Judy Clark was euphoric when she gave birth to her firstborn daughter seven years ago. But little did she know that her life was about to change in ways she had not imagined. Ordinarily, the birth of any child should herald in one of the joyful episodes to a new mother. But it is also a time of anxiety.
What Judy had not factored in was the fact that the child was going to demand every ounce of her energy, day and night for as long as she was a toddler.
Prior to her giving birth, Judy had read widely on child rearing techniques. She felt she was ready and qualified for what was coming. But her efforts became a cropper from day one.
“My baby hardly slept, something that left me overly tired and almost ruined my career. She would wake up every hour of the day. Then came the endless cries that drove me to the breaking point,” says Clark.
By the time her daughter Jannah was eight weeks old, Judy had reached a breaking point.
At the time, Judy had a thriving career managing contact sales centres across the UK with a team of 200 people. At one time, she was the top training manager for the UK passport service. Business was booming with no room for disruptions, or so she thought.
“I was managing hundreds of employees but had failed in calming a new born baby. I thought I will manage her the same way I managed the adults. I wept bitterly as friends scolded me for what they thought was baby negligence,” she says.
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The baby’s lack of sleep had adverse effects on her family as well. The baby’s poor sleeping patterns altered her moods, something that almost strained her relationship with her husband.
As a train engineer, her husband needed enough rest but the baby would not allow that. The pain of having a sleepless child is something she would not wish on any family.
Furthermore, all the advice she got from others such as kissing her child goodnight hardly worked. It was time to seek professional help.
Through online research, she came across Dana Obleman, a leading child sleep specialist who coached her step by step on how to stop her baby from the hourly wakes to sleeping through the night and taking naps throughout the day.
“I was so amazed and felt a calling to help families achieve this. I was honoured when Dana agreed to teach me her methods so I could pursue this dream,” she says.
Two years ago, Dana invited Judy to Canada for training on child sleep therapy. Since then, Judy has been travelling all over the world giving both public lectures and private, family oriented lessons on the subject.
This, says Judy, is a sacrifice she has to make for no mother wants to go for nights without sleeping due to a baby who cannot sleep.
“I had a successful career and loved every bit of it. I felt complete doing what I did. Choosing between helping families and continuing to work in the big city was a tough decision to make. My extended family thought I was making a mistake quitting a well paying job for sleep therapist,” she says.
I had met Judy at a city hotel on the eve of one of the public lectures in Lavington. She was flanked by her husband and their two young daughters.
“If it were not for her, I would never have trained as a child sleep specialist,” she says as she points to her firstborn daughter who keeps sneaking into our interview.
According to Judy, no baby wants to wake up and cry for the sake of it. Babies, she adds, communicate to us through crying. They cry when hungry, wet, and even when sleepy.
“Babies do not follow our timelines. They need routines. They are capable of sleeping for 15-16 hours a day. But that is hardly the case with many babies.
Through telephone calls, Skype, group seminars or outright personal home visits, Judy has become like a port of call for distraught mothers.
According to Judy, there are steps to follow in order to benefit from the lessons. As an example, a parent will have to fill in a comprehensive questionnaire about the child’s sleep habits and routines before any session in order to evaluate the kind of help needed.
Thereafter, a 90 minute telephone call, skype call or visit will discuss strategies and troubleshoot possible problems with a view to learning how to address them. Issues to be addressed include bedtime, naptime or night-wakings.
Within six hours, a detailed, customised sleep pattern in then prepared and emailed to the family with phone calls during the next two weeks just to offer support or address any possible setbacks.
Interestingly, Judy says mothers unknowingly play a part in having sleepless nights due to babies who cannot sleep. She says babies are “overworked” during the day by keeping them awake longer than necessary.
Some feel that by keeping them awake longer during the day, it will translate into more sleep at night. The opposite is true. Keep them awake longer during the day and you will pay back at night,” she says.
According to Judy, a baby who is not sleeping well will affect the entire family one way or the other. As an example, an overly tired mother will not feed well, translating into poor health and little milk for the baby.
“It’s a cycle. I was adversely judged by others who thought I was managing my secular career perfectly at the expense of my family. Mothers all over the world go through such judgmental phases,” she says.