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Why I went to "Sleep School"

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Today (12/01/2022) Fynn and I returned home from 5 nights at an Early Parenting Program, focusing on Fynn's sleep.

Why did a Sleep Consultant go to "Sleep School"? I hear you ask.

As a sensitive, gentle sleep consultant I truly believe that nothing is a problem, unless it becomes a problem for you, that it is no longer sustainable.

For 13 months, I have breastfed Fynn. Now that he is 13 months, I still offer Fynn a breastfeed when he wakes in the morning and at bedtime AND when he woke overnight.

For those unaware of my history, I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression and Anxiety was Fynn was around 10 weeks old. Fynn was a colicky baby and his crying was the major trigger for my depression and anxiety. In a bid to ease his crying, I would often offer his a breastfeed. This worked for us.

As Fynn got older is nutritional need for overnight feeds diminished, however we had now formed a habit. A habit in which Fynn believed he needed feeds (albeit small and quick) overnight to return to sleep. In 18 months (including pregnancy) I had had ONE full night sleep. With returning to work part-time in 2022, this no longer worked for me.

As a sleep consultant I know that Fynn did not nutritionally need the feeds. I had attempted night weaning a number of times. I had tried giving him space overnight to try to resettle. Sometimes this worked, but the majority of the time it didn't. Since Fynn began the 12 month regression (around 11 months) and cutting all 4 of his molars, bedtime had also become a massive, mentally exhausting battle.

As a professional (teacher and sleep consultant) I knew I needed (we needed) support to make the changes to make life better for our family. Being sleep deprived for 13 months, I did not have the mental, physical or emotional strength to make these overnight changes on my own, so I sought support.

After discussions with a Mum friend, I looked into the Early Parenting Program at Masada Private Hospital in Melbourne, a 5 night stay. Due to signing a NDA, I can not disclose too much about the program however, this is what I can tell you:

  • On admission I had a lengthy meeting with a lovely nurse. We went through my pregnancy, birth and life since Fynn had been Earth side. We set short term and long term goals. For us our short term goals were to cease overnight feeds with the long term goal of Fynn sleeping through the night without needing assistance to resettle.

  • Night 1, Day 2 and Night 2 were horrible! Definitely more so for me than Fynn. I expressed to my friends and family that it was F***ed. It was not what I expected. It was confronting and I was quite prepared for it. Due to the success of the program, Masada does not publicly disclose a lot of information about the day to day runnings of their program, so unless you know someone that has been you really go in blind and somewhat naive.

  • The nursing staff are unbelievably amazing! I mean you always have the odd one that is the token cranky one, but the rest of the staff were so caring, understanding, loving, patient and informative!

  • The first 2 days and nights are all about mum getting rest! I could not believe it. Aside from overnight feeding, the staff look after your little one for ALL sleeps (naps and overnight). You do not need to settle or resettle at all. You are encouraged to nap when they nap, go for a walk on your own, read a book, watch tv. You are offered sleeping tablets to have solid overnight rest.

  • You have a GP that has a friendly, open, caring chat with you on day 1 or 2 and checks in with you during your stay.

  • The other mums become your best friends. You all have common ground. You all have children you love dearly. You're all sleep deprived. You all need support.

So how did we go?

Fynn has always been a dream day napper. On day 1 he slept for 4.5 hours straight! Nights have always been our issue.

Night 1 Fynn was unsettled for 50 minutes. He required 3 settles before he fell asleep. This was extremely hard for me! I gave him 2 overnight feeds. He needed 2 additional settles before he woke around 7am.

Night 2 Fynn only needed one settle at bedtime and no settles overnight! He woke and grizzled but eventually put himself back to sleep. I gave him one overnight feed.

Night 3, 4 & 5 Fynn self settled and had no overnight feeds and slept through with NO re-settles.

Was it worth it?

1000 times yes!

Was it what I expected? No, not exactly. I did find it confronting at the start because it didn't quite align with my parenting style and my philosophy around sleep. However, this program is heavily backed by research and Masada actually have a research partnership with Monash University based on their program. After having thorough discussions with the nurses, I began to understand and learn even more about sleep biology and REALLY differentiating between grizzles and cries.

My biggest take-away?

Sleep training, not matter what method you choose is harder on the parents than the children. I was more traumatised by night 1, than Fynn. Fynn actually woke up with no recollection of bedtime the night before (research and science tells us this).

Never, ever put off getting support/help.

If I had my time again, I would have attended the Early Parenting Program or sought sleep support as early as I could with Fynn.

But then who knows, Sound Sleep Baby might not be here today if I had and I wouldn't be able to help and support other families during these torturous, sleep deprived times.

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