Breaking through the sleep barrier and the Hartbeeps wonderland
- Credit: Archant
FOR something that seemingly comes so natural to most people, it is something of a surprise to discover the existence of sleep training.
Unless you suffer with insomnia, it is not until you become a parent that you truly understand the value of a good night’s sleep.
People will joke about the sleepless nights that accompany the birth of a child but it is no laughing matter at 3am when your baby is wailing and is unable to settle.
Most new parents will be the first to say that a baby who can sleep through the night will singularly improve their quality of life in an instant. Without it, nerves are frayed and tempers are short causing strain on a family’s life.
Unfortunately, newborn babies rarely adopt new skills naturally – and sleep, like breastfeeding, is a skill.
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At six months old, it is accepted that babies should have the ability to sleep through the night without a feed but as many parents will testify, it is easier said than done.
Indeed, according to research carried out at the University of Surrey, around 40 percent of children will encounter a sleep problem at some point.
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Yet that doesn’t stop parents feeling alone in their sleep battle, to the point where they try and hide it.
Pam Clark, founder of the Child Sleep Company, is dedicated to helping families overcome sleep problems and has discovered some startling truths.
“Fifty percent of parents lie about their child’s sleep patterns which is so sad and debilitating for mum,” she said.
“There is an expectation of how children should be and when it doesn’t happen – such as natural sleep – people can feel inadequate.
“But they don’t realise that they are not alone – so many other families are in the same position.”
Pam, who is based in Harpenden and works throughout Hertfordshire and the surrounding area, speaks from harsh, personal experience.
A mother of two, her eldest son slept through the night naturally. But when number two arrived a couple of years later, Pam and her husband were in for a shock.
“I understand from personal experience just how difficult it can be when you have a child who does not sleep well. My first son, Thomas, was a great sleeper, so I thought I knew it all, but when my second son, James, arrived nearly three years later, he had other ideas.
“I realise now that I had inadvertently got him into some bad habits, but at the time I couldn’t work out how, or what I should do to sort it out.
“After nearly a year of broken sleep, a lot of frustration and tears for both of us, I was at my wit’s end when I stumbled upon the Sleep Sense programme, which literally transformed our lives. James learnt to consistently sleep for 12 hours or more every night, which has continued ever since.
“The whole family benefited immediately from getting some decent sleep and I felt like a much better Mum, wife, friend and colleague as a result.”
Pam was mentored by a Dana Obleman, a world renowned child sleep expert and creator of the Sleep Sense programme and was so impressed with the experience that she decided to learn more about it.
She explained: “I was originally an accountant but always loved the idea of doing a job where I helped people. I’m passionate about children as well so when I found out more about Sleep Sense, I decided it was perfect for me.”
Pam underwent intensive training to become a Sleep Sense consultant, during which she travelled to Vancouver where the company originated.
Its philosophy is borne from the straightforward view that healthy sleeping patterns lead to a healthy-living child.
Through a series of consultations, the methods are also straightforward, based on habits, routine and forward planning.
Crucially, Pam – who is one of only three Sleep Sense consultants in the UK – does not advocate controlled crying, one of the most popular methods to encourage sleep in young children where babies are left alone in their room to cry for set periods of time before a parent returns to offer minimal comfort.
She said: “It can work, but I think there are gentler ways to solve the issue – for both the child and the parent.”
Pam leads seminars, hosts regular talks in the community and also offers one-to-one sessions during which she drafts a plan and in some cases, will stay overnight at a family’s home to assist in the often-stressful experience.
Since setting up the company in early 2012, she has now helped many families in the area.
“It is hugely rewarding to help people because they are often quite desperate when I speak to them. When their situation improves and the child is sleeping through the night, their lives are instantly so much better and it is satisfying to know that I helped them arrive at this point.”
For more information visit www.childsleepcompany.co.uk.
SLEEP expert and Harpenden mum Pam Clark has been involved in the set up process and hopes to appear on Channel 4’s new parenting programme Bedtime Live.
The show is the first of its kind in the UK and will see a team of experts spend time with families as they seek to overcome child sleeping-based problems.
Pam was selected after achieving results for her clients through her Sleep Sense programme.
She said: “I am very excited about to be involved in this programme. If I am selected to appear, I will be asked to give my expert view on problems families are facing and will offer help and support as they begin the process of helping their child to sleep better. It is a live show and it is something I’ve never done before but I’m looking forward to it.”
Bedtime Live is expected to be broadcast weekly over five weeks in February this year.
PAM gives her top tips to improve your child’s sleep
Step 1: Choose an early bedtime: By putting your child to bed in the early evening, they are less likely to be overtired, so will fall asleep more easily and have more restful, undisturbed sleep. This will help your child to get a solid 11-13 hours of sleep per night, which is how much they need until about 10 years old!
Step 2: Put your child to sleep in the same place every night: Putting your child to bed at night (and for naps if they still have them) in a familiar place helps them feel secure and know that sleep is expected of them.
Step 3: Create a predictable bedtime routine: Consistency and predictability are really important to children. When you follow a short but predictable bedtime routine, your child knows what to expect at bedtime, making it is much easier to make the transition from waking to sleeping.
Step 4: Put your baby or toddler to bed AWAKE: If you’ve been rocking, nursing, or otherwise soothing your child to sleep, this is going to seem like a challenge, but it’s actually the most important step. It’s only by letting your child fall asleep WITHOUT your help at bedtime, that they can learn the independent sleep skills necessary to stay asleep through the night.
Step 5: If your child wakes during the night, wait a few minutes before intervening: Some little ones start to fuss whenever they wake up, because they haven’t learned how to fall back to sleep on their own. If a child has always been nursed or rocked to sleep, they won’t know how to fall asleep independently, but many children quickly work this out, if you don’t rush in! If your child continues to cry for more than a few minutes, you’ll want to go in and offer some comfort. Speak softly and do some gentle rubbing or patting, but avoid picking your child up and rocking or nursing them back to sleep.
Exploring the magical world of Hartbeeps
SITTING around a glittery homemade sun and wearing a pair of rabbit ears is not a position I expected to be in at the age of 35.
But this is where I find myself every Tuesday afternoon – and perhaps even more startling, it is a lot of fun.
Hartbeeps hosts a series of multisensory and interactive classes designed for parents and their children aged from birth to five years old.
The classes – Babybells, Babybeeps and Happy House – are designed to stimulate children and encourage listening, movement, rhythm, communication and social development.
My daughter and I join Babybells in Harpenden led by Andrea Kennedy who says Hartbeeps has been something of an underground hit, growing in popularity through word of mouth and Twitter.
Each class takes the children (and parents!) on a musical journey through a wonderland of song, dance and play.
During one class, my daughter and I don the rabbit ears while playing with a rabbit puppet, while in a later session, I find myself fixing rubber gloves to my hands and feet to simulate the movements of a chicken.
In each class, the aforementioned glittery sun is spread in the centre of the room and a game of peekaboo reveals large tassels hanging down to the delight of the small people watching.
And tummy-time mountain, set upon bright and colourful blankets, gives babies the time to exercise their core strength.
The Babybells class also features baby yoga and calming techniques which are as beneficial to the parents as the child.
Each class finishes with a calming ‘cuddle’ time set to dimmed light and glow-in-the-dark stars.
My daughter is wide-eyed with wonder at such a sensory experience that is just about the right length of time and with the right amount of stimulation. I, too, find it an enjoyable session not least for the precious time it creates for my daughter and I to play, have fun and relax.
There are classes in Harpenden and St Albans throughout the week. For more information visit www.Hartbeeps.com or email Andrea@hartbeeps.com