She Won’t Send Him to Sleep School

“This is where you will sleep” they said. We were just outside a small room, no larger than a prison cell. It was black inside, with a metal bed and a stereo in the corner that was half tuned into a station. All you could hear were voices and static flowing in and out. It was hot and stuffy and the door was heavy and deadlocked. The only way in was with a swipe card.

“You need to sleep here all night. You are not supposed to cry. If you do, a stranger will come in here and roll you on your side and pat you firmly until you stop crying. If you still don’t stop, you will cry until you are so tired you fall asleep anyway”

“You are scheduled to eat and sleep during the day as we see fit.”

My mother was beside herself. The head paediatrician told her that it was her fault that I couldn’t sleep on my own. She was feeding me when I didn’t want or need to be fed. They told her I wanted to be independent and she wasn’t letting me by putting me to the breast too much. They said I was self-weaning. They put her in a room too far away from me. It had a big, heavy door too that they insisted be closed at night so she couldn’t hear me cry. I felt sorry for her and sorry for myself.

I couldn’t help it. I needed my mum. I cried and I cried. The nurses soon realised I would be a challenge. They told my mum I just had ‘spunk’ and they would get it out of me. But I was determined to fight and by the second night my mum was too. She demanded a noise monitor in her room. She came to me when I cried. They told her she couldn’t feed me though and they were always watching because there was a video camera in my room and they could see her.

We were both so tired there. It wasn’t working. They wanted us to stay another night. It had been 3 nights already and I was still waking up every 2 hours during the night. I was so glad my mum said no and we finally got to go home.

My room at home was just the right temperature and it was comfortable. It had familiar smells and noises throughout the day and night. Sometimes when I cried mum or dad would come in to comfort me.

Tom sleeping

When I was in sleep school I was 9 months old. They were wrong about me self-weaning. I kept feeding until I was 15 months old and then I was happy with regular milk.

Now I’m 2 and a half and I sleep through the night. Sometimes if there’s a loud noise or I have a bad dream, I take my baby doll and car and crawl into mum and dad’s bed. I go to Mum’s bedside and she helps me over the side of the bed. She turns her back and I snuggle up against her and put my hand against her skin so I feel safe enough to go to sleep.

My baby brother is starting to wake up a lot and sometimes I hear him. I hear my mum’s footsteps go past my room to comfort him and I don’t need to get up because I know he is safe.

And I know she will never send him to sleep school.

One day he will sleep, just like me.


10 thoughts on “She Won’t Send Him to Sleep School

  • Ooh wow, that was a really powerful post. I tried two versions of sleep school — one during the day (that didn’t work), and one overnight stay (that taught me practices to use at home). I was fortunate to be in the room with my son at all times, and found it a relatively positive experience. I’m so sorry your experience was not. Thanks for sharing.

  • I did sleep school with both of my children, it was a very loving experience and not at all like this. Both experiences I had my baby in my room and was taught how to respond to my children. In both cases I was extremely exhausted and they were a god send

  • Wow, I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my face tandem feeding my boys to sleep, I will then move them into my bed for the night, they will grow up knowing love and that I’m there for them when they need me.

  • I really have a hard time believing that these systems are still used. For 25 years I have been ‘undoing’ some of those rigid routines – mums and bubs need to follow their own lead and deserve support, to learn how to communicate with each other.
    Loved reading the story from the child’s perspective 🙂

  • I too took my oldest to a sleep school. I too was told it was MY FAULT he couldn’t sleep. I was made to feel like the worst mother out there because I demand breastfed him and held, comforted him when he cried and couldn’t settle.
    He just couldn’t sleep without me. Even now at 7.5 yrs old he isn’t a great sleeper. It takes him ages to ‘unwind’ and turn off his mind. I have tried many things to help him but going to a sleep school was the worst thing we ever tried!
    Good for you Ange for writing such a confronting article!

  • I am so sorry you were put through that people can be so mean when they believe they are doing the right thing, without realising little people are just that little people, with there own feelings and thoughts and fears.

  • What a beautiful post. Having had two terrible sleepers (they’re starting to improve now, the youngest is nearly two), I can really relate to this post. When did we decide that tiny babies and children had to sleep all by themselves, alone in the dark? When did we come to think that this was the best thing for them? It seems crazy if you put it like that.

  • This brought tears to my eyes. I had to teach my little man to self settle at seven months. I had the assistance of a patient and loving sleep specialist who took a much more kind and sensitive approach with him as she saw how devastated I was to have to do it. I caved in. It was the most heart wrenching thing I have ever done and he still cried so much as did I as I sat there listening to him calling for me. He is fine now but it was the worst thing I have ever done. I needed it thought for my sanity as I (not realising at the time) was suffering from anxiety and post natal depression. I admire your strength to continue on. I wish I could have but I was beside myself from lack of sleep. Beautiful, powerful post. Thank you for sharing and I see why it got shared on Pinky’s Facebook page. Congratulations. Maria. x

  • Beautiful story. I had troubles getting my daughter to sleep for so long. It got to a point where the quickest way to get her to sleep was to drive her. If we drove for 1/2hr it was a good night, though it could take 45 mins – 1 hr. On the rare occasion 1.5hrs. It was very hard work and we were often exhausted. Now at 2 yrs and 5 mnth she is finally going to sleep on her own. Little tears were shed and I am so happy to have persevered and to have now found the light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

  • we’re considering going to Tresilians, I have a referral but I’ve been warned how harsh they are, Im just not sure it’ll be right for me bub. She’s a dreadful sleeper, especially during the day, but she is very needy and such a so clingy! This article definitely pushes me toward not going!

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