Sleep Training with The Magic Fairy

When I was pregnant, I used to say things like “I’m going to be so strict with routine when my baby arrives, I’ll make sure he sleeps 12 hours a night from 3 months old”. The only parenting book I read during the 10 months I was pregnant was one on how to create a sleep routine so that your baby sleeps throughout the night. I said to Wade, “read this book, we’re going to start this from day 1 so we get the routine in place”. LOL. I laugh at our naivety and optimism.

From the moment Wolfie arrived, any concept or idea we had of creating a routine was GONE. I didn’t actually see how it was even possible to instigate one? In those first 4 months, he ate when he wanted, screamed if we didn’t give him milk straight away, and slept whenever he wanted, usually on one of us. Luckily, and I don’t really know how, by about 17 weeks we had a bedtime routine down: bath at 5.30pm, followed by a bottle and then we would simply put him in his cot and he would put himself to sleep by 6pm, with his dummy and comforter. But no rocking, no sssh-ing, we could simply put him down. What we DID do in the early months, was try to establish day and night very quickly: at night there was no talking, the room was always kept dark and we would not rock him to sleep or fuss over him. So although we were waking to feed him regularly at night, after we burped him he would go straight back down without any trouble at all. That was some relief at least. Because Wolfe had colic/reflux, it was an exhausting few months but we stayed calm and positive and assumed once we were out that newborn  stage we would be able to quickly start that routine!

At around 4 months we had a fluke week where he would wake for just one feed at 1am, and I thought “this is amazing, I can deal with one feed a night no problem”. Then his ‘4 month regression’ hit me. At this point, Wade was away in Romania shooting a film, so I was solely on nights. Wolfie has gone right back to newborn sleeping: feeding up to 3 times a night, and waking almost every 30-60 minutes for a dummy, or in the more recent weeks, to be turned on his back because he had rolled on his front and got stuck and couldn’t turn himself back. Now, I pride myself on having an excessive amount of energy; and although I was having sleepless nights I was managing to start my day at 5am, work full time, exercise most days, and be a mum. But in reality, I was running on pure adrenalin and it was starting to wear off, and whenever it did, I would literally turn into a zombie. It’s not even being tired, it’s beyond that, your brain literally fails to function, you hardly know your own name and pushing a pram feels like you’re trying to push a lorry up a mountain.

I needed sleep but I didn’t know how I could make that happen. I thought introducing solids would help, it didn’t. And I didn’t see any way of having a routine because I work full time, Wade is away, and my nanny (who I have temporarily until Wade returns from filming) just loves taking Wolfe to music classes and coffee shops every day. I didn’t feel like I could implement a routine when we don’t have a routine ourselves. I knew I needed to speak to an expert, so I called Alison, author of The Sensational Sleep Plan. I had spoken to her a few months ago on the phone, she had quickly understood that Wolfe was suffering from reflux and advised that I changed to an anti-reflux milk (I use HiPP Organic for those who have been asking) and that did help hugely: he finally started taking feeds all at once rather than 30ml at a time, and wasn’t randomly waking up in obvious pain from lying down on his back. But after that conversation, it would be another 2 months till she would come over.

Alison has a unique approach, she really looks at a babies needs. While she does implement routine, which I’ll take you through in a moment, she looks first and foremost at what is going on with the baby. She does not believe that if your baby is wingey, and frustrated, that this is simply, as other people say, “totally normal, this is just what babies are like.” She believes that it is important to listen to what a baby is trying to tell us when they are cry, or show signs of pain/frustration/upset. We shouldn’t ignore them and assume it’s normal just because they are babies. It makes total sense.

Getting an appointment with Alison was not easy, but she randomly text me at 3pm on Sunday and said “I have a 24 hour opening, I can be with you in 30 minutes”. I was THRILLED! She came over and just sat observed me and Wolfe for a while. Wolfe is a pretty amazing baby, I know I’m biased, but he is such a happy thing, he never whinges, he is comfortable being held by other people, and smiles at absolutely everybody who gives him an ounce of attention. So, when Alison said, “Wolfie is absolutely wired. He is exhausted and frustrated.” I was, if I’m honest, really gutted. My initial reaction was to be like, “Erm no, you’re wrong, can you not see how happy he is, he hasn’t stopped smiling at you since the moment you walked in!” Then Alison went on to explain, that just like adults, when babies are sleep deprived they produce adrenalin, which makes them wired and frantic. I guess I could see that it was an exact reflection of my own life; my sleep deprivation also means I run on adrenalin which definitely makes me wired if I don’t manage it with meditation, etc.  Alison said that sleep breeds sleep, meaning that he would need to sleep at least an hour nap in the morning, followed by a 2.5 hour nap in his cot at lunch, and another 30 minute nap later in the day. Was she serious? 2.5 hour nap in his cot? I actually laughed. “No, Wolfie doesn’t sleep in his cot ever – he only sleeps in his pram because none of us are ever home, he is always out with me, Wade or our nanny, Julia. And he never naps more than 60 minutes at a time.” I went on to explain that being home for 2.5 hours a day would be near impossible for me. After a pause, she asked me if I wanted my sleep back.. I thought about it, for about 3 seconds, and concluded that yes I did want my sleep back, not just for me but for Wolfe as well – so I needed to not resist change, but embrace it. I could turn the 2.5 hours at home into a great opportunity to write, catch up on admin and work from home. I’d do whatever she asked of me!

I bathed Wolfie as normal, Alison continuing to just observe, and dressed him, put him in his sleeping bag (which is essential for bed, and now naps in his cot – I use the ErgoPouch ones and I LOVE them) and then gave him his bottle. Alison said to me, we had to ditch the dummy and we were going to implement it immediately; I was to put him down now without the dummy and we were never going to use it again. That was it. It was gone. I did put Wolfie down without dummy, but with his comforter, and to my surprise he drifted straight off – I think because he was so tired at this point. I collected all the dummies round the house, and put them in a bag to go to my local charity shop. I was going to stick with this no matter what! We also had to keep his door closed to stop him being disturbed from light or noise, another thing I had never done before (in hindsight I don’t really know why I always left his door open!).

That first night, Alison told me I could stay in my room and she would ‘sleep train’ Wolfie. When he woke, she would not give him a dummy or bottle, she would simply go in, pat him and reassure him with a firm voice “Sleepytime now” and leave the room. She would go back in and repeat that every few minutes. My room is right next to Wolfie’s so I could hear everything; Wolfie screamed like I haven’t heard before for almost 40 minutes. It was tough, of course, my motherly instinct wanted to soothe him, but I also had full trust in Alison, her technique, her experience and most importantly – her RESULTS! I don’t know if I’d have been able to stick with this myself, but if you are going to try doing this yourself– you must commit to it and see it through – because if you give up half way, you’re teaching your baby very early on that eventually his crying will result in you picking him up so he won’t learn any new habits. It honestly IS worth it..

After that tough 40 minutes, Wolfie went down (apparently on his tummy, which he has NEVER done before – usually I have to turn him on his back everytime he flips on his tummy) and slept through until 6am. I woke at my usual 5am and had a whole hour to get myself ready and reply to emails before he woke. HEAVEN.

I then carried on with my usual morning routine that I have with Wolfie, I went in to see his beautiful happy smiles (clearly totally non-fussed about his 40 minute breakdown the night before) and then changed his nappy, had some cuddles in my bed and then gave him his bottle before taking him for our morning coffee run. About 1.5 hours after waking he was ready for him morning nap, Alison explained that as the adrenalin left his body because he slept more, he would be more tired in the day too. He slept in his pram for a whole 75 minutes (didn’t seem bothered about dummy at all)! Incredible. When it came to his lunchtime nap, I didn’t have much hope: I thought, no way this won’t work. We put him in his sleeping bag, closed the blinds, put him down, closed the door and almost immediately, he started screaming. Alison repeated the process from the night before: pat, firm voice “sleepytime now”, leave room. She went back in every couple of minutes. After the 3rdtime, 7 minutes later: he slept. And he slept for 2.5 HOURS!!!! Alison went home at this point, her job seemed to be done.

That night, Wolfie slept 12 hours straight.

The next day was not quite as smooth, his morning nap was 2 hours long, so his lunch time nap did not work quite as well, he only did about an hour, but he still slept 12 hours again at night. I’m going to simply try again today and keep at it till we get it right.

Alison provided us with this routine to stick with in the day (I’m writing the milk Oz we give him next to it as I’ve been asked a lot how much food and milk he’s getting in the day)

6am: Wake Up, Change nappy, 7oz Milk

7.45am: Breakfast + Water to Drink (I give him HiPP Organic Creamy Porridge)

8am: Nap – ideally 1.5 hours (can be in pram if out)

11am: Lunch + Water to Drink (I give him either freshly made food, or a Babease or Ella’s Kitchen stage 1 full sachet)

11:30am/12pm: Nap in Cot in sleeping bag, dark room & door closed.

14:00/14:30: milk (7oz)

Possibly late afternoon power nap, not usually necessary from around 6/7 months and two other day naps are established.

16:30/17:00: Supper + Water to Drink

17:30: Bath

17:45: 7oz Milk

18:00: Bedtime in cot in sleeping bag, dark room and door closed

Wolfie seems to have forgotten the dummy very quickly, I can’t believe how easy it was in the end and I wonder why I didn’t just do it sooner. I am truly shocked and amazed by the results, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the wonderful Alison. It means that I won’t be forcing myself to sleep at 8.30pm because I’m desperately trying to get in a few hours before he starts waking up, it means I can have real energy rather than energy that is really just adrenaline, and it means that Wolfie will be so much happier too as he gets the proper sleep he needs. Alison’s desire to truly help babies and families is inspirational, and combined with her knowledge and extensive experience; she is a truly a master at what she does. I was so blown away with her I’ve asked her to co-host a monthly Agony Aunt Sunday style Q&A on my Instagram stories on the to answer all your mothering questions! But also her book is unreal and has so much detail – so many of you have messaged me on Instagram to say that the book changed your life! 

Buy The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan Here

Follow Alison on Instagram Here

Follow Roxie on Instagram Here