Experiences at baby sleep school: Prologue – They tried to make me go to rehab…


… but I said no no no.

The nicest picture of Amy Winehouse I could find.

If anyone’s ever known how Rosie’s feeling tonight, it was the late and great Amy Winehouse. These words of protest came right from the depths of her soul. Of course, I draw the line there at any similarity between Amy and Rosie- after all, they were trying to take away Amy’s drugs. We’re merely trying to get Rosie to go to sleep.

That’s right, we’re headed (back) to sleep school. Sometimes I call it Sleep School, other times it’s Baby Jail, occasionally it’s Rehab. It’s real name is the Ellen Barron Family Centre, and it’s fantastic.

By now I’m practically bosom buddies with the centre’s (amazing) staff. I expect nothing less to be greeted warmly: “Welcome back, Bron. Lovely to see you again. Let me show you to your regular room.”

Seriously, if sleep school was a dodgy timeshare, I'd be using my week regularly enough to be ripping everyone else off.
Seriously, if sleep school was a dodgy timeshare, I’d be using my week regularly enough to be ripping everyone else off.

I’ve been twice already, once with each of my boys, who were equally shocking sleepers for different reasons. And now I’m onto sweet baby number three, who is a little lady who politely declines sleep on all occasions. The only thing that’s worse for me than going back there, is not going back there.

You see, I haven’t slept through the night once in the past five years.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with me.

If it’s so bad, why did she keep having more kids?

Well, apart from the whole dysfunctional sleeping caper, our children are totally awesome little human beings and we think there should be more out there like them, so we’re actually doing society a favour. You’re welcome.

Seriously though, this baby of mine is such a bright, shiny little sparkle. She’s quirky and hilarious, she’s pretty and she’s clever. – End Bragfest-

To look at her you’d never guess she gets by on a meagre 8 hours total sleep some days. I don’t tell anyone she doesn’t sleep because I honestly don’t think they’d believe me. Aren’t tired kids supposed to be grumpy? Not Rosie. She gives people some strange looks (she has the Stink Eye and the WTF in her repertoire), but they’re always fleeting and chased with a toothy grin.

Some of us do just fine without beauty sleep, Mama.
Some of us do just fine without beauty sleep, Mama.

Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t just apply what I learned last time I was at the centre in my own home.

I’ve tried to fix this at home, I really have. I’ve done Responsive Settling (the method the centre uses), and it doesn’t work here. How is my baby meant to learn to self-settle and fall asleep with Loud and Louder (her brothers aged 4 and 2, respectively) hooning around our tiny house?

They’re caring little fellas, and in the past when I’ve left Rosie to CIO (Complain it Out, I don’t do crying), I’ve heard her stop. Sweet silence. I’ve been just about to have a cup of tea and give myself a pat on the back for not going back in to the nursery, when I’ve noticed one (or both) of my sons missing from the living room. And inevitably, one (or both) of them have been found in her room, laying in her cot, soothing her with their presence.

“Mumma, baby, crying, okay? Me not love BABYCRY, okay?”, pleads my little one (whose highest-frequency word is “okay”).

“Mum-my! We can’t just leave our baby to cry-y!!!”, scolds my big one, waggling his little index finger at me.

No darling, we can’t have that, we can’t have that at all.

So do you see where I’m coming from here?

The child health nurses at EBFC are fantastic. Compassionate and understanding, yet resolute. They will sit on the edge of your bed in the wee hours of the morning, distracting you with small talk as your baby cries in an attempt to get back to sleep. When it gets too much for you they’ll instinctively ask “Do you want to go in and pat her?”. They’ll go into your baby’s adjoining room with you, and when you defiantly decide to pick up your baby/stay a bit longer/offer baby a feed, that angel nurse will tap your shoulder, point to the door, and mouth “let’s go”, and you’ll go out and sit on the end of the bed together and wait for round two to begin.

Over the five-day stay, they’ll do this dozens of times until you and your baby master the new skills they expertly teach- for baby, the ability to soothe oneself and fall asleep without any adult intervention. And for you, the ability to quell every maternal instinct you have, and resist rushing to the aid of your child, and to cease inhibiting their ability to lean to sleep alone.

So I’m fine. I know this is what needs to be done and I’m ready, bags packed.

It’s Rosie who is hesitant. She’s had the worst weekend of sleeplessness since she was born. She’s angry and she wants us all to know. Maybe she’s anticipating a staged intervention, with babies sitting around in a circle hearing each other.


“Hi. My name’s Rosie and I’m an awakeaholic.”

“Hi, Rosie.”

Maybe she senses that the nurses are going to suggest we relinquish her dummy, her white noise machine, her special blanket, her fan, her mobile, breastfeeding to sleep, being patted to sleep, and all other sleep associations we’ve accumulated over the past seven months. (She’d be right on this one, we’ll be handing these over sometime tomorrow morning following our admission at the centre.)


I look at her and think:

My dear little girl, we are both terribly deprived of sleep, a basic human need. A beautiful life, free from exhaustion and grumpiness awaits us both- a life I once knew but you’ve never experienced. You deserve to see the world all it’s bold technicolour glory, to grow and learn to your full potential.

Let’s do this baby girl. Let’s get help.

Let’s check in to rehab.



To find out how we got on at sleep school, click here.


20 thoughts on “Experiences at baby sleep school: Prologue – They tried to make me go to rehab…

  1. Wow, that must be so hard to go through! I don’t think I could do it, the nurses would have to hold me down. But if it actually works that would be awesome! #teamIBOT


    1. Hi there! Thanks for posting!

      It’s worked for me for the trifecta. I’m so convinced that Responsive Settling works that I’ve written down my experiences this time for others (and in case there’s a “next time”… (however unlikely).


  2. Oh good luck !!!! It sounds like you will leave there feeling heaps better. We were one of the lucky families – our baby slept through from about 4 weeks. When she started teething at 14months (yes, you read that correctly) and we started having broken nights, it nearly killed us – we just didn’t know what to do with having to wake up during the night and then go to work !
    Thinking of you and Rosie !


    1. Very lucky indeed! I could only dream of a baby like that!

      The sleep deprivation does tend to compound to a point where (I, anyway), don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha, and it all becomes a fuzzy blur of life. I’m so glad this place worked for us.


  3. Classic, I love it! We had a stint at sleep school in November with our very cheeky toddler – and she’s baby number five so don’t worry, you’re not the only one who hasn’t got the sleep thing sussed with practice!


    1. Five kids! You’re amazing. Is toddler your youngest?

      I joked to the nurse that I’m a little slow on the uptake. She didn’t laugh. Haha!

      Maybe they see repeat offenders more often than I’d think! Good luck with your little girl!


    1. Thanks Jess! I’m going three for three, so it’s nice to hear that if we have some more they might be “sleepers”. Well done for parenting five. My hat’s off to you!


  4. I have been very lucky with my 6 to have excellent sleepers in every one of them! All are great except myself – a chronic insomniac. I wish I could sleep half as well as my kids.
    Good luck with mastering the elusive sleep 😀


  5. This is a great post! All the best to you and Rosie. You might have to take up some of Rosie’s previous soothing methods yourself to help keep calm throughout 🙂


  6. Oh my gosh, I’m glad you’ve written this! I feel so crazy – my son Eli is the same! The happiest little baby you ever did meet!! But yeah, SUCKS at sleeping. As in, he wakes up at least 4-8 times in the night. The other night it was a dozen times. I desperately want to sleep. Plus our 2 year old doesn’t sleep through the night either. 😐
    Maybe I should consider sleep school. Only we don’t use any comforters for him. He doesn’t even boob to sleep (well, at least not in the evenings). Eek. No sleep is seriously the worst. I really hope you guys get a good nights sleep after this!!


    1. Talia! That’s rough going!

      How old is Eli now?

      I would really recommend going to sleep school if you can swing it! It will change your life.

      Good luck

      Ps some babies who don’t use comforters have trouble settling, so it could benefit you 🙂


  7. Sleep deprivation really is the worst. I thought I had won the lottery of sleep with Mr 4 when he slept through at around 12 weeks and was still having two naps a day at 12 months…then he turned 2. Sleep went out the window and now he is an absolute nightmare to get to sleep. Like Rosie he doesn’t look tired and just goes and goes. Kindy is often gobsmacked when I turn up and say he didn’t sleep (at all) the night before. I’ve come to a place of acceptance now, we have tried absolutely everything and now as long as he stays in his room once he is put to bed then I am happy.


    1. Goodness! That would have been a shock after him being such a good sleeper as an infant.

      It’s extremely hard when you’re having to work!

      Great that you’ve established a system that works for you and he will stay in his room. Our boys get up at 4.30 am but thankfully they stay in their room until 5!


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