Mother of two, Hayley Fowler, was “at the end of her tether” when she decided to take her 11-month-old son to sleep school.
Her first child, Lily, was a dream sleeper which set up some false expectations about baby number two.
“I thought we had every sort of technique down pat,” she said. But the second-time-mum felt she had “lost her way”.
Jack would wake up three or four times during the night and usually between 3.30am and 4.30am he would wake up again as if he was ready for the day to begin.
“I just got to the point where I got really low and resented going into his bedroom. I didn’t want to pick him up in bed, didn’t want to be near him. I decided that I need to go get some help,” said Fowler.
Jack is now a much happier baby throughout the day. Image supplied.
The 38-year-old mother was "barely functioning" when she booked in to Tresillian - an inpatient sleep school service that aims to help mothers get back on track.
"You have nothing left in the tank. You are barely functioning. These women are there to pick you up and they offer an amazing service.
"As long as you give yourself completely to them and are open to what they suggest, then it is going to be a service that will work for you. If you go in open minded it will work for you, if you go in closed minded or being a bit sensitive, then it is not going to work."
The centre is run by a group of family health nurses, psychologists, social workers, paediatricians and psychiatrists.
"Their main point was consistency and confidence. Also being calm – so maybe the three C’s. That is not their motto but that was where I lost it, I wasn’t calm.
"I was not aggressive, but I was shouting...Ever since I deescalated the situation and was really calm with him, he responded so much better to me," said Fowler.
It was also a chance for Jack and his mother to spend some time alone together - the pair stayed in the centre for four nights.
The family visit Hayley and Jack at sleep school. Image supplied.
"Being a parent second time around, I hadn’t really spent a lot of time with Jack because you are just sort of running around – doing the dishes, doing the washing. It was really lovely to have that time away with him and connect with him to pick up on some of his issues," she said.
"I am now a lot calmer with him. I feel this has really improved our situation – every night I am noticing changes in him. His cry isn’t as intense. He wakes and talks. He was so used to me feeding him, picking him up and he knows what is coming. He knows that - 'if I cry mummy is not going to come straight in',” said Fowler.
The sleep school has no quick fix and although Jack and his mother have really improved, it is still taking a lot of commitment.
"His cry is nowhere as near as intense as it once was. He is not waking up anywhere near as much during the night and I feel a lot calmer letting him cry. That knot in my stomach is not there anymore and I am better with how I am with him."
"They say it doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a lot for his behaviour to change. You have to be consistent and confident with what you are doing and you can’t shy away from everything that they teach you," she said.
Hayley's two children had very different sleep habits. Image supplied.
No mother likes hearing their baby cry but the Sydney mum can now recognise Jack's varied cries.
"I was so tired, every noise that came out of his mouth sounded like a whinge and it was terrible. So, when I was able to sort of sit back and listen to what they had to say about the different types of crying, I was able to go right – 'that cry was OK; I do not need to go in quite yet'.
"They basically say when he gets to the point of having an uncontrollable cry, and it has been going on for some time, they give it about 10 minutes...[Then] I handed him the dummy - so it was a treat - and I said 'lie down' and quite often he wouldn’t lie down. I put one hand on his back and one hand on his bum - because he is a tummy sleeper - and just pat him for a little bit and tell him he is a 'good boy' and just walk out."
Before sleep school Hayley Fowler would do anything to appease her baby when he woke up at night. She would rock him, change his nappy or give him a bottle. All the other mothers at sleep school were facing the same challenges. The women were able to share their experiences and offer support for each other.
"It was just good to bond and know that you are not a failure. There are so many other men and women going through this and it made you feel a little bit more empowered.
"There are a lot of people out there asking for help, not that you wish it upon anyone, but you are doing a good thing. It was just great to have that support whether you spoke to someone for a minute or longer. You just both smiled at each other knowing you were there to support [each other].
"No one was there to judge you. There was just no judgement at all. It was a safe environment. Everyone knows how hard it is."
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