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Sleep schools

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2010-05-22 -

 

My apologies for being off the radar lately. Orion had become addicted to being rocked to sleep – and rocked throughout her entire sleep. It was utterly tiring holding her for 12 hours a day and poor Tycho was sorely lacking the attention he needed from me. So Orion and I packed up and went to
the Queensland Government’s live-in sleep school, the Ellen Barron Family Centre, for some intensive re-education.

The nurses who run the centre teach the responsive settling technique to train your child to self-settle; that is, fall asleep on their own. While this technique isn’t as hardcore as controlled crying, a parent still needs a fair amount of resolve to use it because it does involve some level of crying in their babies. The short explanation is: understand your child’s cues and react accordingly by going in and soothe your child when their crying is escalating and constant but leaving them be if there are pauses between cries and if the cries are mild. You can read more about responsive settling in the book Sleep Right, Sleep Tight.

I found the experience emotionally draining and fascinating at the same time. There were times when I was ready to give up and walk away, usually after a bad couple of settling sessions. But I’m very glad I – we – stuck with the program. I feel that the short-term discomfort I put myself and Orion through was more than compensated by the fact that I was able to help Orion master a very important skill that she’ll use every day for the rest of her life – to wind herself down in preparation for sleep.

Mitch and I had used responsive settling techniques to help Tycho self settle when he was about 5 months old but we did it at home without any help. It was a very lonely and rough couple of weeks, I can tell you, during which I second-guessed myself constantly while listening to my son cry for great blocks of time.

I found the live-in sleep school to be a far more productive and successful experience. The Ellen Barron nurses were fantastic. They helped me to understand and respond accordingly to Orion’s cries and cues. They demonstrated a range of settling techniques to soothe Orion. They were happy to share their knowledge and wisdom any time I asked. And they provided firm yet compassionate moral support whenever I needed it.

Sleep school isn’t a quick fix but it can be the start of new era of peace in your house. A couple of weeks down the track, Orion is sleeping better and better each day, taking less time to wind down and drift off. Whereas I was once patting and shushing her for more than an hour each time, I now rarely have to go in at pat her at all.

If there’s one piece of advice I can impart on you about sleep schools, it’s this: go sooner rather than later. If you think you may need some help, apply for a spot. Don’t think your problems aren’t bad enough to warrant that level of help. I thought that way until I go to the Ellen Barron Centre. Then I realised that I should have gone to the Ellen Barron Centre with Tycho 18 months ago. And what’s more, it’s a free service.

You should never feel guilty about asking for help. I ran into mums at the centre who hadn’t had more than 2 hours of unbroken sleep in more than a year. I don’t know how they survived. All of them were relieved that the responsive settling techniques were making a huge difference to their child’s sleeping problems. The feelings of exaltation and relief everyone shared on the last day were really heart warming.

Cheers

Kate

 


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