SOMETHING had to change.
Baby Harry Welton couldn’t sleep – and that meant none of his family could either.
Everyone was exhausted.
His big sister, Alexandra, was grumpy, his dad, John, an air traffic controller who really needed to get a good night’s sleep, was having to spend nights downstairs and his mum, Rebecca, was drained.
“It affects every area of your life. I wasn’t driving because I knew I wasn’t safe, holding conversations was really difficult and I wasn’t up to making any decisions.
Everything boiled down to ‘how do I get through the next hour and when do I get to rest?’,” says the 33-year-old from Hedge End.
When they asked for help, the only suggestion they were given was controlled crying – leaving the baby to cry for increasing periods of time.
The couple were reluctant to try this and the one time she did, Rebecca says it was a disaster.
“Alex got very upset because she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t going to comfort Harry and I found it heart breaking. I think she thought ‘If Mummy doesn’t go to Harry when he’s crying, is she going to come to me when I cry?’”
Rebecca turned to the Internet for help. She was surprised by the lack of information and suggestions available but she and John adapted some ideas they found and came up with a plan. They decided to experiment with a technique she now calls Peekabo – returning to a baby immediately when it cries but not feeding or playing with it.
Two-year-old Alexandra went to stay with her grandparents for a few days, John took a week off work and they set about trying to change Harry’s sleeping patterns.
“It was difficult because we were exhausted and we knew that our sleep was going to get worse before it got better, but something had to change,” says Rebecca.
In fact, they noticed an improvement within a week and by the time he was seven months old Harry was mostly sleeping through the night.
Rebecca set up a support group for other sleep deprived parents to swap ideas and tips and soon realised how many other parents were in the same situation.
It was then that she decided to write a book on baby sleep techniques.
Having been an air traffic controller she launched on a dramatic change of career, becoming a baby sleep expert.
Rebecca, John Alexandra and Harry
She qualified as a child sleep practitioner and wrote a book, Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques, detailing lots of things parents can try as well the story of her own experience as a sleep-deprived parent. She also now runs a drop-in baby sleep clinic at three venues in and around Southampton.
“My change of career is absolutely bizarre,” she says.
“It’s something I have fallen into because I’m passionate about it – I know what effect a baby not sleeping has on the whole family.”
Rebecca’s range of techniques work by building on the bond of trust between parent and baby.
“I strongly believe that the bond of trust we have with our baby is very complicated and develops over time. Their way of communicating with you, especially at a very young age, is crying – to tell you they’re hungry, wet, too hot, uncomfortable, etc. With the trust techniques, you always respond to them.
“I think using these techniques has helped us to all be much closer as a family.”
And other families seem to feel the same.
“The response I’ve had to the book has been quite overwhelming,” she says.
“It’s made me realise there is a big demand for alternatives to controlled crying and for approaches that look on the impact of older siblings.
“One thing that’s become really clear to me is that one size does not fit all and what works with one family doesn’t work for another. It’s a case of finding what’s best for the parents, their baby and their other children.”
For sleeping tips and advice, to order Baby Sleeping Trust Techniques and read Rebecca’s blog, visit trusttechniques.com