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Summary- 

The second part of Carly Grubb's story.

This times she talks about welcoming her second and third babies and finding her feet doing sleep her way.

In this episode, we also hear how the story behind how The Beyond Sleep Training Project began.

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take.

 I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded the Kalkadoon people I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children.

Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host Carly Grubb. I'm the founder of The Beyond Sleep Training Project and also the Australian-based charity Little Sparklers.

In today's episode, it's a continuation of episode 2, where I was sharing my own story of how I managed to move beyond sleep training and how that looked particularly with my first baby which was ultimately a hugely ground-breaking and shaping experience for how I have managed life with my babies ever since. It was quite a heartbreaking tale for me to share but upon listening back to it I also really wanted to add before we dive into this episode some little extra information that I think is really important for people who are listening along who perhaps can identify with some of my story and that is particularly around the extremely wakeful behaviour of my baby.

For my particular baby, it ultimately ended up that we never found an underlying cause for why he was so extremely wakeful other than what we ended up accepting as part of his personality. He was a super-sensitive, still is a super-sensitive, orchid or they're sometimes called a high needs baby or highly sensitive and what I like to call a little sparkler, where it was personality traits that largely dictated the way he woke and behaved as an infant but that's not always the case and it's really important that when we're doing this work of helping people understand what normal infant sleep can look like that we don't contribute to the struggles of families by simply expecting everybody to think that no matter how unsettled and wakeful their baby is, that there's absolutely nothing wrong with them because that's not always the case. There are things that can be underlying the wakeful behaviour of a baby and it basically exacerbates what would have been their normal wakeful pattern. So it is normal for a baby to wake and need comfort and feeding and whatnot throughout the night and into toddlerhood. Perfectly normal, but when it's happening every 20-40 minutes up to an hour every single night and it's not necessarily directly related to some big development going on and it's not an isolated incident but actually a continuing pattern for your child and the way you're living that experience with them, then it's really important that we also be open to exploring what might be actually causing them discomfort or that is actually making it really hard for them to find peaceful rest and sleep.

When sleep isn't normal

So some of the things we investigated for my guy - we did try (I was a breastfeeding mum) so we tried an elimination diet through a dietitian and we also took him to the paediatrician, we looked at his breathing patterns and listened for things like snoring and mouth breathing and whatnot which interestingly enough he ended up with those things as an older toddler but as an infant, he didn't display that kind of sleep-disordered breathing patterns so it wasn't the situation that was giving him trouble as a baby he also did ultimately end up with some troubles with his ears that sometimes was apparent when he was a baby. I did have his hearing checked a few times and he also his ears looked at because he was a child who did seem to get ear infections and if you've ever had an ear infection it's so incredibly hard to get yourself comfy and rest peacefully but at the same time we were also quite onto that so I don't think that was the actual underlying cause for him. There are other things that you can have a look at too like babies who've got reflux. Reflux is often a symptom of an allergy or intolerance that's not being well controlled and of course reflux is an awful thing to try and sleep with so if your babe's got that kind of screaming and pain and whatnot reflux might be at play and there are other conditions also that are worthwhile considering on our little sparklers website. I’ll link into our show notes our article on when sleep isn't normal just to help you have a bit of a think about whether you feel like there's something more worthwhile investigating for your child and sometimes it takes a few goes to get heard because sometimes our concerns can be written off as not necessarily being the actual issue or case but if you feel like you're being blown off it's okay to say seek a second or even third opinion and I know that we've referred people to have consultations with people like Dr Tracy Cassels or Lyndsey Hookway because they're great at teasing apart stories from families and actually assisting them to then head down the direction of getting the professional support they need for their child. But I just really wanted to add that in before I go on with our story because when I talk about normal infant sleep and wakeful behaviour I’m talking about children who've had any underlying conditions explored if that waking, wakeful behaviour is quite excessive and a real ongoing pattern for them like it was for my little sparkler.

So without further ado though, I really want to get into the next part of my story of moving beyond sleep training and that's with the arrival of my second beautiful baby. He arrived in late 2015 when my first little sparkler was 20 months old it was an extremely different experience right from the very beginning aside from being pregnant with a toddler- that was a very different experience to being pregnant without a toddler- exhausting the fatigue's intense! I mentioned in the last episode that I’d actually weaned my first during pregnancy due to severe pregnancy aversions and so by the time he arrived I was so excited for him and my labour and delivery was a really, really different experience. With my first guy, it was such a fast, intense labour and he was there before we knew it and yet with this second guy, I was actually all psyched up for quite a quick labour because that's what you kind of told if you have a fast one first time around, that might be just how you labour and it's likely that your second one will be even quicker, which I was actually a little bit scared of.

Thankfully, that's not how it played out. What actually happened was I ended up in labour for 10 hours with him and I had the most peaceful pattern of contractions (if there's any such thing), where it was five minutes apart from the beginning, which also kind of made me think that he was going to be here in a hurry, but five minutes apart the entire way through even when it came to the pushing stage and my goodness, I would take that 10-hour labour over the ridiculously quick one and a half hour labour I had with my first any day of the week because you get to catch your breath! I could not believe how amazingly different it felt to actually be able to get my wits about me in between each wave of the contractions and so right through the process right through pushing him out I felt incredibly strong and it wasn't easy don't get me wrong but it was just a really empowering experience for me and I didn't feel the same kind of intense surprise. It was like he announced his arrival in a more steady fashion and funnily enough that really suited his personality when he came out, also. So he had this really old man face, his big brother did, too, but it was so long and he looked really different and it's another thing I think I pictured him looking similar to his big brother because that's how I pictured my babies and so it was a good wake-up call right from that very first moment to remind me that I was dealing with his own unique person. He wasn't his brother and I needed to get to know him and I really, really enjoyed those precious hours post-birth just cuddling and peaceful and relaxed with him. One thing I noticed straight away right after he was born was that he had a really tight tongue tie right to the very tip of his tongue and so when he cried it was that classic heart shape that you hear talked about with significant tongue ties, but he found his way to the breast no worries and he latched on and started and camped out there and started feeding like a pro so initially the tongue tie wasn't a problem for us and so although I did ask for the staff to have a look at him when they came and did their checks and whatnot just to confirm that yes this is what a tongue tie looks like. My first guy didn't have one so I just wanted to know their thoughts on it at least and in our town being remote as well I knew we wouldn't be able to seek treatment if we needed it in town so I was kind of wanting to know whether we were going to need to hustle on getting ourselves to one of the major centres but initially it just wasn't an issue for him.

I was lucky that I had my family again for the postpartum and they were brilliant with my toddler as well as looking after me. I felt like as a family, we'd found our groove with the postpartum this time around whereas first time, we all sort of seemed to be looking at each other wondering what to do to help out whereas yeah everyone pitched in and I pretty much did nothing but camp out on the couch and get to know my darling and also recover from a very, very hectic pregnancy and then labour and birth it was pretty fantastic. It really wasn't until after they all went home that it really hit me what a challenge I had ahead of me with my two babies needing me so intensely especially through the night because my big baby, little sparkler man was still waking really frequently at night and initially he really wasn't going to accept dad in any way for night-time care still which was hard being that one person. But the way we kind of made it work was that in the evenings particularly, I would be feeding bub up and letting him cluster feed or do what he ever he needed to do while daddy tended to our toddler and did all of the bath-bedtime routine and whatnot and then if timing allowed I would tag dad out and actually go and lie with my toddler so he got some mum-time because it's a really big adjustment for our older babes as well because just as although our little ones need us they still need their mum and dad, too. So it was really important to me that I did get some of that time still in with my big fellow and I didn't want him feeling like he'd been shafted. Because we did it that way, too, I found he was actually quite good at communicating with me and understanding when if the baby had a really unsettled evening and he was not having a bar of dad and there wasn't much we could do with a screaming baby he was pretty good, he was pretty accepting of the fact that mummy needed to be with the baby and we'd either go into our room together because he had a little bed set up in our room and he'd just chill on his little bed and sometimes fall asleep while I was settling the baby. If the baby was super unsettled, I would often have him out in the lounge and daddy would be in with the toddler and with the knowledge that I would come in for cuddles and kisses as soon as the babe was settled down.

So we tried to keep that communication open. Not every night was a smooth one. There was plenty of nights where it was a mess and it was actually quite a long time until I could handle bedtime on my own so I do understand that that's not everybody's reality. I think I’ve found that I’ll talk a bit about the third baby shortly as well but I think that's something that everyone needs to understand is that what works for bedtime is a really ever-changing beast and it's okay to change it up depending on the moods and the needs of your little people, and also yours, on any given night. So the flexibility is really important as much as you keep a routine it wasn't like we didn't have some kind of pattern that went with bedtime but if you could pick the vibe of the night it's not like you need to keep ploughing on through when something's not actually working for you and your family. So I’d really strongly advise that to build in the flexibility and if you're finding something's not working trying to think a bit creatively giving everybody some grace because it's by far the messiest time of day for everybody- adults and kids included. And knowing that a bad patch of bedtimes is not the end story for you. It's not always going to be like that, it's just a rough patch, was something that I really needed to get through my head.

Sometimes it felt like it really did drag on but I found this second time around, it was just a lot easier. From the very beginning, I had my bed set up so that I could share sleep safely with the newborn. I did have a little basket for him that I popped him in to start the night but I did have that safe surface for us if I fell asleep while he was feeding,  which I frequently did. I had also worked out that one of the things with my first guy I found really disruptive for everybody in the early days was the way they poo every single feed and you've got to change nappies in the night. Instead of having your blazing lights come on so you can do a really big clean-up and it's like a whole operation and they've usually pooed up their back and everything else or even going out to the changing table to do it. With this second baby, I had a little box and I did the same with my third, I had a little box that was set up for night-time care (and this was often daddy's job as well it wasn't just me) but if you know, if I was feeling fine especially if it was in between boobs and it wasn't really worth me trying to get back to sleep in between I would have a little change mat I had a couple of nappies, I had some wipes, I had a change of suit in case it had been poonami and a little cloth as well in case there was any little spews and whatnot and oh and some nappy sacks as well, just for ease of tidying up in the night and yeah I kept that with a little book light, you know at bookshops they sell them,  I’m sure you can get them online as well but they're like a tiny little bendy torch, really, really small light I used to just have that clipped on the side of the box and I could tilt it so that it was facing the box not right on baby and it just gave me a dim little light to work by. Yeah, I probably didn't do the most absolutely 100% thorough job of cleaning up but I did a reasonable job. No one ever was going to get sick from it or anything but it just kept the light low it kept the disruption to the baby low because I don't know about your babes but my babes in the middle of the night sometimes when you're changing your bum they're barely even awake but you can't possibly leave poo on them. So that's a tip for people still playing along at home at this time - a night-time care box was a really great way to minimize that fatigue of getting up and tending to their night-time needs that way as well.

So I had that established and we also did have a little bed set up next to us as well to make sure that the toddler wasn't coming into our bed with the newborn because as far as safe sleep goes you really should not have siblings in bed with a new baby, a young baby. It's simply not a safe arrangement and so that was our way and he was actually really great about understanding that. We talked to him about it before the baby had arrived and we did the same when our third baby came. We talked to the big guys about how we needed to keep the baby safe and they were more than welcome to come in with mum and dad if they needed some comfort and cuddles and company but they couldn't be in the big bed if the baby was in there with mummy having some boob or whatever was going on and we found for our family that that kind of verbalizing really assisted.

Safer Sleep

Talking of that actually a part of that conversation I feel like that was part of something that worked really well for us and that was that we were very out there in our discussions with why we needed to be able to do certain things for the baby whether it was my second baby or my third baby obviously those conversations were a lot more easily understood as my second and third guys got older. It was a big ask on my 20-month-old when my second was born because some of the time he really was such a little guy but if something was very important for him to understand I did try to explain it to him. That's the thing, it's like even though he might have been a little bit too young to fully comprehend what I was asking of him or explaining to him, I was trying to do my best at making sure he didn't feel like I was changing rules up just for the fun of it, it really did have meaning behind it and we certainly saw that as a successful part of welcoming our third baby where both my big guys really, really embraced the fact that this was their baby, our baby! So when things got tough we had to make do things that would help our baby out so that we could settle her and help her calm down and that applied very much to when she was needing me a bit more during the day and they would have liked to have had mum's attention as well they were very understanding of some of the times that they needed to wait. Other times, they weren't that understanding but they still ultimately knew what was going on and I was always very sure to remind them that when they were that age that was exactly what I was doing for them, too, and that seemed to help them keep the team, the togetherness of our family going right through some of the tougher and rougher patches that there were.

Now I’m really mindful of the time I do want to make this the final episode talking about myself so I will skip a little bit ahead to make sure that I cover with my third baby. She was a total blessing again, we've been so incredibly lucky and once again, an extremely different baby again. So first baby I would say fits every, ticks every box on the high needs, highly sensitive, orchid, little sparkler levels. When it came to my second guy he was actually an intensely needy baby as well. When I hear what people talk about in terms of the wakeful patterns and needs of their babies, he certainly was up there but he was not in any way par with the intensity of that first baby and it really helps me too when I see people who can be quite against the use of terms like high needs, highly sensitive and any of these kinds of definitions saying that all babies have these needs and why do we have to label it and whatnot and I have to say, that unless you've lived the experience of having one of those babies, it seems quite easy to dismiss it. I do think maybe sometimes people are thinking their child is even more intense than they are perhaps due to some unrealistic expectations but I can guarantee you even with the most realistic expectations in the world, my first baby was next level and those babies exist and I really am very supportive for families who are living that experience because it's quite isolating. Especially when other people don't seem to quite grasp the magnitude of the challenge you face when you're parenting a baby who is that level of intensity.

Read more about sleep and temperament

My second baby was way more in this range of normal and I’m assuming when people buck against those terms they're talking more about a baby like my second guy where those intensities were there but there were breaks in between and that is something you do not get with these super, super sparkly babies or orchids. With the second guy, he went through extremely wakeful patterns at different times but his was normally always linked to some development or teeth or illness and then things would calm down again. He still needed me a lot at night and he was breastfed up until he was 25 months old when I was pregnant again (seems to be my thing where I end up weaning while I’m pregnant) but it was just such a more manageable pattern with him than I experienced with my first baby some of it probably also came down to the fact that I set myself up to be able to manage it better from the beginning. I didn't end up being so fatigued postpartum trying to follow other people's rules and do all the things that I was told I was meant to do because I knew I didn't have to. I knew I could do what worked for us. I could take any shortcuts I needed, I knew the value of my rest so I took it when I could get it and I did not feel even slightly ashamed to do those things, so perhaps some of that played into my well-being as well.

Feeling fatigued? Check-in on your sleep hygiene

Now with my third baby, I had a really incredible postpartum experience. Again, the birth was really different. I was induced which I was really not in the headspace for but had to get my head in the game because I was delivering that baby and I was not going to be having any further interventions just because I knew my body could do it. I know that's not for everybody but that was my mindset and I delivered her very safely and she was just perfection. I have to say those hours post-birth with all three of my babies are just some of the most precious memories of my life and I’m so grateful that I was able to have that time where we just we were just together and got to know each other. We picked names, my husband and I- that's when we would try their names out and name our loves. It was a beautiful experience and I had my family again, I’m so incredibly lucky, creating a beautiful postpartum welcome home and everything was going so well.

I was locked in this bubble of bliss and then when she was nine days old, I got this really strange pain in my side and initially actually was wondering if you could get after-pains back. No, it turned out to be appendicitis and I had to have emergency surgery to have my appendix out and good and bad in that she was so little I was actually put back on maternity because I was so soon in the postpartum. The maternity ward, oh they did such a great job looking after me and I’m so grateful I had a beautiful obstetrician who helped me through my three babies and she was there looking out for me and she defended my rights to breastfeed my baby through leading up to the surgery and also helped facilitate and make sure that my baby had access to milk-breast milk, throughout the time I was away and then right through recovery and the staff was super supportive of helping me to safely bed share, with my husband watching over us obviously because I was on some pretty good medication. So the actual hospital stay and whatnot was traumatic, but it was good. I was very well cared for and then I had family arranged for extra support afterwards and everything was actually going really well.  

I had everything that I could need to recover well and yet it was really apparent by the time I was five weeks postpartum that despite all of the amazing things going on around me and I could see logically there was absolutely no reason to explain it I was deeply depressed and I just couldn't, I couldn't figure out for the life of me what was going on. What was going so wrong and so I ended up on antidepressants and back in therapy and doing all of those things again. So it's part of my tale I guess, that I am somebody who is susceptible to mental illness and that kind of upset in your system so soon after having a baby, it was almost like the perfect storm I guess and so it was a real struggle. But it was a beautiful time still, I’m so glad I could get those oxytocin hits from having her close. I kept her close throughout and I just had to really figure out for the life of me how I could make sure that I was doing the best job I could while also making sure that I was realistic about what I could manage while I was going through such an intense time mentally after my body had been through so much physically.

In the essence of time, I’m just going to speed through to the fact that in amongst the second and third baby is when I had founded The Beyond Sleep Training Project.  The Beyond Sleep Training Project was actually launched as a group in 2017, and I said in our introductory episode a little bit about how I was actually planning on writing a book and I really, really had no idea that it was going to take on the life that it has. It was pretty intense and I really am still stunned to see what we've managed to create with the help of all of the volunteers from around the world. Stunned just because I think it's because I felt so lonely in my own experience and you know I didn't have a lot of real-life examples around me at the time that I really didn't think I would be appealing to a big audience and so it's really heartening to watch the groundswell that we've managed to achieve and to realize that it wasn't just people who'd been through a traumatic sleep training experience, like me, who were feeling like they wanted to have some alternatives it was much broader than that and so I’m really honoured to be a part of the team of The Beyond Sleep Training Project. I’m hugely impressed with the board we've managed to pull together when we registered Little Sparklers in July of 2019 and I am constantly wondering where to next because of all the things we've managed to achieve since our creation in 2017 just really it's mind-blowing. That is the only way I can really describe it and I think at the heart, the reason the group is so successful the way it is. is that it's very honest. There's storytelling and sharing and it's not just about rainbows and unicorns and how delicious and lovely babies are (which they are), it's also about that relentless nature of caregiving in a society that does so little to support families doing this really vitally important work so we just don't gloss over the strength and compassion needed to make it through this time and I think that's what is actually quite appealing.

We don't pretend like it's going to be an easy journey. We don't offer fixes because not everything worthwhile in life comes easily. Sometimes, things that are super worthwhile and some of the things that will make us the proudest we can ever be of ourselves and live a life without being full of regret comes through really tough times and hard work and going the hard yards. That doesn't mean that there's not beauty underneath, there really is a lot of beauty to be found in the parenting of your children day and night and I think that's something that has meant the world to me and I’m so grateful that I was able to move beyond sleep training because it really breaks my heart to think about how many hours I would have lost cuddling and comforting and how much breast milk or night-time nutrients my children would have missed out on if I had actually gone that route of denying that they actually needed those things in the night long before they were actually done with them. And so that's me in a nutshell that's hopefully explained a little bit to you about why I've started the podcast to compliment the group. I'm really looking forward to bringing stories along for you because it's so important that we imagine a world that's moved beyond sleep training a world that recognises and values a baby's biologically normal sleep and nursing behaviours as expected and respected elements of development and in turn recognise respect and honour the very real need for support for families as they make their way through this critical though exhausting time in their life. Really looking forward to bringing the next episode to you with our very first special guest.

*I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. If you'd like even more from the show you can join us as a patron on Patreon and you can find a link for that in our show notes if listening is not really your jam we also make sure we put full episode transcripts on our little sparklers website for you to also enjoy and fully captioned YouTube videos as well on our Little Sparklers channel so thanks again for listening today we really enjoy bringing this podcast to you.

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