My journey into loving babies started 24 years ago. When I was just 4 years old, I remember my youngest sister as a newborn and I was utterly in love. I upgraded my dolls for the real thing. I pretended she was mine. It was from this very early age that I became entranced with babies.
I come from a family of 4 children; 1 boy and 3 girls. At the age of 8, instead of asking for chocolate and sweets when at the shops like my siblings, I remember asking my mum to buy me baby and parenting magazines. I had a thick A4 book and I would cut up the magazines, going through it for anything I wanted to remember and learn more about to stick it in ‘my’ book. Growing up, I wanted to be a paediatrician, to work with babies all day long. Unfortunately for me, school, namely biology, science, and maths, were not my strong points.
I then volunteered at an orphanage when I was 12 years old. My mum would drop me off every Friday for a few hours after school. It was an orphanage for abused and abandoned children from newborn onwards. I loved it. I loved making a difference. I loved the looks on their little faces when I walked through the door. I loved the fun we had. They swarmed me each and every time I walked in. Towards the end of the night, as part of their bedtime routine and I think a small, well-deserved break for the workers, the children were treated to a movie, or part of a movie. Every time I went, I would bring a new movie for them to watch, almost always one they had never seen before. It was a magical delight for them. I would sit in the middle of the room and they would all sit around me. It was touching and beautiful yet sad, all at the same time. I formed extremely close bonds with a few of the children, mostly the under one-year-olds. I tried to foster one particular little boy who I fell in love with, but I couldn’t as I was too young and my mum just didn’t have the time to give up to volunteer with me and foster him herself.
Over time, they would get sent back to their families or guardians once deemed safe for them to go back. Each time one of them left, it broke my heart and I would cry and cry. After about a year, I had to leave and give up volunteering, as it was becoming increasingly hard to become so emotionally attached and see little ones go.
At the age of 18, I decided to go to London. I dreamed of becoming a nanny, looking after children, becoming part of a family, making a difference, and loving the children like I would my own. I did. I did all those things. I became a nanny. I loved each and every day. I loved each and every moment spent with the children I looked after.
I quickly came to learn that I could read children. They had not the words but I could ‘tune in’ and ‘get them’. I knew what they wanted almost before they knew what they wanted. I was a good nanny. I was a great nanny. I carried on nannying for the next 10 years.
During that time, I became very intuitive with sleep. Each family I came across, I would easily be able to help them get their little one sleeping well. At the time, I didn’t know I was doing anything different, anything ‘special’. Until finally, I realised I really was very good at helping little ones sleep. It never involved crying, and it was always done with all the care in the world.
Towards the end of my nanny career aged 28, I decided to really explore and hone in on this skill. I began night nursing and baby sleep coaching alongside nannying. It was a busy period for me. Nannying during the day and helping children learn how to sleep by night! But as crazy as it sounds, I wasn’t tired. I was so fired up. So incredibly inspired and fuelled by doing the thing that I most loved doing. The thing I seemed to have a calling, a talent, for.
Before I began working the nights, I properly qualified as a sleep consultant because it was the right thing to do, but to me, it was just a piece of paper which I had to obtain. Some of the methods which are taught go against everything I believe. I received my certificate and held on to my method with all the love in my heart.
I don’t believe any baby should be left to cry. I especially don’t believe a baby should be left to cry in the name of teaching him/her how to sleep. In my opinion, this should be banned just as smacking a child is and the people still making money out of this should feel terribly ashamed. The thought that professionals are being paid to hand out this advice really makes me angry.
4 months ago I became a mother and have been so truly blessed with my own gorgeous daughter who I can now call my own. It is magical beyond words.
Now I run my own business called Happy Baby And Me. I teach babies how to sleep in the most gentle, caring way, without using any of the ‘cry it out’ methods.
I see myself as a realist. I’m not in the group of thinking that babies are babies and babies just don’t sleep, nor am I in the group of thinking that you should let a baby cry him/herself to sleep (too terrible for words). I 100% believe babies can learn how to sleep and I believe that we, as parents, need to sleep. No one can function at their best without sleep. I have seen relationships disintegrate through the lack of sleep. Just as babies learn to do everything else – breastfeed, sit, crawl, walk, talk, drink from a sip cup, tie a shoelace, do a math sum – so can they learn to sleep. When I talk about a baby sleeping, I never disregard feeding. If a baby needs to eat in the night, he absolutely should. I mean that a baby should be able to sleep until he is hungry, wake to feed and be able to go back to sleep again. It’s when a little one is waking all night long even when not hungry that I begin to think something else is going on and that’s generally when parents get in touch with me too.
To assume babies don’t sleep is taking away that chance for them before they’ve even had the chance to try, or for you to try and teach them.