Baby sleep school saved my sanity.

Up until the birth of my second child, there had never been a moment in my life when I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind.

But after being deprived of anything that resembled “decent” sleep for 12 months on end, exhaustion had altered my laid-back, approachable and relatively chillaxed self into a hyper-sensitive, darty-eyed person who tended to laugh at people when they politely asked me how I was doing.

To my family, I was a raging, fragile mess at home in the evenings, living on a bunch of 45-minute sleep cycles from about 8:00pm until 6:00am. I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t feel sick with tiredness.
It took just one night collapsed on the kitchen floor with a crying, tired little bub to make me realise that no-one was winning. My partner was amazing, but unfortunately, he wasn’t lactating. I suddenly found myself angrily hissing at my child to “go the f*** to sleep”.

Yep, I just admitted that. I was desperate.

That’s the moment when I decided I needed some help.

My GP handed me a referral to a baby sleep centre in Brisbane, and I’d always trusted her judgement. But deep down, I figured it would turn out to be some kind of archaic, anti-attachment type of place where I’d be forced to leave my baby to cry in a dark room and sort himself out. No thanks.

More importantly, I told myself, that would mean I had failed to fix the problem all by myself, something that I wasn’t ready to admit. I was extremely committed to fulfilling the role I’d set out for myself — being a gentle, responsive parent — and I’d already decided that sleep training didn’t fit the brief.


On my quest to remain a “selfless” mum, I decided it was better to suffer than to train my kid to sleep in a separate room. Never mind the fact that I completely lacked the energy to enjoy being a parent.

I spoke to a psychologist with a special interest in postnatal depression. Her words resonated with me. Why do we have to choose between sucking it up, or crying it out? Wasn’t there a gentle way to help both parent and child to get some sleep?

I had never thought controlled crying was fair on babies, but co-sleeping wasn’t working at all because he was waking up constantly throughout the night.

During my four-night stint at sleep school I found the answer — responsive settling. And I haven’t looked back.

Here’s what I learnt:

The nurses at the sleep school actually cared about my baby, and my sleep deprivation wasn’t their main focus. They wanted him to self-settle, get some decent sleep and feel better. He was the patient, after all.

My baby didn’t like change, but it was ok for him to be upset. I wasn’t neglecting him. He’d known only my nipples as a way to fall asleep. That might be perfectly fine for other mums, but I couldn’t go back to that. Yes, there were tears from both of us on the first night. But I didn’t abandon him — I stayed with him in the room until he was ok, I cuddled him, I sang to him. It wasn’t my job to stop him feeling unhappy, it was my job to soothe him while he discovered that he didn’t need me in his bed to feel secure at night.


Breastfeeding was NOT the problem. That came as a relief, because my son and I weren’t ready to give up this part of our relationship just yet. I’ve always loved breastfeeding. To this day, he feeds pretty much whenever he wants to, but he doesn’t use it as a way to fall asleep.

I needed to let go of my parenting “goals” and just roll with it all. This was really hard due to my tendency to over-plan the hell out of everything in my life. But — who would have thought? — I was enough already. I didn’t need to keep reaching for something else.

It’s been three months since we graduated from baby sleep school and without a doubt, it has been the most life-altering decision I’ve ever made … other than having kids in the first place, of course.

He’s sleeping through the night now. Yep. For real. And my kids have their mum back.

In my opinion, there is only one thing more annoying than a parent whose baby sleeps like a dream, and that’s the parent who likes to lecture you about how to do it.

Honestly, that’s not what I’ve set out to do here. I just wish that a long time ago, I knew that teaching my baby to sleep was a gift to him, not just me.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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