing screen of your iPhone. Surely you have only just closed your eyes a second ago? The numbers on the screen tell you it’s 4am, which means you’ve been asleep for just one precious hour since you were last up with your newborn. Of course, lots of people warned you that once you became a parent, you’d have to deal with sleep deprivation. But compared the stories you’d heard, the reality of broken sleep is so much worse, causing wild swings in your emotional state and effecting everything from your ability to boil a pot of water for coffee to your ability to navigate from place to place in the car. I know, because I’ve been dealing with the up-and-downs since having my daughter, who is now three months old. And in order to make sure her sleeping patterns were on track, I employed the service of St Ives sleep coach Cheryl Fingleson.
There’s no doubt Cheryl has a way with babies. When she visits my house just after 1pm, my daughter has been awake since 9.30 that morning – a no-no for a three-month old, whose maximum awake time should be around one-and-a-half hours at a time, including feeding. But when Cheryl takes her in her arms, she quietens quickly and easily. When she places my baby in her cot, she settles almost immediately and is asleep within minutes, despite usually being hard to settle if she’s been awake for as long as she had been that morning.
Cheryl’s program is a ‘bespoke’ service, which means her program is tailored to each family she sees, so no two of her plans look exactly same. What works for my daughter, for example, won’t work another baby who may be slightly older or younger, or more sensitive to sound or light, or naturally more clingy, or a whole range of other factors. For this reason, before her consult, Cheryl has each client fill out an extensive history that covers every detail of the family’s sleep routines, including whether you have other children, what time they go to bed, your child’s daytime nap patterns, whether you or your child is afraid of the dark, everything down to whether or not you leave the bedroom door open.
Typically, a newborn needs to sleep for 16 to 18 hours, spread over a day and a night. Cheryl supports this with her own program, which she says from four to six months of age focuses on ‘sleep shaping’ – gently encouraging good sleeping patterns- and then after six months of age focuses on ‘sleep coaching’, where the learned skills are built upon. While a few bouts of crying during sleep coaching are inevitable, Cheryl says she doesn’t believe in the ‘cry it out’ or a ‘controlled crying’ approach and instead she allows parents to be in the room with their baby during coaching, until the baby is asleep. ‘We maintain a close connection to babies or children when they cry,’ she says. ‘This ensures that parents feel calmer and separation anxiety is eliminated or reduced.’ What’s important, she says, is that ‘sleep promotes sleep’ – meaning that the more a baby sleeps, the more a baby wants to sleep.
Besides newborn routines, Cheryl also has techniques to assist with children of all ages as well as programs to help in areas like discipline in the home, transitioning from cot to bed, potty training, safe co-sleeping, and identifying signs of postpartum depression.
Cheryl’s Secrets for Good Sleep Routines
- Find other ways to soothe your baby besides feeding and rocking
- Have a feeding and sleeping routine that’s flexible
- Make sure your baby’s environment encourages good sleeping
- Put your baby down drowsy but awake at least once every 24 hours
- Feed your baby when he wakes up from a nap
If your baby is going through a ‘sleep regression’…
- Continue to help your baby fall asleep in the way he has been falling asleep up until now
- Do what you need to do to help your baby fall asleep
- You can offer a dream feed right before you go to bed, and it may help your baby sleep a bit longer at night
- Ask for help! This is the time to lean hard on friends and family members
Can you share any baby-sleeping tips or tricks? How have you managed your own sleep deprivation?