by Rebecca Welton
Amazon Links UK / US
Publisher: Spottiswoode Publishing
As a parent, what do you do if you are suffering sleepless nights but don't want to let your baby cry it out? Most families are left just trying to weather the storm. Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques: Alternatives to Controlled Crying offers families a new approach. The book provides effective options for helping parents teach their babies to happily settle to sleep on their own and sleep through the night – without leaving them to cry alone.
Mother-of-two, Rebecca Welton, knows all about sleepless nights. At five months, her youngest was still waking 8 to 10 times a night. With little information available, Rebecca set about devising a settling technique that worked for her baby and her family. Now a qualified child sleep practitioner, she has brought together the best tips on how to get your baby to sleep better and for longer. Rebecca delivers five different Trust Techniques, including one for co-sleepers, that build on the trust between you and your baby by ensuring that you always respond to their needs and never leave them to cry alone. Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques: Alternatives to Controlled Crying covers:
The best tips and ideas to help babies sleep, and nap, better and for longer.
Five different settling techniques, to suit all families.
The effects a sleepless baby has on other members of the family, especially older siblings, and provides strategies for dealing with issues that can arise from this.
Ways of coping with sleep deprivation.
Chapter 1: Introduction
“Please, I’m begging you – go to sleep!”
Friends were adamant that we should use either the crying-it-out or controlled-crying methods with Harry. I resisted at first, sure that he would grow out of this stage of night-waking, but it soon became clear that it was affecting our family life. John and I were exhausted, and to be honest, we were not at our best in being parents to two small and wonderful children; Alexandra was exhausted – in a house with thin walls, Harry’s night-waking was disturbing her – and Harry was exhausted because he wasn’t getting enough sleep. All in all, we were not a happy family! So, in desperation, I tried controlled crying with Harry. He was six months old and it was a horrible experience for all of us. Harry was very distressed at being left alone. Alexandra was upset because, at just over two years old, she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t going in to comfort Harry, and I found it heartbreaking, listening to his cries and doing nothing to lessen them. I gave in after twenty minutes and resolved to never again leave my children to cry alone.
I’ve heard a lot of mums talking about controlled crying or crying it out, but I’m not really sure what they mean. What do these techniques involve?
Controlled crying refers to methods that ask you to leave your babies for increasing intervals before responding to them. One example would be to place them in their cot at bedtime and then leave the room. If they cry, wait for five minutes before responding, then leave the room again. If they are still crying, wait ten minutes this time before responding. The next time, wait fifteen minutes. All subsequent times, wait fifteen minutes until you respond.
Crying it out refers to methods that ask you to not respond to your babies’ cries. So you would place them in their cot at bedtime and leave the room. You would then not return until morning.
But what techniques could I use instead? I spent any spare time I could find researching other options, yet struggled to find alternatives. I felt desperate. I needed Harry to sleep, but had no idea how to help him learn this skill. After many hours of searching, I finally came up with some ideas and set about helping Harry learn how to happily settle himself.
Soon after, I set up a support group for sleep-deprived parents – the Walking Zombies Club – and I came to realise just how many families face the same problems. Like me, they did not want to use controlled crying or crying it out, yet couldn’t find information on what to do instead. The parents I met wanted one resource that could provide them with a number of ideas and techniques that would help their babies to happily settle themselves to sleep, while building on the bond of trust between them and their children, rather than harming it; a book that would look at the family as a whole and address the effect a sleepless baby has on everyone in that family. So my aims in writing this book have been fourfold:
1. To gather together, in one place, the best tips and ideas to help babies sleep better and for longer;
2. To provide parents with a number of alternatives to controlled crying when helping their babies learn how to settle themselves and sleep through the night – my five Trust Techniques that build on the bond of trust between parents and baby, rather than damage it;
3. To look at the effect a sleepless baby has on other members of the family and not only offer techniques that take this into account, but give strategies for parenting more than one child; and
4. To look at ways of coping with sleep deprivation – a must when so often parents have to live with this day in, day out.
I have drawn on research, my own experience plus that of the families I have helped, and have used a wide range of authors, from Elizabeth Pantley and Penelope Leach, to William and Martha Sears, and Carlos González. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in parenting, and even less so with solutions to sleep issues. What this book provides are different strategies that parents can adapt to suit their own family, ones that you can trust will not harm your baby, you, or your family. There are four Trust Techniques for babies sleeping in their own cots and one for co-sleepers; each of them can be used to help your babies learn to happily settle themselves at naptime, bedtime, and throughout the night, giving your whole family a peaceful night’s sleep. If you – like me – want options that always let you respond to your babies’ needs, to comfort them and reassure them, and help them to sleep, then this book is for you.
Why not use controlled crying or crying it out?
Babies cry to get our attention, to tell us they are hungry, or wet, or too hot, or too cold, or in pain. It is how they communicate with us, and they trust that we will respond. Our bond with our babies is built up over time and has many different parts to it. Yet I believe that a fundamental aspect of this bond is the trust that develops from a parent always responding to a baby’s cry. The controlled-crying and crying-it-out methods can damage this bond by telling the parent to stop responding. If a baby cries and gets no response, what is she learning? Only that there is no point in crying because no one will answer her. And if a baby stops crying when she wants attention or food, or is too hot or too cold, that baby has lost her ability to communicate with others. Not only that, but she may lose the trust she had in you to always respond to her and her needs.
Research has shown that if left alone to cry for prolonged periods of time, a baby experiences panic and anxiety. In doing so, a baby’s brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol. If a baby routinely experiences prolonged periods of unattended crying and the anxiety this causes, this can lead to abnormally high levels of cortisol which can damage a developing baby’s brain. But leaving your little one to cry alone doesn’t just affect your baby. As parents, we are designed to respond to our babies’ cries (you must admit it is a very effective way of getting our attention!). Research has shown that stress hormones increase in the parent, especially the mother, as soon as our babies start to cry, and these increase the longer and louder the cries go on. Parents also find that implementing these methods can be heartbreaking. We have a strong, natural instinct to comfort a crying baby. Stopping yourself from doing so can be difficult and distressing.
Finally, controlled crying and crying it out do not take into account how it will affect other members of the family. Alexandra was upset and unsettled when I tried controlled crying with Harry because if I didn’t always comfort Harry when he was upset, would I always comfort her? By using controlled crying with Harry, I felt the bond of trust between Alexandra and me had been damaged – she had stopped trusting that I would always look after her.
It is easy to forget that babies have to learn how to go to sleep on their own. As a parent you have to teach them this skill. You wouldn’t teach your children how to swim by throwing them into a pool and leaving them to work it out by themselves. Equally, you don’t need to leave your baby crying alone in order for her to learn how to fall asleep.
So what is a Trust Technique?
My aim in devising these Trust Techniques was to have a selection of strategies that families can use to help their babies learn how to sleep better and for longer. Yet it was important that these techniques would not damage the bond of trust between a parent and her baby. Indeed, the techniques needed to build on Harry’s strong bond with John and me. From birth, babies trust that you will always respond to their cries. The Trust Techniques use that as the basis for teaching babies how to settle to sleep. While controlled crying says you must leave your baby to cry alone for increasing periods of time, using the Trust Techniques means you always respond immediately to your baby’s cries. This strengthens the bond of trust between you by continually demonstrating that you will always come when they call for you.
How to use this book
This book has been designed so you can dip in and out of it, and refer to it whenever you need to. The main chapters are Chapter 3: Sleeping like a Baby, and Chapter 4: The Trust Techniques. Chapter 3 contains lots of ideas and tips on how to help your baby to sleep better and for longer, while Chapter 4 details the five different Trust Techniques you can use to help your baby learn to happily settle herself at naptime, bedtime, and during the night.
Remember to stay flexible. All babies are different; what might work for your neighbour’s little one will not necessarily work for your baby, so don’t be afraid to tweak an idea or to try a different one if it becomes clear that what you are doing doesn’t suit your family. Having said that, make sure you give each idea and technique the chance to become part of your little one’s sleep-time rituals. Research has shown that it takes between five and seven days for a new routine to become established in a baby’s brain. So once you start using a new idea or technique, be consistent in using it every nap and bedtime for at least a week. This will give your baby the time she needs to learn the new routine, so that she can anticipate what is going to happen and recognise the signposts that lead to sleep.
Throughout the book there are two types of information boxes. ‘What worked with us’ details the ideas and strategies that worked for my family, and ‘Quick Questions’ cover those questions that I have found parents tend to ask most (often by saying, “can I ask a quick question?”)