Listen/ Watch links:

    

Enjoying the show and you'd like even more? Become a Patron!

SUMMARY- Join Carly and Nicole as they discuss sole parenting a low sleep needs baby, trusting your little one knows what they need, and how to support a busy brain to wind down for sleep. In this episode, Nicole also touches on health issues that can impact sleep and quality of sleep, and sleep-disordered breathing.

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:
And welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host Carly Grubb, and in this week’s episode I have the wonderful Nicole Gorring joining me.

Nicole:
Hello.

Carly:
Nicole is one of the very original admins for the Beyond Sleep Training project group, and Nicole and I actually got to know each other online before the project had even begun, because we had started blogging around the same time.

Nicole:
Yeah, we did.

Carly:
Yeah, and Nicole’s writing really caught my eye because she was somebody who was also quite outspoken about sleep training culture.

 

I can hear lots of noise in my house. I’m sorry for the background. It’s a public holiday here, and so, yeah, it’s going to be a noisy episode, I think. They’re playing out there.

 

And yeah, so Nicole had started blogging and she was… I just loved the way that Nicole can hammer home some truths. We have quite different experiences though that were leading us into a very similar path in terms of things that we talked about. But it was actually through a different group called Co-Sleeping I think that we actually met each other.

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah.

Carly:
And we had similar ideas for the need for a peer support group, or a space to tell the stories of people who weren’t sleep training. And so, Nicole’s been a fabulous person to have around our group, and to be able to bounce ideas off. One of the smartest people I know. So, thank you very much for being a guest, Nicole.

Nicole:
You’re very welcome.

Carly:
And you’re a teacher by trade.

Nicole:
Yes. I am.

Carly:
And that’s, you now run a small, independent school down in Brisbane.

Nicole:
Ah, not... Yeah, it’s not a school. It’s a home-schooling support co-op thing. It’s kind of hard to explain because we’re kind of the only one that there is in Brisbane. So, we don’t really fit into anything that people recognise easily. But, yeah, we provide a drop-off service for home-schooling families up to 3 days a week.

Carly:
Awesome.

Nicole:
So, yeah.

Carly:
Very cool. Very cool. Alright, but we are here today to hear more about your journey beyond sleep training with your family, and your experiences around sleep without sleep training. So, without further ado, would you like to talk to us about your little crew?

Nicole:
Sure. So, I have 3 kids now. One, 13. She’s my stepdaughter. My son, Callaghan, who’s 8, and Theo who is one-and-a-bit now. So, I spent the first, what? 4-years of Callaghan’s life as a single mum, and the re-partnered, and now get to enjoy the benefits of having a hands-on dad, which is great. Much better in a lot of ways. So, Callaghan was very much a refusing to sleep child. He still is quite honestly. He struggles to get to sleep before 10, 10.30 at night every night, and has done his whole life. But he’s also the third in my family to be like that. I was the same, and my aunt was the same. So, quite early on I knew that it wasn’t something that was wrong with him or with my parenting as such. It was just something that was going to be his… his way. But I still got sucked into all that sleep training culture stuff. You know, I remember having books out from the library that were talking about how you needed to have a routine, and I would get this big whiteboard and I would write the routine and I would stick it out in the hallway and try and follow the routine and try and be like, ‘Okay, he has to nap at this time, and he has to be awake for this amount of time, and then he has to nap again at this time,’ and

 

[5:00] spending ages trying to get that to happen, and it just wouldn’t happen. And even as a really young baby, like 6, 7-months old, maybe even earlier than that, if I tried to implement some sort of pre-nap routine he would figure it out within a day, and he would just scream and scream and scream the second you started trying to do that thing. So, I actually ended up spending most of the first two years of his life trying to trick him into sleeping by doing something different every time, because if he cottoned onto something like even just doing nursery rhymes and stuff, if you’d done that a couple of times before a sleep then he would be like, ‘No way, I’m not doing nursery rhymes even just reading them as a book.’ Or he was like, ‘No, I am not having a bar of this, because this means sleep.’ So, we had a long time where we had to just kind of not do, you know, not read a nursery rhyme book for ages. And then, yeah, so I’d be like having to try and do something slightly different, and then he got to this point where he would just scream the second he walked into a bedroom. Even if it wasn’t my bedroom, he… yeah, you walked into a room that had a bed in it, he would freak out. And it’s kind of strange, because we hadn’t like… I mean I was trying to push the routine thing, but I never did any sort of responsive settling or cry it out or anything like that. I was literally just trying to get him to nap on a schedule with me. But yeah, even just that was just not something that he was prepared to do.

Carly:
And that was enough to raise his stress levels?

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah. And quite… quite strongly. I do wonder how much of it was kind of… I mean I did… I did sleep with him most of the time, but I was also falling for that trap of you should be able to roll away, and you should be able to go and leave them. And so, I was trying to do that too. So, I’d fall, you know, have him fall asleep with me, and then try and sneak away, and then he’d wake up and be like, ‘Where are you?’ But I don’t think I was doing that all the time. I think that came kind of later in the process. That at first I was just trying to push this routine thing. Anyway, so I remember saying something to my ex’s aunt who’s a lactation consultant. She was, you know, being my lactation consultant at the time. And she was like, ‘Oh, well, I can get you a referral to Erin… Ellen Barron if you want.’ And then some of the other ladies from my mum’s group were going, and so, it’s like, okay. I’ll just wait and see what happens with them and then decide whether I want a referral or not. So, they went, and I think it was while they were there I was at my sister-in-law’s house and she had a copy of Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like a Baby on her bookshelf. And I picked it up and started reading it while we were there and then asked her if I could borrow it and read that, and that was… that was game-changing. And then by then by the time these friends got back from sleep school I asked them what it was like at sleep school and they were explaining the process and stuff, and I went, ‘Nup. I don’t want to do that. That’s not the path that I want to take.’ So, decided not to ask for a referral, and we just kind of pushed through and kept… kept cuddling him and stopped trying to push through the routines and everything, and just trying to focus on making sleep a safe space. And it still took until after he was two before he really settled. I remember when he was about the same age as Theo is now, so about maybe 15-months to 18-months-ish. We were in Rocky, Rockhampton, and we were staying in a caravan park thing, and I had been trying to rock him to sleep for a good hour at that point in time. And then he just wouldn’t go to sleep. And so, I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m going to chuck him in the car and take him for a drive.’

 

[10:00] And drove all the way to Yeppoon, which is like 80kms on dirt roads on this back way to get there, to the beach. It mightn’t have been Yeppoon actually. It might have been just some tiny little beach town near Rockhampton. But it was like 80ks on dirt roads at night, in the dark at like 10 at night, and drove all the way there, all the way back before he fell asleep. So, that was pretty intense.

Carly:
Just a classic night owl by the sound of him.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Was he happy? Like, while this was going on was he like generally happy, or was he actually really cranky and obviously tired and just couldn’t get off to sleep?

Nicole:
He was obviously tired and couldn’t get off to sleep. Yeah. I think. I don’t know. It’s like 8-years ago now.

Carly:
It’s a bit hard to pick, isn’t it?

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Especially when you’ve been trying for a while, because I know with my guy, I was used to… it was a hard line to tell. It’s like, is he actually now just frustrated and cranky with me because we’ve been trying to get him to sleep for so long?

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Or is he actually cranky and tired? It can be challenging to know.

Nicole:
Yeah. And also, because you’re getting cranky as well, and you’re tired. And I’m like, I just want to go to sleep. So… we had a lot… a lot of nights where I just, I ended up setting up a mattress on the floor so that I could just lay there and kind of doze while he played. And he would often play until like midnight, 1am before he would end up going to sleep.

Carly:
Would he…?

Nicole:
But yeah.

Carly:
Would he then sleep in longer in the morning? Or when would…

Nicole:
Oh yeah.

Carly:
Or was he just really a low sleep needs person?

Nicole:
No, I do think he’s somewhat low sleep needs, but he would sleep in longer in the morning. So, he would sleep until 10, and these days he struggles to get to sleep before 10.30, wakes up about 7. So, yeah. It’s never been an issue for school or anything, because he’s not hugely high sleep needs. Whereas with me, my parents tell me they had the same issue with me. They could never get me to sleep before 9 o’clock at night, and I wouldn’t wake up until 10. But that was my pattern the whole of my life until, you know, like well in my adulthood, that I would struggle to wake up before 9, 10 in the morning. Uni was difficult when I had to be at dance class for 8 o’clock in the morning every day of the week. So, and then I was at dancing at night, until 9 o’clock at night, so I didn’t even get home until 10. I had to have dinner and everything and then try and get to sleep. And then my aunt had been the same. I don’t really know much details of her, what she was like in terms of how much sleep needs she had. But yeah. So, it was definitely this… this consistent pattern. But he’s got lower sleep needs than what I had as a baby.

Carly:
It’s really interesting when you start to pick the pattern as well, and you can still see, even though there’s like some similarities, he’s still got his own… own pattern as well. And so, how did you…

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
How did you go in terms of your weariness and keeping up with this baby who didn’t seem to need much sleep? How were you faring?

Nicole:
Yeah. I mean it was… it was difficult at night-time, because it would be like one o’clock in the morning and he wasn’t asleep. But co-sleeping helped so much, because then I didn’t have to get up to feed him and everything. And then I would nap with him in the day. So, when he did eventually nap, I would nap too. So, I’d catch up on my sleep that way. I mean, I guess I was privileged in that sense that I wasn’t working at the time. So, I didn’t have to. If I was trying to work at the time I… I don’t know how we would have worked that out. I didn’t have any overnight help. Like, I was living with my mum. But my mum’s on medication that… or was on medication at the time that knocked her out completely once she took it, and she had to take it every night. So, you know, overnight was completely on me. But during the day if I really needed to and he wouldn’t nap, then she could look after him for a while and let me get a nap. So, that helped. Yeah.

Carly:
Having that support makes a massive difference, especially when you’ve got…

Nicole:
Yeah, yes.

Carly: [15:00]
Yeah, especially when ‘cause it’s… like you say, it’s that it’s so contingent on the day, isn’t it? It was similar for my guy with the if… if you’re lucky enough that they’re going to have a nap then you might get some rest in.

Nicole:
Yep.

Carly:
But some days it just doesn’t work out like that. And some days you’re probably okay with that, and then other days you really, really need it. 

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
So, yeah. That’s an interesting take on it. And so, he, around two he started to… was it just that he started to sleep more easily? Or how did it change when he was around two?

Nicole:
He didn’t start to sleep any more easily. He just had the ability to tell me what was going on. He was probably two-and-a-half really by the time he had the words. But he could tell me that he couldn’t shut his brain off, and that that was what was stopping him from being able to sleep. And that’s still what he complains about, is that he can’t get his brain to shut down. I have anxiety. He has definitely shown signs of having anxiety issues. So, yeah. I mean I very much understood that. Once… once he could say that I’m like, ‘Okay, I know exactly what that’s like.’ These days we do meditations before bed pretty much every night. Sometimes it takes him 3 to be able to get to the point where he shuts off. But yeah. So, I think those…

Carly:
How good are guided meditations for busy brains? We love them in our house too.

Nicole:
They’re useful. Yeah.

Carly:
They are useful. And I don’t know about your guy. Does he need different ones? Or has he got like a set that is like the ones that seem to work for him?

Nicole:
There’s one that I tend to default to as our second one if he is struggling, because it’s the one that seems to work the best. But he does like to pick a different one each night generally.

Carly:
Ah, see it’s interesting. ‘cause my guy, he finds it stressful to listen to too many different types of ones, because then his brain is paying too much attention to the meditation. It’s almost like he needs the slight familiar. Like he’s got like a bit of a repertoire that we listen to on rotation. But yeah, when the new one comes on you can… he’ll, he’ll point it out. He’ll be like ‘Mum, this one’s different.’ And you can see he doesn’t then go to sleep, because he’s paying attention to the meditation. Ah, their brains. They’re amazing little things, aren’t they?

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah, Calli doesn’t get too affected by that, but sometimes he does. So… when we first started using them, I very much had to say to him, ‘You know it’s okay to fall asleep halfway through the story. You don’t have to stay awake for the whole story.’

Carly:
These ones are meant to put you to sleep.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Oh, it’s funny. But sometimes that helps. Like it’s that real, like this is actually what it… this is the purpose of this activity, is to help you sleep. It’s okay to fall asleep.

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah.

Carly:
Oh, there you go. That’s very interesting. And so, with him, when you… did you notice much of a difference when you welcomed your second baby then?

Nicole:
In terms of his sleep, no. No.

Carly:
He was older by then?

Nicole:
Yeah. I mean he was 7 when Theo was born, so it wasn’t a huge amount of… and he still sleeps with us, so we have a king bed and a sidecar, with baby in the side car and then Callaghan on the opposite side of the bed. And yeah, I mean I don’t think Theo threw out his sleep at all. Jealousy issues, yes. But…

Carly:
Certainly an adjustment.

Nicole:
Yes, certainly an adjustment. But mostly… mostly I would say that having much older kids and a big gap has been pretty, pretty great, because I get a lot more help with having a baby, and they’re a lot more able to logically understand that, you know, he’s not trying to get in their way or annoy them or disrupt their things or whatever. It’s just that he doesn’t understand. So…

Carly:
That’s, yeah, actually a bigger age gap seems to be a perk for lots of families. So, with him now, so once, as he got older it was still… he still has trouble with his brain, like quietening down so he can actually get off to sleep. But does…

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Does he then seem to sleep quite well once he’s asleep? Or is it still quite disruptive for him as well?

Nicole:
No, he sleeps quite well once he’s asleep. And he always has slept quite well once he’s asleep. Like, even as a baby once he got to sleep it was fine. And throughout the night he would, you know, stir for milk, but you’d boob him and he’d be back to sleep. So, he didn’t wake a lot during the night. It wasn’t like we had to repeat this process of trying to get him to sleep 4 times a night or anything. It was just getting to sleep in the first place that was really difficult for him and still is.

 

[20:00] And then he had ENT issues. So, he was getting bad quality sleep for a long time because he wasn’t breathing well. And honestly, I still suspect there’s more going on there, but we haven’t managed to get it sorted out yet. But, yeah, he sleeps… he sleeps through fine. So…

Carly:
So, when he, with his ENT issues, what were the signs for you that you knew that there was something not great with his sleep quality?

Nicole:
Snoring. Lots of snoring. So, and coughing all the time. So, he still has – what’s it called? Allergic rhinitis, hay fever, but to dust mites, so all the time, every day. And at the moment we’ve been trying just having antihistamines daily to see if that helps, and I think it is slightly helping his sleep quality, but it’s not helping enough with the sneezing. But, so when we was maybe, I don’t know, 7, 8-months old he got sick and then had a cough, and had a cough for months and months and months, and then that developed into snoring, and then was snoring ever since then. And we eventually managed to find somebody to take it seriously enough and get his adenoids and turbidites and tongue tie fixed when he was 4. And that helped a lot. Like, he doesn’t snore anymore unless he’s really sick. But the… the breathing. He’s still definitely got breathing issues. Still sleeps with his head pushed back, and when he’s sick you can still hear that his breathing’s not quite right. So yeah, that was the biggest obvious factor, was the snoring and the head tilting back. 

Carly:
And then the ENT, so getting those things done definitely made a difference, but there still seems like there’s a way to go. It’d be interesting to know, like further investigation, what it ends up showing too. So, when he… once he was getting that better quality sleep could you see a difference in him by day?

Nicole:
Um… hm, that’s a good question. I don’t remember. I’m not sure. Yeah.

Carly:
It was just obvious overnight he wasn’t so disruptive in his sleep.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Fantastic. Well, at least he eventually got the help that he needed. Sounds like quite a long period though between the snoring beginning and actually getting treatment for it. Was that just delays…

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
…through the system?

Nicole:
It was a combination of things. So, to begin with I didn’t know that it was a problem. So, there was a couple of years where I didn’t know that it, you know, it was a major red flag and needed investigation. And then it was trying to get a referral to the system. So, we spent a year-and-a-half on the waitlist for the public hospital, went to the public hospital. I really did not like the ENT at the public hospital. He… so then we got… ended up going private and got a second opinion, and then went back to the public hospital with that second opinion to see if we could get treatment through the public hospital, and he was very dismissive and like, ‘Tongue tie’s not a thing,’ and ‘He needs his tonsils out.’ He’s never… the private ENT was like, ‘His tonsils are normal size. Like, why would we take them out? It’s not going to do anything.’ And then, you know, wasn’t going to do anything with his turbidites and was like, ‘Okay, yeah. I guess maybe that might help.’ And just was very dismissive and condescending and wouldn’t answer my questions. And so, we ended up going private and getting it done there. And so that was a financial thing of having to have the money, because we didn’t have private health at the time. And then he settled. Like, he came up really good. He wasn’t snoring and stuff for ages. And then our neighbours started building their new house, and he started snoring again when all the building work was being done…

Carly:
Oh, all the dust and stuff being kicked out.

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah. So, we went back to the EN… the private ENT for a check, just to make sure that there wasn’t anything that, you know, needed reassessment or whatever. That was fine. And they were like, ‘Look, it’s probably allergy stuff. You’ll need to get an allergy assessment.’ And so, I got him an allergy assessment just at the GP with the skin prick test, and that showed up dust mites but nothing else.

 

[25:00] And then just like through looking on, you know, various research and stuff, and finding out more about how a lot of the time ENT issues present as kind of hyperactivity and, you know, how much it impacts their brains to not be able to breathe properly overnight and whatever. It was like, okay, I really think I need deeper investigation. And so, we started the process of going to private allergy to get more tests done, but they still came back with just dust mites. And they were like, ‘Look, we can do desensitisation, but it’s going to be a 5-year thing of having to get injections every month.’ So, yeah. Yeah.

Carly:
Wow. That’s intense.

Nicole:
Yeah, 5 to 7-years of an injection every month. Like, it’s insane.

Carly:
Wow.

Nicole:
So, yeah. So, they recommended that we just try doing antihistamines daily to begin with and see how that goes. So, we’ve been doing that for maybe two months now.

Carly:
And has that helped at all?

Nicole:
I do think it’s helping his sleep quality overnight. Like, he had… he had started, so Christmas he developed these really big bags under his eyes. And that was really what prompted me to go and get allergy testing done again. But it does seem to have helped a little bit with that. It does seem to have helped a bit with his sleep quality at night, but it’s not helping with his daytime symptoms at all. So, our next step is to get blood workup done and see if it’s iron deficiency as well, or something like that that might be causing these big bags under his eyes. So, yeah.

Carly:
Oh gosh. So, there’s a fair bit to investigate then. I’m just having a look at the time and we’re getting close to our 30-minute mark. But obviously wondering, like out of all this conversation then, if there’s a tip you’d like to share with other parents, if they’re wondering what they… you would like to tell them about?

Nicole:
Yeah, I guess two tips. One, my first tip that I was planning on saying would be don’t try and push independent sleeping. Like, that was my big regret with him, was trying to do this whole put him down, get him to sleep, sneak away thing. I think that just made things worse for him. And it’s something that I haven’t done with Theo, and yet I can actually step away and go, and he will be okay. So, I mean if your kid is fairly chill, then you can probably get away with it. But if you’ve got a kid who’s showing signs of anxiousness around sleep, don’t try and push it, because it’s just going to backfire. And it did backfire for me for a long time. And then my other thing would be, just based on what we were talking about just now, snoring is not normal, get it investigated.

Carly:
I’m going to back that one 100% also. We’ve had that in our house and there is enough information now about sleep-disordered breathing…

Nicole:
Yep.

Carly:
…that we know that it isn’t normal outside of a short period of time when they’ve been sick.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
Snoring is not normal.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
As, the same with noisy breathing. That goes with gasping. All of those things.

Nicole:
Yeah, head tilted back.

Carly:
Head tilted back. All of those signs are worthy of being investigated.

Nicole:
Mouth breathing.

Carly:
Preferably… yeah, preferably by an ENT who’s an airways specialist as well, would be an ideal person to be able to go see. And like Nicole, if you see somebody who doesn’t actually give… the information they’re giving you, or the opinion they’re giving you doesn’t sit right…

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
It’s okay to seek a second opinion.

Nicole:
Yeah. Yeah.

Carly:
Because sometimes that’s what it takes. Not all specialists are created equal, and sometimes it does, it takes a couple of goes to hit someone who’s actually on the money with your particular situation. So, thanks for those tips Nicole, and thanks for your time today.

Nicole:
Sure.

Carly:
It’s been fantastic.

Nicole:
Yeah.

Carly:
But I feel like we only just got the first part of your story. Would you be able to come back for another episode with us?

Nicole:
Yeah, yeah. We can do that.

Carly:
Awesome. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your time today though. It’s been wonderful chatting, and I’m looking forward to hearing the next part of your story. Thank you.

Nicole:
Yeah. Bye.

Carly Grubb:

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. 

Join us on Patreon today 

“The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast (Podcast) is hosted by Little Sparklers (us, we or our).   

The primary purpose of this Podcast is to educate and inform. It does not constitute professional advice or services.   

We invite guests on the Podcast from time to time (Guests). In listening to this Podcast, you acknowledge and agree that the views expressed in this podcast are: 

  

  • information only and do not constitute professional advice from us or our Guests; 
  • personal to us and our Guests and do not necessarily reflect any other agency, organisation, employer or company and may not be verified for accuracy; and 
  • general in nature and do not refer to any unique situation. If you take action on the basis of any Podcast episode, you should obtain professional advice – whether legal, financial, accounting, medical or otherwise – before proceeding. 

 

This Podcast is available for private, non-commercial use only. Advertising which is incorporated into, placed in association with or targeted toward the content of this Podcast without our express approval is forbidden. You may not edit, modify, or redistribute this Podcast. 

We assume no liability for any activities in connection with this Podcast or for use of this Podcast in connection with any other website, third party streaming service, computer or playing device.