Case Study: Dorothy Waide

My two year old boy goes to sleep on his own with no (or minimal) fuss pretty much every day nap and every night. Bar the odd difficult day, he’s cheerful enough to go down, and when he does he takes solid day naps and sleeps through the night consistently.

If someone had told me this is what my son would be like back when he was 6 months old, or even a year, I might have wept tears of relief. I rocked and held that boy to sleep for the first year and a half of his life. Nothing, and I mean nothing I tried seemed to help him sleep in those early days.

I won’t go into too much detail about those rather bleak, sleep deprived months but suffice it to say it was really, really hard going. When I look back now I feel sad about how little I got to actually enjoy that first year because I was so sleep deprived, and I felt like a complete failure as a parent because I couldn’t nail one thing – sleep.

Of course I was being too hard on myself, that’s what we mothers do. But when my second little guy arrived last year I wanted the experience to be different.

When Z was four months old sleep started getting tricky again, so I reached out to Dorothy. My motivation was simple – I wanted to spend more time enjoying my baby by feeling a little more on top of the sleep side of things. My confidence in my own abilities around baby sleep was extremely low.

I had seen Dorothy speak at an Oh Baby event and had read her book You Simply Can’t Spoil A Newborn. I got a feeling of warmth from her. She didn’t seem to follow one “method” which I loved, it never made sense to me that a rigid set of rules could be applied to these changeable, complicated little people. She seemed to encourage mothers to nuture their babies, to hold them tight especially in those first few precious months.

I did Skype sessions with Dorothy, which were great. My two year old came and jumped on my knee at one point, and he and Dorothy hit it off – they got into a conversation about his dreams of flying to the moon he was going to have that night, and about the moon cat he was going to meet.

The first thing that struck me about Dorothy was how unjudged and relaxed she made me feel immediately. My guard came down fast. I’m fairly guilty of understating how hard I find things with parenthood for fear of being judged by other mothers, so that was a great feeling. I burst into tears talking about my feelings of failure. Dorothy reminded me that I’m actually a great mum, that this journey, as lovely as it it, is also tough.

The first questions were all about food and eating habits, which surprised me as my main point of interest was sleep. But Dorothy very quickly made me realize how intricately linked diet and sleep are. I started looking at my baby differently – he’s

not in a ‘regression’, he’s developing beautifully and he’s hungry! And possibly eating the wrong foods for a baby with a history of reflux. She had so much practical advice on food types to go for, when to feed him, what to avoid and where to get everything I needed.

In terms of self settling, she encouraged me to view crying as communication, to tune into the types of crying I was hearing. Her phrase was “appropriate noise for appropriate time” which I loved. It put the onus back on me to tune in to my baby, listen to what he was telling me the only way he knew how.

I’m not a natural when it comes to routines. One thing that put me off any kind of sleep training (no matter how gentle) was that I was told several times, once you start you simply cannot stop or you’ve wasted all the effort and the baby will learn that if he cries long enough you’ll give in and cuddle him to sleep.

Dorothy encouraged me to do what I can, when I have the strength to do it, and any time spent supporting a baby is to fall asleep on their own will not be wasted effort. As soon as I heard her say that, the whole process of getting my baby to self settle seemed a little less daunting. I started that night, and so far have got him to settle in his bed (with me right there next to him but using some key pieces of advice from Dorothy) for two weeks in a row. I never, ever, thought I would have the strength to do that. My confidence is back up – it’s a wonderful feeling.

Dorothy also quizzed me about my night feeding habits. I’m co sleeping with my baby which I love, but I tend to roll over and dreamily snack feed him to sleep every time he grizzles throughout the night. Dorothy encouraged me to resettle him without feeding until his 1am (ish) wake, and then have a proper sit up in bed feed, to get his tummy nice and full so that he can make it through to the morning. That’s the step I’m currently working on.

Dorothy brings this wonderful combination of data driven knowledge, years of experience and deep intuition. She listens. She is kind. She is respectful – to mother and baby. She is nuanced and flexible in her approaches. Dorothy made something click inside me and gave me the confidence to try this self settling journey which I’m now finding is nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be. She told me I’m a good mum and that I’m doing a great job and encouraged me to never, ever stop nurturing my beautiful baby