The Sleep Doctor

Every parent left the workshop with a heavy heart.
As quoted,
“there is no no-cry method in sleep training”
“co-sleeping is a 5-year commitment”
“we as parents need to change our behaviour to help our children”
“babies do not understand intention, language or reasoning”
“babies understand cause and effect though”
“sleep associations include pacifier, patting, rocking, shushing and our presence”
“babies do not wake from hunger as a baby after 9 months of age do not need food anymore”
Tammy M. Fontana, MS, NCC, (USA) is the owner of, a sleep consulting company and the lead therapist at All in the Family Counselling ( She has been featured in Mother & Child magazine and Channel News Asia. Cindy found out that she’s conducting a workshop this month and we went for it. 
Ewan had his fair share of sleep training from me. I did my half-past-six research on sleep training and subjected him to it. Failed twice. First time, I gave up because we both became too tired. Second time, I threw in the towel because he lost his voice. Will there be a third after this workshop with Tammy?
We learnt that sleep is a brain function and something that must be learned. Because it’s learned, it can be unlearned during an illness or holiday. In fact from birth through 18 months, their sleep requirements change every 4 – 6 weeks. I know I put off correcting Ewan’s sleep because I hate to hear him cry so sorrowfully. Also, since they are changing constantly, I will have to keep re-training! 
Then again, good quality sleep is so important for a baby’s growth. Poor quality sleep has such a negative and harmful impact on a child’s temperament, behaviour and ability to learn. Not doing anything is often worse than learning how to correctly adjust sleep. Easier said than done really.
If you are helping your child to sleep with a pacifier, patting, rocking, shushing and even your presence, your child has not learnt the ability to sleep on his own. Like Pavlov’s dog, Ewan has learnt to associate my rocking to sleep. Without it, he will cry like the World has come crushing down on him. So how can I ever sleep train my son by cold-turkeying him from any form of help? That’s what Tammy is suggesting to us. That’s what she is blatantly implying! No Help At All.
Thinking about the process itself tires me out already. I cannot imagine getting down to doing the real thing. According to her, once we establish the sleep division, we will be able to achieve good results i.e. sleeping on his own.
Tammy believes that setting his Sleep Division, weaning off Sleep Association and creating a Bedtime Routine need to be executed concurrently for sleep training to work. 
Sleep Division
Step 1: Know how much sleep your child needs at different age **
Step 2: Decide the time you want your child to wake
Step 3: Work backwards to determine his sleeping time (10 hours)
Step 4: Plot in the nap times to make up the total hours of sleep needed
Step 5: Stick to it
She shared that it is important for us to wake our babies up at the same time every day. Which also means we will have to determine his sleep time as accurately as possible too. On hindsight, note that this is only a guideline. Every baby is different and we need to work around his needs. 
“Naps can be anything from 45 min to 1 hour”. When she said this, I was like huh? That’s what Ewan’s been doing and I am here because I thought this is a grave issue! She is now telling me that Ewan’s doing well and clocking his well-deserved sleep? He is doing 12-13 hours daily with 40 min to an hour naps. I ALWAYS put him back for longer naps when he wakes at 40 minutes because I felt it’s insufficient! Really, insufficient for mummy or baby huh. Mummy needs him to sleep more so that she can get more chores done and have her own rest. I don’t know if I will break having him nap only for an hour each time but if I put him back to sleep, he may be over-sleeping causing a bad night sleep habit.
So there. I shall attempt this sleep division regime. This is not difficult at all.

Sleep Association
Ewan sleeps to my rocking, listens to Celine Dion’s lullabies with a pacifier in his mouth. To achieve a 10 hour night sleep without waking up, all sleep associations must go. Recall what I’ve written above? “Sleep associations include pacifier, patting, rocking, shushing and even your presence”
Tammy’s conclusion – Babies wake up at night crying because of the way he was put to sleep. If he went to bed on his own, he will not wake in the middle of the night crying because he has learnt to self-soothe. Whereas for our babies, they wake at least once or multiple times looking for us to help them go back to sleep again. Remember though, when they do wake in the middle of the night during the training, let them cry themselves back.
So what comes up next is why we all left with a heavy heart. The bedtime routine. It is only a routine! What’s so hard right? But it’s a routine with no form of assistance. We had been creating bedtime routines for Ewan but with lots of help going to bed. So now, how should we do this really Tammy?

The Bedtime routine

“there is no no-cry method in sleep training”

This is the hard part for both parents and baby.

Step 1: Start Bedtime Routine 30 minutes before determined sleep time
Step 2: Stay in room playing with a toy or blocks (be as boring as possible)
Step 3: Include a bedtime story
Step 4: Kiss Goodnight and put in cot
Step 5: Leave him to cry and fall to sleep on his own
Step 6: No feeding or helping to sleep if he does wake up in the middle of the night
(Note that bathing and changing are not part of bedtime routines)

Hahhah You think Meyer and I hasn’t tried these? We had! But we didn’t quite stick to it because he kept wriggling and fussing during story time. Tammy says to keep doing it through the wriggling and he will soon learn to accept that it’s part of winding down. 
Sleep-trained babies will not cry to sleep but ours will because they had been going to sleep the same way the past 9 months i.e. rocked. Everyone knows that it’s not gonna work if we went in to pick him up. 
Another question popped up, what if he pukes?! 
Answer: Do not feed him anything two hours before bedtime
Sounds like military training huh. Big Sigh!

“sleep associations include pacifier, patting, rocking, shushing and even your presence”. This exact sentence meant that if your baby is in his own cot but in the same room as you, it is considered help. Your baby will need your presence to sleep and co-sleeping is a 5 year commitment. Why? Because it will be very difficult to move them out of your room to sleep on their own in future. Thank goodness I have Ewan sleeping on his own from Day 1! One less problem to tackle.

A mummy raised a question, “But my daughter rejected her cot at 4 months of age. She refuses to sleep and kept crying. Once I picked her up and co-sleep with her, she kept quiet”

Tammy insisted that babies’ brains are not developed well enough to reject anything at 4 months. Her baby is just looking for comfort and needed help to sleep. That one time cost this mummy 2 years of bad quality sleep because she is still co-sleeping with her daughter now.

One great relief: I can put him to sleep whatever way I want during the day. It’s only the night we need to be strict. This sounds much better than my last training where I cold-turkeyed him for every nap. I think that traumatised him much.

So parents, decide now to sleep train your newborn (or not). Cultivate good sleeping habits to help the family sleep better. Once the sleep division is mapped out and followed closely, work on sleep association and bedtime routine. The crying out should get lesser at bedtime once sleeping hours reach equilibrium.

I might work on a strict Sleep Division on him first before attempting the rest. All at one shot seems too regimental for baby and I. Hopefully after this, he might not even need to cry it out to go to sleep on his own because he knows when bedtime is.

One thought on “The Sleep Doctor

  1. Came across your blog while googling sleep training. Am curious – how did your training go? How does Ewan sleep now? He is very cute by the way!


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