Sleep Training with Grace: Part 1

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Sleep can be elusive with a new addition to the family and sometimes it takes an expert to help first time parents to navigate the groggy haze. In Bangkok, one mom shares her story of sleep training and how Grace, the baby whisperer, saved her sanity.

 

By Lucy O’Donoghue

 

A friend on Facebook with a 9 month old posted the other day:

“Have a baby!” they said.

“It’ll be FUN!” they said.

“And then you won’t have a full night of sleep for 10 months and counting, you’ll be up 2-9 times each night for 2-90 minutes, and then you’ll get SICK and NEVER get better because to get better you need sleep, but you have a baby!”  they thought sadistically to themselves.

 

Sadism.  I mean, seriously. That’s what sleep deprivation does to you. I felt like I was doing ok for about the first six months.

Then babe hit that developmental moment where they start to realize you’re a separate person and they just need you closer.  So you keep giving.  But don’t know how to stop that turning into an insatiable appetite.

Then my husband had to drop and leave for six weeks for the Nepal earthquake response.  He got home a week after I began the first of five exams for a Master’s in Public Health.  Despite not wanting to end up in such a scenario, here I was just ‘trying to survive.’  No room for patient nurturing of good sleep habits.  No energy to think outside the box.  No emotional brain space to really figure out whether it was teething, growing or just moaning.  That’s often how life just happens, right?

Desperation leads to action

To be specific, by the time the sleep trainer turned up, I was co-sleeping on a mattress on the floor in my baby’s bedroom and trying in vain to sleep back in my own bed.  I preferred lying in one place for eight hours and rolling over to let him feed about six times than trying to get back to sleep in my own bed.  I’m not at all a critic of co-sleeping. Indeed, it felt strange to crawl back into my own (empty) bed while my husband was away but I knew this wasn’t what I felt was best for my baby and I in the long run.  I knew I’d have to ‘un-do’ the habit later.

Naptimes were no better.  It would take 60, nay even 90 minutes on occasion, to get the poor blighter down to nap and 30 minutes later he’d be up again.

I had read three books on sleeping – Tracy Hoggs’ The Baby Whisperer, Healthy Sleep Habits, Habit Child by Marc Weissbleuth and The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and countless blogs – that is, before Nepal and exam prep.  Any wisdom from those was now a bit of a blur.  I’d cynically given up, on the premise that ‘every baby is different’ (which is very true in any case) and thought I’d just have to muddle through.  I wasn’t keen on either ‘end’ of the spectrum that runs from Ferber’s Cry It Out method to Attachment Parenting.  Indeed, I ended up feeling much like comedian and father of five, Jim Gaffigan:

“There are two philosophies when it comes to getting young children to sleep. There is ‘[Cry it Out],’ which basically involves putting your kids to bed and listening to them scream all night; or there is ‘attachment parenting,’ which essentially involves lying down with your kids, cuddling them, and then listening to them scream all night.”

In need of Grace

So I booked in Grace, a Thai ‘baby whisperer’ of sorts in Bangkok who has an incredible reputation for getting babes to sleep through the night and go down to bed easily without an insane amount of crying.

It’s hard to really ‘give away’ Grace’s secrets because while she may have some common strategies and rules of thumb, her genius is in figuring out exactly how to apply them to each different circumstance.  Plus, they’re her professional secrets in a way!

Overall, however, I would describe her technique as one of gradually lowering expectations of babes regarding what they need to fall asleep, until you can have them down and out within five minutes flat.

She won’t work with babies less than 6 months or over two years of age.  In addition, babes need to be sleeping in a cot or something they can’t climb out of.  Needless to say, despite my interest in Montessori and the notion of a floor-bed, I was ready to revert back to the cot if that’s what it took.

 

Part 2 coming soon …

To read about the basics of sleep training click here for another great article.

photo by Tatiana Vdb CC BY 2.0

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