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How to Save Your Sleep, Your Way

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SOS

Last year, I used one word more than any other: sleep. I don’t think any new parent can get through a conversation without referencing it at least once! Even before Arianna was born, I wanted to make sure that she learnt good sleeping habits as quickly as possible. The question was how.

A while back, a girlfriend mentioned Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep (SOS), a book her brother swore by. Over time, more friends started mentioning the book, which advocates:

  • Enforcing a strict feeding and sleeping schedule from when babies are two weeks old.
  • Ensuring that babies are put to sleep at 7pm and woken up at 7am daily.
  • Teaching your child how to self-settle from as young as possible
  • Learning to identify different types of cries, and responding accordingly.

The aim of this book – getting your baby to sleep well so that you can too – seemed to be a no-brainer. But I soon realised how polarising SOS was. For each person who loved the book, there was another who loathed it. Some believed Hall’s recommendations bordered on inhumane, others hated the sense of failure they felt when they followed the routines but didn’t achieve the results. Nevertheless, I gave it a try and this is what I’ve learnt so far.

It’s easier for some

Understand what parenting style you’re likely to have. If you’re a fan of routines, then you’ll probably feel more comfortable with Hall’s approach. If you’re more carefree, it’s harder to enforce. Also, if your partner, parents, in-laws or carers aren’t prepared to apply the same rules, it can be confusing for your baby and stressful for you.

The final word is your own

SOS offers some great basics when it comes to sleep training. But while I think a regular routine played a big part in helping Arianna sleep through the night, there’s also some luck involved when it comes to babies who sleep well. And parents will figure out their child’s preferences – as well as their own – in time. So use SOS as a guide, then tailor it to suit your family. For example, the 7pm bedtime doesn’t work for us as my husband doesn’t get home before 6pm. Despite Hall’s warnings that “missing the 7 o’clock bus” could have terrible results, we’ve pushed Arianna’s bedtime to 7.30pm so she can spend some quality time with her dad. So far, no major meltdowns!

Routines are great, but they don’t have to be down to the minute.

Knowing that Arianna feeds and sleeps at roughly the same time every day means that I can plan my tasks accordingly, and also look forward to a break during her naps. I also learnt that the world wouldn’t collapse if she napped 20 minutes later than recommended.

Self-settling is important, but there’s more than one way of doing it.

Teaching Arianna to self-settle was one of my biggest achievements but it was also one of the hardest things to do. The SOS method is definitely harsher than most – it involves letting your child protest for as long as you can stand it without going to them, as long as their cry is not an ‘emotional’ one. This seems to be the most controversial element in the book, as there are those who argue that letting your baby “cry it out” can result in them feeling neglected and insecure. What’s helped with us is learning the difference between a protesting and emotional cry, and therefore knowing when Arianna is “acting up” versus a real need for comfort. But while I feel that all babies should be taught to self-settle – mostly for their parents’ sanity – there are other, calmer methods that can be tried.

Your child doesn’t give two hoots about saving your sleep.

There will be nights when all the training you’ve done flies right out the window. It could be an upset tummy, teething, or even for no apparent reason at all! When – not if – this happens, keep reminding yourself that you’ve laid the right foundations and things will always get better.

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Sharon Chai left the world of high heels, lipstick and fancy pants this year to fumble through life as a new mum to Arianna. Between diaper changing and off-key singing for her daughter’s entertainment, she writes about her Thermomix kitchen escapades on Thermomixin.com.

Image Credit: iStockphoto.

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