How I taught my baby to sleep in 3 days

For 18 months, my daughter was rocked to sleep and never self settled. Here’s what happened when we called in baby sleep specialist Jo Ryan from Baby Bliss.


The idea of ‘training’ a baby to sleep was never something I could understand. I mean, babies learn how to breathe, swallow, babble and walk by themselves, so shouldn’t the ability to sleep also be in their biological make up?

Apparently not

For months and months Madeleine would wake at 9:30pm sharp crying for myself and hubby. We joked and called it the “Madeleine Special”. But then it stopped becoming funny. 9:30pm was followed up by 11pm, then 1am, 3am … Until we would cave and just plonk her in our bed so we could get SOME rest! This happened every night. I had a strict no-bed rule with my now three-year-old son, who is a great sleeper, so this frustrated the hell out of me.

Our home became a breeding ground for grumpy behaviour – for the kids and hubby and I – so something needed to be done. Enter baby sleep specialist Jo Ryan from Baby Bliss. Jo prides herself on a simple ‘no cry’ method and promised we would have a sleeping baby within a week. Here’s what happened …

I, an attachment parent, rocked my sweet, bubbly baby girl, Madeleine, to sleep for 18 months. Yes, 18 freakin’ months! The thought of letting her “cry it out” was never an option for me. Sure, sending her off to sleep in the comfort of my arms was sweet, with no crying to be heard, but did she stay there? Well, the answer is no.


Day 1: Jo takes over

Night sleep

When Jo comes for her overnight visit, it’s like I open the door and let Mary Poppins in. A little play with the kids and a talk and she recommends Madeleine goes to bed earlier than her usual bedtime of 7:30pm. The fact that she only has one day sleep and has been up since 2pm could be contributing to her restless nights. So off to bed she goes. Under Jo’s instructions, I put Madeleine to bed at 7:15pm, kiss her goodnight, place her in the cot and walk out. Your prediction of her reaction would be correct … she screams! But it’s Jo’s turn to sort it out. From now on tonight, she will do all the settling.

There’s a bit of crying at 8:35pm and 10pm. Both times, Jo enters and uses the same rule. White noise and a pat. It takes her no longer than five minutes to settle her. Then nothing. Nothing until 6:20am where my precious, cheeky, manipulative monkey wakes happy as can be!

Jo enters the room and the crying almost immediately stops. Seven minutes later, Jo emerges with a little wry smile. “She’s asleep,” she says. Ummm … WHAT? A stranger put my child to bed in under 10 minutes without ANY rocking?! Her only tool? White noise on the phone and a little pat on her back.

Day 2: My turn

Day sleep

So now it’s up to me! Madeleine get tired a little earlier than normal for her day sleep, so I send her off to bed at 10:58am instead of midday. She cries and protests a little. But something interesting is happening. She seems to be getting annoyed with me. Annoyed with my new method of settling. So in protest, she wriggles to the furthest end of the cot where I can hardly reach her (short arms, you know) and continuously pushes my arm away. A bit of this and she settles to sleep in 15 minutes, where she stays for just over an hour.

Night sleep

Madeleine finds the idea of me trying to put her down using this new method hilarious. This continues for 10 minutes and I walk out of the room seeing as though she’s happy to be there. Cries begin. I re-enter and keep with her until she calms down. She now decides she wants me to touch her, so I rest my hand on her back and gently remove it as she starts closing her eyes. She’s finally asleep at 7:33pm.

The night waking begins at 12:20am (she misses the 9:30pm Madeleine Special … bonus!). I enter and she is standing at the ledge. I lie her down and pat her until she settles. This takes around four minutes. But the protests continue throughout the night. And they’re frequent. After waking almost every two hours, which requires me to enter and pat each time, she is ready for the day at 6am. I am tired.

Given her earlier day sleep, Jo recommends I put Madeleine to bed earlier tonight, this time at 7pm. She looks pretty buggered and I am hopeful it will happen in minutes. Wrong. FULL. OF. BEANS!



Day 3: Progress!

Day sleep

Madeleine is off to daycare and sleeps for 1hr 15 mins with no fuss reported.


Night sleep

Feeling a little frazzled from last night and a little deflated. Shouldn’t the method have worked by now?! I pop Madeleine to bed around 7pm again – this is to be her new bedtime under Jo’s orders. This time, my darling girl appears to have gotten it! She gives me no protest and no excited jumping. She lies straight down, and while there is a bit of a protest and wriggle, she is asleep within 15 minutes.

The night waking begins at 10pm but needs very little help from me to settle again. Then nothing until 4:10am. Jo tells me between 4-5am can be a tricky one to break. But I continue trying to get her back down. She falls back asleep and is awake and ready to go at 6:15am.

Day 4: The night of protest

Day sleep

Madeleine is off to daycare and sleeps for 1hr 45mins with no fuss reported.

Night sleep

Jo says the unsettled behavior last night could’ve been because Madeleine went to bed too late. So, off to bed at 7pm again. She gives me the same reaction as last night – hypo-central! I send her off to sleep with no touching and just a gentle “shhh”. She’s finally asleep at 8:08pm. It’s late, but she’s down!

The waking up continues. This time it begins at 10:10pm and is every hour. I was warned day three could be the worst with bub realising what is happening and will give a major protest, so I am prepared for the onslaught.

The morning begins a little earlier than the last. This time, she wakes at 5:45am and refuses to go back down. I am VERY tired.

Day 5: Feeling a bit more hopeful

Day sleep

Madeleine is off to daycare and sleeps for 1hr 45 mins with no fuss reported. Her teachers tell me Madeleine was extremely happy and playful today with very little of her usual whinging.

Night sleep

Throughout the night there is a bit of crying, but I leave her be for a couple of minutes each time. Most of the time she settles herself. The 4am wake-up proves to be a challenge still though. I head in there to settle her down and it works. She wakes a bit early though, 6am.

OK, she definitely knows what’s going on now! WOOOOO! We read our book and off to bed at7pm. Pretty much no touching is required, so I sit on the floor waiting for her to settle. Asleep in around 20 minutes.

Day 6: And my job here is done!


Day sleep

I needed to do some shopping today, so I try and head out before the usual midday nap. Despite my best efforts to keep her awake (I can see you all nodding), Madeleine falls asleep in the car on the way home at 10:30am. I transfer her to the cot when we get in and she sleeps a further hour-and-a-half. She cries halfway for what seems to be like one second and settles herself. Hoo-freakin-ray!

Night sleep

Considering she was happy to be in her cot last night at bedtime, I decide to not stick around tonight. I give a little kiss goodnight and close the door. A little protest and then … Not. A. Peep! She cries once through the night for a few seconds and settles herself. Up at 6:30am. She appears to have dropped that horrid 4am wake-up AND the 9:30pm “Madeleine Special”.


But the important thing is to just get back on that horse when things get back to normal again. You WILL sleep, dammit! I do now.

So, to sum things up, did Madeleine sleep magically after three days? Well, no. But there was definitely an improvement! And a solid change by day six.

While a change was seen after a solid week, my advice is to expect it to be a constant work in progress. When they teethe, you’ll fall off the wagon. When they’re sick, you’ll fall again. And sometimes they just want to test you to see if you will revert back to the good old days of rocking.