‘Why don’t you try The Ferber method?’ my health visitor said when she visited one day. I had been up for half an hour every two hours with my 9 month old baby girl and I was beyond exhausted. Anyone who knows me knows my love for sleeping. I love sleep. I love helping families get it because I means SO much to me. Did I say I really love sleep?
Anywhoooo... I wasn’t sleeping. This gorgeous tiny human being I had made was stealing my precious sleep. I was breastfeeding EVERY time she woke as it was the only way to resettle her and it had begun to feel like a form of torture. I would look at my husband and get so envious of him soundly sleeping and irritated that I was the one with the milk supply. I had begun to feel like a failure as a mum. How could I always settle babies at work in the nursery to sleep with a pat or soothing word but couldn’t my own!? It was effecting me so much that I would go to the shop to get milk, pick up bread and eggs and then cry when I got home and realised I had no milk for my tea. Milk hadn’t even rung bells as I stood in front of it in the shop. Total. Mum. Zombie.
The Ferber method was something I had read about and nursery mummies had shared their success stories with me, I had even chatted to my husband about it but he couldn’t stand to hear our daughter cry for more than a second so it had quickly been dismissed!
Today was different; a professional had suggested it and explained it and my husband jumped on board. We did our usual bedtime routine, I fed her and I lay her in her cot drowsy but not asleep. I left. The timer began. 3mins, back in, soothed, laid down, left. 5mins, soothed, laid down, left. 7mins. Silence. We followed this for several nights and soon she was settling herself to sleep, there were days where she would cry in protest but I knew that cry. That cry didn’t pluck at my heart strings or make me want to burst into tears myself. I’m pretty sure if she could talk it would have been something like ‘Hey. Mummy! I know you’re going to have a cup of tea and a chocolate hobnob! Are you sure I can’t have one yet??’ (cute smiles and angelic face) ‘Fine. Humph... Goodnight!’
In the same way at the toddler stage we would have nights where she would ask for fourteen more stories, nine cups of water and why only some of the moon was there that night???
She didn’t just cry it out alone in a dark room until she gave up. We went in at regular intervals to help calm and soothe her. There wasn’t a panic cry, a scared cry and I don’t believe she had heightened stress levels or that it changed her personality or messed her up for life. She is an incredible, loving, kind, confident, empathetic child who even at 10, still sleeps 7-7!
What I know now doesn’t make me feel guilty about how I taught her to settle, it was a method I was confident to consistently carry out and it was quickly successful which was exactly what I needed at the time. I didn’t have the energy to implement slow changes, I needed results fast and this method gave me them albeit with a few tears. I totally understand that there are parents out there who wouldn’t dream of implementing this method and that is ok too. A parents style of parenting is just a unique as their child and I respect that. We must all respect and nurture our different parenting styles!
This isn’t to say if I had been given different options at an earlier stage (when I wasn’t a Mum Zombie) the Ferber method would have been the one I chose or may have even needed. I had tried ‘pick up, put down’ and several others from the baby books and I just didn’t know any other methods, in my head it was a few tears from my baby and possible sleep success or a lot of tears from me, no sleep and feeding 50gazillion times a night until school age. (Maybe a little dramatic but that’s where my head had gone by this stage).
I do however wish I had been told about the importance of independent settling at around four months and its effects on night time sleep if the skill isn’t learnt. I would have understood why we were up so often at night and that if I had been consistent with how she fell asleep from that age onwards the night wakings would have been a lot less. I had tried everything, dummy, breast, singing, patting, toy comforter but that was my problem. I was doing it all. My consistency however, was that I would always default back to feeding and that is why it would always work. Consistency. If I had taught her to fall asleep at bedtime how I wanted her to move from one sleep cycle to the next at night and consistently stuck to it our story would have been very different.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been writing and sharing this with you though and that is what I want and love to do... Share my knowledge to ensure you get the best nights sleep possible and feel confident in your choices. Not trying methods that leave you feeling filled with mum guilt just because Susan in the playground has five children who go to bed at 7pm and sleep in until 10am and her top tip is ‘at 8 months shut the door and don’t go back until morning’. But it’s only ten minutes in and you’re crying and your baby is looking up at you with bulging crying eyes wondering what on earth is going on. Let’s not. No Susan. That is not the way we’re doing it in this house!
Let me share my knowledge with you on various ways to help your child make good sleep habits and support you on your journey so you can confidently walk through parenthood.