Podcasts Lyndsey Hookway on how her experience as a paediatric nurse prepared her for new parenthood and how she survived with a baby who didn’t need to sleep… Listen/ Watch links: Enjoying the show and you'd like even more? Become a Patron! SUMMARY- Lyndsey shares how her work experience in the paediatric field left her ill-prepared for a very low sleep needs baby, how she found her support network, and how she survived. Lyndsey also shares her experiences with Post Natal Depression and Anxiety, what worked for her, and how that impacted both of their sleep. Find Lyndsey Full Episode Transcript: Carly: 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. Carly:Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host, Carly Grubb, and with me today is Lyndsey Hookway all the way from the UK. Thank you for joining us Lyndsey . Lyndsey:It’s great to be here. Thank you. Carly:Now, Lyndsey has worked with infants, children and families for almost 20 years. She’s got a background in paediatric nursing and public health nursing as well as being an internationally board certified lactation consultant, or IBCLC as we see those letters against your name. She serves both families and professionals with her wealth of knowledge in infant feeding, behaviour, sleep and parenting. And for our listeners, you probably – or if you don’t already – you need to go and follow Lyndsey's Feed Sleep Bond Instagram and Facebook pages because the information that she puts out there for free is absolutely outstanding. And then if you would like even more she also has books to purchase. And just because the world actually really does need some decent sleep consultants out there, Lyndsey trains people with her program for holistic sleep coaching, and I have to say I was, coming from the Beyond Sleep Training Project background, I actually took a while to even fully look into Lyndsey’s stuff because it caught my eye as being just another sleep training program and it took me a bit to actually look into it and realise that, holy moly, we actually have someone who actually gets the real deal about sleep, and this is not a sleep training course. So, I’d also recommend that if you’re looking at a way to work with families, or you already do work with families and you’re looking to upskill, to consider looking up Lyndsey’s amazing course through Holistic Sleep Coaching. She’s also written several books. One of them that I love is Let’s Talk About Your Family’s Sleep and the… has it just come out or is it just about to come out, your new book, Still Awake? Lyndsey That was published in June. So, that’s my toddler to tween sleep book. Carly:Yes. Lyndsey:Yeah. Carly:Which is just amazing, because there’s not many resources in that space, and we know through the project that there are families who are still negotiating sleep with their children around that school age because not all sleep challenges are infant or toddler related. And it’s quite interesting. There was just a total glut in resources really, wasn’t there? Lyndsey:Yeah. And I find that even books that say they cover slightly older kids, it’s just a bit of a rebrand of the strategy that works for a little one, and it’s not always enough. Like, you… yeah, there’s a whole book to explain why… why you need different… different approaches and strategies for older littles, and they’re all really creative and fun and very, very kind and no crying, which is what we all want. Carly:Absolutely. So, we’ll be sure to drop all the links to Lyndsey’s platforms and books and things into the show notes for today. But what we’re actually here for today is to hear about your own personal sleep journey with your family. So in a minute I might get you to introduce who’s who in your little crew and let us know, before you had your first baby how did you plan to approach sleep? Lyndsey :Do you know I don’t think it occurred to me that I would find it unbelievably difficult. I think I was pretty naïve going into parenting and night-time parenting. I was a paediatric nurse and a health visitor and, you know, I’d worked with families for a really long time by the time my first came along. But also it was quite a journey to even get our first little one as well. So, she was very, very, very wanted, and I just figured that, you know, we wanted her so much and we’d, you know, tried so hard for her to be on planet Earth that, um, that it would just all be okay and I’d be so delighted that [5:00] she… that she was here that nothing would really phase me because I was just going to be so in love with this child. And I think, you know, my own training in public health nursing had very much led me to believe that pretty much we can expect kids to be sleeping through the night by about six months and that solids would be the turning point for sleep. And yeah, all of those myths that I now seem to spend an awful lot of my time trying to dispel, I absolutely believed them when it was my turn to think about what parenting at night looked like for our family. So yeah, I don’t think I was very well-prepared at all actually. Carly:So, had you set up a cot in the nursery and all of that kind of jazz? Lyndsey:Yeah. I mean we… I honestly don’t know why because we always planned to have our eldest in our bedroom with us. I had a little Moses basket. I didn’t buy it; I was given it by a dear friend. I don’t think I’d really made a conscious decision about bedsharing. I certainly wasn’t averse to it, but I just assumed she would sleep in the Moses basket. And we had a nursery, no idea why as I said because, you know, I knew she wasn’t going to be in it for at least six months when she was going to be sleeping through the night. I thought she’d go in then. But we had this really cute nursery and a cot or a crib, depending on what side of the pond you reside on. And yeah, I just used to put the clean laundry in it. She never went in it. Ever. I don’t think she ever went in her cot actually. Carly:Wow. Lyndsey:Yeah. Carly:So, when she arrived, so you had these visions of how it was going to be, not necessarily Easy Street, but you didn’t think anything would particularly bother you and it was, you know, just for six months. So what happened when she actually arrived? Lyndsey:Well, so she arrived after a pretty naff pregnancy and really difficult birth. I had pre-eclampsia and she… she was induced. So, she arrived earthside two weeks early and this child looked like she had been here before already. So she came out and we called her the lookout meerkat because she was just like, what am I missing? What’s going on? You can forget sleep because if I go to sleep I might miss something important. And she was just so alert from the word go. And this child had amazing head and neck control and she would kind of come up on my shoulder and just be peering out over everybody. And she just, she really, really didn’t sleep. I remember there was one day she was actually due her first set of immunisations and I thought, ‘Right, I’ve really got to try and get her to sleep, otherwise she’s… she’s going to be really grumpy for these jabs.’ The jabs I think were – I can still remember, a four o’clock appointment. So, I spent the whole day I promise you, the whole day trying to get Lizzie to go to sleep and have a nap. And I kid you not, this child did not sleep all day. I tried bouncing and swaying and rocking and boobing and putting her in the sling. We walked round the park about a hundred and fifty million times. She just wasn’t going to sleep at all. And of course now I know that’s because I was dysregulated. I was anxious and the more I got wound up and bent out of shape about the fact that she wasn’t sleeping the more my nervous system was going into kind of fight/flight mode, and therefore she obviously didn’t think it was safe to just chill out. Carly:Yeah. She’s like, what’s going on? Hang on, mum’s up I’d better… better be on guard. Got to look out for mum. Lyndsey:Yeah. And my lookout meerkat was not standing down. I was like, you know, I should have just helped her to calm down but I didn’t know then what I know now. So there you go. Carly:So, that sounds very, very familiar, because I had a similar situation. I remember my guy coming out and the midwife saying, ‘Wow, he’s really awake.’ So, I get the whole lookout meerkat kind of thing. But, so she… was this an everyday kind of thing, or was this a particularly stressed out kind of day? And if so, how long did your days look like this with her? Lyndsey:Honestly she was… she was like that every day. I mean I think I particularly remember that one because my stress levels were higher that day because, I don’t know why, I’d just decided that it was really important [10:00] for her to sleep before her jabs. I don’t know why that felt like a particularly big deal, but it did. But actually most days were like that. She was a very, very alert little one. She didn’t need a lot of sleep. I didn’t know that then. I didn’t… I didn’t… I’d never heard of any other baby in my circle of peers and friends like that. All of the other babies I knew genuinely slept. They might not sleep, you know, in their cribs and cots. They might not have self-settled. They might not have gone down drowsy but awake or any of that other rubbish. But they slept. They slept, you know, on shoulders and in carriers and whatever. Mine just didn’t. She was just always awake. And I… I was one of those people who really internalised how well my child slept as a measure of how good a parent I was, and I felt like as a nurse and as a health visitor and I was training to be an IBCLC at that point, you know, lots of people when they heard about, you know, what I did for a living they were like, ‘Oh, this must be really easy for you,’ or, ‘Oh, you’re my new best friend,’ or, ‘ Oh, can I ask you, because you must know all the tricks and tips?’ And I felt like a complete fraud. I felt like, you know, I was failing and actually I must be, you know, actually not only quite a rubbish parent but I must actually be not very good at my job either because apparently I… I just can’t do this stuff. And so it really took its toll on my mental health. I definitely thought I am not nailing this parenting gig at all. Carly:And while you’re feeling like this how was your baby? What was she like during this time? Lyndsey:Other people would say that she was just a delight. Her middle name was Joy and she was. She was an absolute joy to be around and, you know, I don’t… I don’t really believe in parenting regrets. You know, I think that our experiences shape us and mould us and I think there’s very little value in thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I could go back and do things differently.’ However, you know, looking… looking kind of, you know, in on the situation now, if I had just chilled out about the fact that this was just a low sleep need child and I didn’t need to be wasting all this energy trying and failing to get a child who wasn’t tired to go to sleep, if I had just enjoyed her we would have had a blast because she was a really fun baby. She was very bright and alert. She was very curious. I could take her anywhere and she would just flirt with everybody. She would flirt with the people in the supermarket and people out and about and she was fascinated by the birds in the park and every little doggie she saw. And if I had just lived in the moment and enjoyed that, honestly I think it would have been a very different parenting experience. Carly:And I guess that really speaks to the fact that you really didn’t have the resources around you to help you understand that that was okay, that your baby was okay and therefore you could lay off yourself a little bit. Because it’s just such a… the weight of the expectations really clouds that ability to see it for what it really is. Isn’t it? Lyndsey:Yeah. Definitely. And you know, we’re only going back 12 years, but actually the online space was very different 12 years ago. Facebook was nowhere near as big a thing as it became in the years following her birth. And really I was going to be baby clinic, which was a physical clinic. I… what else did I have? I had my NCT group, and all of the babies slept so that wasn’t very helpful. And… and that was about it really. I felt very lonely, very isolated, and there wasn’t a voice of reason saying ‘Do you know what? That sounds really hard. Totally really, really hard. I hear you and I stand with you. But it’s also so normal and it’s not your fault. This isn’t something you did. This isn’t something that you’ve caused. You’ve not broken your baby. You’re not screwing up parenting. And your little one will be okay. I can tell you that actually if you just let this play out it’ll be fine.’ There was nobody saying that to me. The only voices that were sort of around at the time and being vocal were more or less saying this is normal, this too shall pass. But they weren’t really explaining it. They weren’t giving me anything extra, and that’s what I needed. I really needed somebody to be able to explain, you know, what was going on and why this was happening and to be able to [15:00] reassure me in a meaningful way that addressed my underlying anxieties and feelings of failure, and that wasn’t around. And I suppose that’s a huge part of, you know, why I produce the content and books that I do now, because I suppose all of it is just the stuff that I needed to hear 12 years ago. It’s quite cathartic really. Carly:Well, and that’s why you write it so beautifully, because it comes directly from the heart and your experience, and so it’s got that right through it. It’s not just regurgitating information. It comes all packaged up with actual reality and really lived experience. So, that’s where the value is I think in it. Lyndsey:Thank you. Carly:Now I’m just thinking… That’s alright. And I’m just thinking about, so we know during the day she wasn’t sleeping very much. What were nights looking like with her? Lyndsey:Well… Carly:Needing a deep sigh. Lyndsey:Well. Well, so I am someone who actually doesn’t need a lot of sleep. I genuinely do fine on, you know, five or six hours sleep. I had about five and a half hours last night and today I have a book that I need to start writing and I need to bash out a whole load of stuff for my PhD. I will be fine because I really don’t need a lot of sleep. So, that context is important because I felt like I was going to die of exhaustion with my eldest. Carly:Right. So not much sleep at all. Lyndsey:I don’t need a… not much sleep at all. So, we’re talking probably at night, I think for a very long time I probably had perhaps three hours of broken sleep for… for lots of days, and maybe up to about four or five hours of broken sleep most of the time for at least the first 14 months. And it was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. And looking back, it’s hard to know exactly what that was about. She did have a phase of sleeping pretty well actually. She slept like ten hours straight from about five months, but it only lasted three weeks and then it… it went backwards in a really big way. And then that carried on till about 14 months. And she just used to wake up very, very frequently. You know, every 45 minutes, you know, a floorboard creak, a toilet flush, somebody slamming a door. All of it. We were those people who walked around not flushing toilets because we were terrified to wake this child up because she was such a light sleeper. And it never occurred… Carly:I’ve been there. I have solidarity for that. It’s painful. Lyndsey:It was really painful. Carly:And unless you’ve had one of those babies too, people think that you’re doing it because you’re a little bit over the top. It’s like, no, dude, that kid will wake up if my knee cracks. Lyndsey:Yeah, right. Yeah. Carly:And they’re usually the ones who take so much hard work to get to sleep in the first place. Lyndsey:Yeah. Carly:Like you cannot… you cannot chance that wake up. Lyndsey:No way. Well, there was this mummy – I called it the mummy bounce. It was like a… it was there was a definite rhythm. I had to kind of bounce in a… like a figure eight, about sort of 60 to 70 beats a minute. And my husband just couldn’t do it. He… he tried. He ended up kind of doing this weird like dad dancing jiggle. It just, it wasn’t cutting it at all for her. So it had to be me and the mummy bounce, and that would take ages. And then she would wake up, you know, approximately every 45 minutes to an hour all night long, and that was irrespective of whether I was there or not. I did try and sneak away but… Carly:Did you have to bounce her to get her back to sleep, or could you shove a boob in and she’d go back to sleep? Lyndsey:No, I could boob her back to… So, once she was down I could boob her back to sleep. Carly:Yeah. Lyndsey:But if I delayed getting to her then all hell broke loose. Carly:Absolutely. Lyndsey:She was like, woo!. I’m going to react now mummy, and now you’re going to have to calm me down and then boob me. So it would take way longer. So, we couldn’t go out, we couldn’t get a babysitter, because I thought, oh god, the thought of trying to explain to a babysitter, ‘Look, what you have to do is bounce, but it’s got to be in a figure eight and you’ve got to like move my hips like that and you’ve got to do it at 60 beats a minute.’ I thought, do you know what? No one’s going to put up with that kind of rubbish. They’re just going to leave her to cry and I can’t… I can’t do it. So, I… we just didn’t go out. Carly:Or they would have been just sitting out on the couch with Lizzie just staring at this babysitter. It’s probably what would have actually happened. Lyndsey:Yeah, probably. Probably. Carly:Yeah. Lyndsey:And like, looking back that probably wouldn’t have been… we should have just done that because it wouldn’t have been the end of the world like, you know. Carly:Yeah, but it doesn’t feel like that at the time. I can… Lyndsey:No. Carly:Your experiences, I can say that I think there are very few people [20:00] who could actually fully understand what you’re describing in terms of pain levels. And I’ve been there, and I hope hardly anyone else ever has to be there, but if there are people listening along with extreme little sparklers, you are not alone. Lindsey:No. Carly:Lyndsey and I have both lived that pain and there’s no… no easy way to say that it’s like, you know, there’s not necessarily a way out of it other than through it. But you most definitely are not the only one out there and you haven’t done anything wrong and you definitely haven’t broken your baby. Lyndsey:Absolutely. And you know, looking… looking back on those early days with, you know, the benefit of hindsight, as her personality began to emerge she was a very… is a very, very, very bright child. She’s got a few sensory differences but do you know, I think even if we’d known about sensory differences in infancy I’m really not at all sure that there would have been a thing that would have fixed the issue. I think so often we are looking for the fix. You know, try this product. Try that sound. Try that weighted blanket. Try, you know, this patting technique during the day, or whatever. Like, there’s so many things that you can try. And sure, give them a go if, you know, if you want to try those things. But actually I think the truth is sometimes with these very, very bright, alert, sparkly, high need, you know… Carly:Intense. Lyndsey:… different, intense, however you want to call them, these sort of spirited kiddies, honestly I think you just have to find some solidarity, accept that it’s not you and know that when they come out, oh my goodness they’re amazing kids. They are truly fabulous children. It’s just that the qualities that we, you know, love and adore in older children, you know, being feisty, withstanding peer pressure, standing up for yourself, being fiercely independent and strong-minded and persistent and tenacious and all of those things, they’re not easy characteristics to live with when your little one is eight months old or 11 months old or 15 months old. In fact they’re really flipping difficult and annoying at times. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You know, we used to joke that, you know, if a mouse farted this child was going to… this child was going to wake up and react. So, if you have a child where if a mouse farts that’s it, it’s game over, then I’m with you in spirit. I promise. Carly:As am I. You are so far from alone. And I would love to hear from you, because I know what for me like, you know, nothing quite makes up for the fact that your sleep is that utterly broken that your fatigue levels are through the roof. There’s just no denying that, because these kind of babies are relentless in their nature and it goes on for a much longer period than you hear with less intense babies. Like my second and my third baby I did not experience this again in the same way. But I know what helped me through that time. Nothing made it easy. But what… was there anything that helped you a little bit, Lyndsey? Lyndsey:What was it? Honestly, it was getting support for my postnatal depression and birth trauma. So, you know, it really was a terrible pregnancy and birth and she was a very, very, very challenging baby to parent. She was delightful, but she was so difficult in parallel. You know, you… I had to hold the two truths simultaneously. And because of… because of all of that and because of, you know, all of the back story and, you know, my own feelings of self-worth being tied up in how she slept it was pretty inevitable that I was going to end up with pretty, pretty significant depression and anxiety and hypervigilance and all of those things. And… and honestly, I think so often, yes, her sleep was appalling, but I… I wasn’t coping during the day. I felt like I was in a pit, and that’s how I would describe depression. It feels like you’re in a pit. You don’t know how you got in the pit, but you can’t see a way out of the pit. There’s no rope. There’s no ladder. There’s no one throwing you an arm to try and lift you out of the pit. And if you get to that point where you’re in the pit, that’s the point at which your nervous system is so dysregulated that even if you do sleep it’s not going to feel good. Even if somebody offers to help you or take your baby out for a walk in the [25:00] pushchair for an hour so you can get a nap, you’re not going to sleep because you’re on flight/flight mode the whole time. So for me it was getting some help to get out of the pit. And for me what that looked like – this isn’t right for everybody – but for me that involved antidepressants as well as talking therapies in tandem. Some people want one or the other. I’m not here to judge any of those choices and I’m not, you know, a mental health expert, but that’s what I did. And it took a while. I would say I hit absolute rock bottom when she was about eight months old, and that’s why I have a particular heart actually for parents of kind of eight to ten month old babies. They are such hard work anyway. And I think that’s often the time when, you know, people are losing interest in that cute, little baby, the offers of help start dwindling massively by that point. People assume they’re sleeping, and often people are going back to work in some parts of the world. And I appreciate this is an international audience and some people go back to work a lot earlier, but that was around the time I was going back to work as well. And around that time I, in desperation I called my health visitor and I said, ‘Honestly, I feel like I’m going to die from lack of sleep.’ And she said, ‘Well, we’re not going to do cry it out or controlled crying.’ And I… I thought, oh, thank goodness for that, because I just couldn’t do it. It didn’t… it didn’t sit right. But she says, ‘What we’ll do is we could try’ – we. I don’t know why she kept saying ‘we’ as if she was going to be there with me. She wasn’t going to be there with me. It was going to be me. But anyway. She said, ‘We… we can try pick up, put down, because it’s really gentle and they’ll learn that if there’s a problem you’re there for them and if there’s not a problem they need to go to sleep in their cot.’ And in my foggy, sleep-deprived haze that sounded really logical. I thought, oh, that’s a brilliant concept. Oh my goodness. Where’s that been all my life? I mean of course I’d heard of it. I was a health visitor. But I hadn’t… I hadn’t really thought about, you know, what it meant, what it looked like, whether I was going to do it. Anyway, I tried it for one night, and I tell this story a lot. I picked Lizzie up and put her down more than 140 times and I lost count at that point. Carly:Oh my god. Lyndsey:Because the book says… the book says count because you’ll be amazed, you know, that it’s getting less every night. So I did count. I did as I was told. And 140 times, and I thought bugger this. I can’t… I can’t even keep track. This is so ridiculous. This… She was beginning to cry the second I like did that, to move forward to go and lay her back down in the cot. And I thought this is a crock. I’m not into it. So at that point I took her into the bed. We lay down and we boobed to sleep, and I was like, pff, screw it. Obviously nothing’s going to work, or nothing that I’m comfortable with is going to work. So therefore we’re just going to have to survive and I will re-evaluate. But at around the same time I was getting treatment for my… for my mental health problems as well. And around the same time her activity and mobility really kicked up a gear and… and then she got extremely ill, which you would think would mess up everything, and it certainly did for a while, but actually once she recovered we seemed to have just turned a corner over that time and things slowly, slowly, slowly got better and liveable. And for me liveable was, you know, waking up three to four times a night rather than every 30 to 45 minutes, which is a very, very big improvement when you’re that tired. Carly:How flipping good did that first time you get like one to two hours in a row feel. Lyndsey :Yes. Carly:Holy cow. Lyndsey:Yeah. Carly:The relief is like nothing else. Lindsey:Absolutely. Carly:Oh, now I’m just looking at the time. We’re actually already coming up to 30 minutes for our episode. I’m wondering would you be able to stick around for a second episode with me so I can… Lyndsey:Sure. Carly:… hear more about your second babe as well as hearing… I want to hear a little bit more about Lizzie as well. Is that okay? Lyndsey:Of course. Let’s do it. Carly:Brilliant. Alright. Well, we might just finish up this episode. I normally ask actually if you’ve got a tip for our listeners. Is there a tip you’d like to share to finish this one off? Lyndsey:Honestly, the biggest tip that I can possibly share is think about how you’re feeling in this moment, like right now. You’re about to try and get your baby down for a nap or bedtime or whatever. First of all just take five minutes, five minutes, just to dump whatever it is [30:00] that you’re feeling somewhere. You can fake it if you want. You don’t have to really believe what you’re telling yourself. But just dump it somewhere and try to go into whatever sleep, you know, period you’re going into calmer and more grounded and more regulated. It really will rub off on your little one. Carly:Beautiful, and I would definitely agree with that. I think it used to really sting though, I know, when I was struggling with depression and anxiety and people would be like, ‘He’s feeding off you.’ It’s like, if I ever got any sleep I wouldn’t be doing this. But at the same time it is also true that if I could somehow relax myself a little bit before I sleep it would definitely – you could feel him soften. He was very much a mirror of me. And it wasn’t because I was doing anything wrong, I was struggling and that’s okay, but it’s also okay to just try and soften for both of your benefits around sleep. So I love that. What a beautiful way to finish that episode. Thank you so much, Lyndsey. Lyndsey:You’re so welcome. Carly:And I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the second part of Lyndsey’s story in the very next episode. If you haven’t already can you please make sure that if you’re enjoying the show you’re able to drop us a review wherever you listen to the show, particularly on Apple Podcasts. Five star reviews is actually how the podcast gets distributed further, so we would love you forever if you could give us one of those reviews today. Thank you so much for listening. 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