Posted: 16 Jun 2011 17:44
In the Mail on Sunday Joe Cole and his wife Carly have suffered from sleep deprivation following the birth of their baby Ruby. A simple solution that can stop children getting disturbed is to use Magic Blackout Blind - this is a temporary blackout window covering. You just tear off a sheet and place on the window. Magic Blackout Blind stops all light, even round the window edges. www.magicblackoutblind.co.uk
Read the full article.
With her glossy dark hair, gleaming manicured nails and even more gleaming smile, Carly Cole, wife of Liverpool and England footballer Joe, shows not the slightest hint of being a frazzled new mother.
Yet just five months ago it was a very different story.
Her daughter Ruby, now 14 months old, had been a terrible sleeper since birth and for ten months Carly survived on three hours' sleep a night.
Carly Cole with 14-month-old Ruby, who is now sleeping through the night
She and Joe, 29, frequently slept in separate bedrooms - Ruby was in a Moses basket beside their bed for six months - and their social life was non-existent. Equally exhausted, Ruby was fractious during the day and would cling to Carly, 26, making it impossible for her even to shower until Joe returned from training.
Small wonder, then, that Carly and Ruby's faces light up when baby sleep guru Alison Scott-Wright, a former maternity nurse, joins us for the interview. Carly turned to her last winter and now credits Alison with cracking Ruby's sleeping problems after spending five nights at their Merseyside home in January.
'Ruby loves Alison, and Joe and I call her the baby whisperer,' says Carly. 'When a baby is crying, after you've fed and changed and winded them, it's hard to know what it is they want. Alison just seems to know, and Ruby understands her. She's saved our sanity and our relationship.'
According to a survey of 2,000 parents by organisers of trade event the Baby Show, one in ten new parents are still sleeping in separate beds a year after the birth of their first child, and over a third reported their baby's sleep pattern having a negative impact on their relationship.
'One of the big worries was how the lack of sleep would affect Joe's fitness and performance,' says Alison. 'When you don't sleep, you lack energy and tend to eat badly, relying on sugary foods to give a quick energy boost.
'Joe would often have a match in the evening then have to be up and out by 8am for training, so he had to sleep in a separate room from Carly and the baby. He is dedicated to his job, so sacrifices had to be made.'
Saviour: Baby sleep guru Alison Scott-Wright, a former maternity nurse who has written a book to help new parents
As Alison highlights in her book, The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan, sleep deprivation is an internationally recognised form of torture, yet few people realise the damaging effects it can have on health.
Apart from symptoms such as irritability, sleep deprivation in adults often causes digestive problems, mood swings and headaches, and is a major factor in post-natal depression. It has also been linked with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a weakened immune system.
Poor sleep leaves babies clingy and tearful and some studies have shown long-term problems also affect cognitive development.
Alison rejects Department of Health advice that babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for six months, believing this is disruptive, and advocates three-hourly instead of four-hourly feeds through the day, so that night feeding is less necessary. For little Ruby Cole, though, there was no underlying medical problem behind her reluctance to sleep.
'Like all new babies, Ruby wanted feeding every few hours during the night which made a routine seem impossible,' says Carly, who breastfed her daughter. 'I assumed, like the books and NHS advice said, that once she got to 12 weeks old, she'd start sleeping more and feeding less.'
Unfortunately, Ruby continued to take an age to go to sleep and would wake throughout the night. Carly would rock her daughter for hours, while Joe would try singing her to sleep with lullabies. It is an exhausting scenario familiar to countless new parents.
Rest assured: Carly and Liverpool FC player Joe Cole on a day out with Ruby
'Ruby became really challenging during the night,' says Carly. 'She started pulling herself up on to the side of her cot and would cry hysterically, throwing her toys on the floor. Friends said we should leave her to cry, as did many of the baby books. Other books said we should sleep with her, while some said we shouldn't. It was so confusing.
'I'd end up giving her a feed to calm her down but half-an-hour later she'd cry for another one. Then her nappy would be wet through.
'In the end, Ruby wasn't happy and it was ruining our personal life. I couldn't concentrate on basic tasks because I was so tired, and Joe and I would snipe at each other as you do when you're exhausted.'
At the end of her tether, last December Carly dialled Alison's number, having read about her on a baby website. A month later the 'baby whisperer' arrived at their home for five nights. At a cost of £1,000 per 24 hours, Carly admits she was very fortunate to be able to afford it but that it was 'the best money I've ever spent in my life'.
Fortunately, cheaper help is available in the shape of Alison's book, website and telephone consultations at £60 per half-hour.
Alison - who has all the relevant experience as a mother and grandmother- says: 'Many parents-to-be resign themselves to the horror stories you hear about hours spent rocking a screaming baby, driving it around in a car in the early hours, or pushing it round the house in a pram to get it to sleep. But if you put the right sleep training in place from day one of a baby's life, they should be sleeping for 11 or 12 hours a night from between eight and 12 weeks.'
Hundreds of families have benefited from Alison's no-nonsense sleep plan. For Ruby, Alison's reassurance sleep-training technique was required. Designed to encourage babies to sleep independently, it is aimed at infants who don't sleep through the night or have structured daytime sleeps.
Alison removes objects used to comfort babies, such as dummies, toys and lights, and bans the 'dream feed', where parents wake their baby before they go to bed, believing it won't wake later in the night - in fact it stimulates the baby's digestive system during what should be the deepest hours of sleep. She says parents should learn to distinguish their baby's different cries - between when they genuinely need attention and when they simply want attention.
'A baby should be placed into its cot awake so that it learns to soothe itself to sleep,' Alison explains.
'Once I'd put Ruby down that first night, she cried for the attention and feeds she was used to. But at intervals I re-entered the room, placed my hand on her back and reiterated, "That's enough now, Ruby, it's sleepy time," then promptly left the room again.'
After 40 minutes Ruby was asleep. When she woke and cried a couple of times in the night, Alison returned with the same reassuring hand on her back and firm words. There were no feeds and Ruby woke properly at 6.50am.
Joe and Carly, pictured during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, when Ruby's sleeping patterns were forcing them to sleep in separate bedrooms
'All babies quickly get used to repetitive patterns,' says Alison. 'A parent may have found it easier to settle baby with rocking or feeding, as Carly did, but within a matter of days this is what baby will come to expect and will find it difficult to settle without those crutches. But babies will also learn new habits and forget old ones quickly.'
Alison believes for an infant to sleep soundly at night, it needs enough rest and food in the day. 'Many parents try to keep their baby awake by day, believing it will make for a sounder night's sleep,' she says. 'Yet it's one of the biggest causes of a baby not sleeping, because it's overtired.'
On the second night, Carly and Joe were in charge under Alison's supervision. Ruby fell asleep 30 minutes after being put in her cot and woke once at 5am, when Carly told her firmly it was still sleepy time. She fell asleep until 7am.
Alison advocates that a strict morning routine is as important as bedtime so that a baby learns to distinguish between sleeping and waking. 'A parent must go into the baby's room, open the curtains and only then scoop baby up to say good morning. Babies quickly make associations with different times of day.'
Alison's other golden rule is never to wake a sleeping baby at night unless there's a medical reason.
When Alison left the Coles' home after five days, Ruby was sleeping for an astonishing 11 hours a night.
'Initially, I thought asking for help meant I'd failed,' says Carly. 'Yet with Ruby suddenly sleeping through at night, I wondered why I didn't call Alison sooner.
'I can see where we went wrong. By the time Ruby was three months, I'd taken her to the World Cup in South Africa, to Majorca on holiday, and then we lived in a hotel in Liverpool for eight weeks. It was difficult to have a strict routine in place.
'We're planning more children and we'll certainly be putting a strict feeding and sleeping routine in place from day one.'
The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan, by Alison Scott-Wright, £10.99, Transworld Publishers Ltd.
No wonder Joe's form on the pitch suffered
So it would seem we now know why Joe's performances suffered last season. Sleep deprivation can have numerous physical effects - hand tremors, muscle ache, even obesity - but it is the mental consequences of not sleeping that can be the most immediate and damaging, writes Dr Ellie Cannon. Poor sleep affects memory and concentration and usually leads to irritability and low mood.
It is well recognised that it has a detrimental effect on performance at work or school and, more dangerously, when driving. A lack of sleep, particularly in new parents, leads to a great deal of anxiety and this can turn the problem into a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and worry.
The NHS actually has very little to offer parents and children experiencing sleep deprivation. Many GPs and health visitors will talk parents through the steps they can try to get their children to sleep through the night, such as controlled crying and sleep hygiene.
But this is not something healthcare professionals are well trained in and the advice can be inconsistent. The majority of parents, without the financial resources for such an expensive resolution as Carly used, will be very much reliant on self-help books and the advice of reputable parenting websites.
New parents would never be prescribed sleeping tablets because it would be dangerous for them not to be able to wake up in the night and attend to their child. In extreme cases a paediatrician may prescribe something to help a child sleep, but this is very rare.