The Diary of a Night Nanny (Part 13)

Becoming a new parent, adjusting to your new routines and sleep deprived nights can, at times, be challenging and testing. Leading overnight baby care specialists, Night Nannies, offer advice to gently guide your baby to sleep through the night

illie is three years old and has struggled with disrupted sleep for several months, usually meaning she ends up in her parents’ bed. On Monday night Millie had been gently returned to her bed 32 times in 50 minutes before finally staying in her own bed for the rest of the night and on Tuesday night she only woke up three times. Will the success continue?
On Wednesday night our run of success continues. Millie only wakes three times and on two occasions she manages to self-settle. The third time she grizzles more loudly than before so I go in to her after a minute and put my hand on her back. She doesn’t open her eyes and within another minute she has turned over and gone back to sleep again. In the morning, Joanna comments on this amazing improvement. I warn her that we cannot be too complacent and she agrees. “One of my worries is that Millie is behaving well for you, but once you’ve gone she’ll revert to her old ways,” she says. I explain that once Millie has had 5 nights of uninterrupted sleep, her body and brain will know that this is good for her and won’t allow her to fall back into her old habits. However, I do tell her that we need to keep building on the new habits so they become as strongly entrenched as the old ones.
On Thursday I am welcomed with a smile from Joanna. “I just can’t believe what a delightful child Millie is, these days!” she exclaims. “She was always lovely, of course, but now there is just an added ease in our relationship – more laughter, too.” Joanna and I have previously touched on Millie’s behaviour during the day. Joanna was marvelling at the fact that Millie was in such a good mood all day today and was looking forward to my arrival tonight, despite the fact that I have prevented her from going to her mother’s bed for the last three nights. “They also said she was better behaved at nursery this morning – happier to share the toys, calmer at the lunch table and with a better appetite!” I am not surprised. All these things are linked to sleep deprivation and will continue to improve as
Millie’s sleep becomes more entrenched.
I go upstairs and follow my usual routine. Millie is sleeping peacefully and continues to do so until about 1am when she starts to grizzle. I go in after a minute, when it becomes evident that she isn’t going to settle herself, and she already has her legs over the side of the bed, although her eyes are half-closed. “Mummy!” she calls, groggily. I ease her back into her bed, tuck the duvet round her and use the mantra we haven’t needed for a couple of nights: “Sleep tight, see you in the morning.” As I leave the room, she is crying properly now. She has woken herself up and is sitting up. I return immediately to reassure her, tuck her in and repeat the mantra. “I want Mummy!” Millie insists, kicking the duvet off. I calmly straighten it and tuck her in, repeating the mantra again and stroking her forehead. I don’t engage in conversation, but I kneel by her bedside so she knows I am a reassuring presence and I won’t abandon her. After a couple of minutes she sighs deeply and falls asleep. I wait for a few moments longer before leaving the room and making a note of this disturbance in my Sleep Diary.
The following morning I feedback to Joanna, who looks disappointed and a little guilty. “You should have woken me,” she says. “No,” I reply, “it wasn’t necessary. Millie was just testing the boundaries to see if we mean what we are doing. She has had so many different experiences of sleep training which haven’t persisted for more than three nights or so, that she is wondering whether this one is any different. I proved to her that it isn’t; I reinforced the boundaries; I reminded her of the expected behaviour; I maintained consistency in my approach and she settled without needing you.” In my experience babies and children will often have a “kickback” night, where they revert to their original behaviour and I am sure it is just to test the permanence of these new habits. I think their brains haven’t yet grasped the benefit of sleeping through the night, but this kickback night proves the benefit. “The final night, night 5, is the night when it all falls back into place and underlines the permanence of Millie’s sleep training,” I reassure Joanna.
“Will you wake me if Millie needs me?” she asks. “No,” I say gently. I use this opportunity to make a point of my own. “It’s alright to put yourself first, you know, Joanna.” I say. “Mothers are so good at making sacrifices for their children, starting with their own sleep disruption and the exhaustion which inevitably comes with breastfeeding. But as the babies grow up, it is important that they know Mummy isn’t an automaton with endless energy and patience. They need to learn the boundaries, and if the boundaries are clear and consistent, they will feel happier. For example, it is fine to expect your children to go to bed and stay there after 7pm, and to tell them that the evening is “Mummy and Daddy time”. That isn’t excluding them from your life; it is making them aware of another strong relationship that needs succour.”
I head upstairs for the last time, the final night. I check on Millie as normal, and she is sleeping peacefully with her long lashes brushing her cheek. I could gaze at sleeping children forever, it is wonderful to sleep without a care in the world and this is what they all deserve. I go into my own room – not mine for much longer, I remind myself – and go to bed. I wake up several times during the night since my own body clock has become quite disturbed over the last few weeks of intensive sleep training, and hear… not a thing! In the morning, I wake up refreshed and happy, knowing that my services are no longer needed here. At breakfast, Joanna is almost in tears. “I’m going to miss you,” she says, “will you stay in touch?” “Undoubtedly,” I reply. “I want to see Millie and Jack awake at some stage!”

For more information on anything mentioned in this article contact:
Night Nannies Hampshire:
Georgie Bateman 01794 301762
Night Nannies Surrey:
Louise Young 07800 843618
Night Nannies London:
Contact Nicola Bennett or
Anastasia Baker on 020 7731 6168 or