Shh…Baby’s sleeping right through the night. Yes, you read it right. And there’s a whole lot more to read yet. Australia’s own Baby Whisperer, Sheyne Rowley (pictured), has finally opened up her bottle of enriched experience and spilled all onto the pages of one of the most comprehensive books ever written on baby-rearing in Australia.
Sheyne Rowley’s incredibly detailed, holistic tome – Dream Baby Guide – comes hot off the tail of almost twenty years in the childcare industry, first as a childcare worker and teacher, then as a baby care specialist working with thousands of infants and families all over the world. Sheyne’s expertise is centered firmly in the cots and bassinettes of her wee charges, helping to resolve the seemingly unresolvable nightmare of parents everywhere – a sleepless baby.
Writing Dream Baby Guide was a natural step for the incredibly busy Rowley, whose Sleep Baby Sleep service has been running for seven years and simply cannot keep up with demand. The Guide was a way for this talented Baby Whisperer to make a difference in the lives of as many families as humanly possible.
“I was so busy working one-on-one with families that the idea of putting my processes into a book that would be comprehensive enough to cater for everyone’s individual needs seemed almost too great an undertaking,” Rowley told Australian Women Online.
Encouraged by the media, clients, family and friends, it wasn’t until she was approached by her ‘dream’ publisher, Allen & Unwin, that the author agreed to put experience to paper.
“I did want to write this book so I could help more than one family at a time,” said Rowley. “Writing [it] was extremely challenging. I am absolutely clear on the information I believe parents need to manage their individual situation with respect, so I had to include every possible scenario that contributed to unsettling a baby’s day and night. It took some serious focus.”
Now, three years later, Rowley is enormously proud of Dream Baby Guide, which took close to two years to put together and roughly one year to edit.
The book features an astounding 22 chapters which begin with the importance of communication and runs right through emotional tool kits, play, nutrition, sleeping environments and crying interpretation, just to name a few. Running to an astounding 769 pages, it is one intricately detailed baby care manual – one parents will appreciate for its ability to tap into a large variety of scenarios, problems, predictabilities and what-ifs. Essentially, Rowley has got you covered – and for any sleep-deprived parent, this has got to be a wonderful dream.
Dream Baby Guide takes a unique and extremely holistic approach to raising a happy, healthy, well-rounded super-sleeper that would make mum and dad proud. The tone is one of dedicated professionalism but genuine warmth and care. Rowley obviously loves what she does and takes pride in her carefully honed philosophy, which addresses the five keys to happy children and ecstatic parents: routine, communication, independence, environment and management.
“Understanding the Dream Baby Guide philosophy is how people will get the most out of this book,” says Rowley. “In a nutshell, it’s important to understand that we can never deal with sleep time difficulties in isolation of the rest of a child’s day. Sleep time imbalances are simply a mirror image of an imbalance in some other area of the day, so in order to correct sleep time imbalances, we must first balance our days.”
Although Rowley’s tone is certainly supportive of parents, she does, most refreshingly, tell it like it is – making it clear that many parents don’t understand the vital connection between sleep and waking hours.
“In order to balance a baby’s day, we must understand that everything is interlinked,” says Rowley, who believes that sleep time problems impact a baby’s ability to play and develop independent skills. “Without independent skills, a child will not be able to self-settle. Without the ability to self-settle, a baby will wake often, creating compensation eating. A child will then demand carbohydrate based foods only, creating a fussy feeder. A diet that is low in vitamins, minerals and iron will impact their temperament and ability to sleep… and so the cycle continues.”
Rowley’s astonishing insight into this vital, delicately-linked balance will be music to many a parent’s ear. Although she does tackle sleep routines head on, it’s ironic that much of her theory to beat bedtime blues rests on daytime issues. “We don’t fix sleep and then expect [a child’s] mood and temperament through the day to improve,” she said. “We actually need to work in reverse. Correct your days and you will achieve sleep.”
The wonderful thing about Rowley’s unique approach is that once healthy sleeping patterns are achieved, Dream Baby Guide doesn’t leave exhausted parents in the lurch. It offers a maintenance programme that focuses on communication style and independence work, ensuring babies never slip back into poor sleep patterns again.
Sound too good to be true? Not with Rowley’s dedicated approach, honed after years of training in early childhood development.
“We were taught to identify areas of difficultly and isolate the skills needed in that area of difficultly, then design a day rich in learning opportunities to promote the development of those skills,” explains Rowley. “It was obvious to me that there were some basic skills a baby needed in order to achieve the great big task of going to sleep.”
These four basic skills – aimed at children aged 6 to 24 months – include spending time in their cot awake, being able to lie down and understand a simple request from mum or dad, feeling comfortable to play independently, and being able to cope when a parent leaves the room. Essentially, these four skills form the foundation of the extensive philosophy behind Baby Dream Guide, a philosophy steeped in nearly twenty years of hands-on experience.
Combined with an understanding of sleep requirements, emotional development and nutrition, Rowley believes her methods are the only truly respectful strategy for repairing sleep or daytime difficulties. And yes, she believes sleep problems can be ‘repaired’, so it’s never too late to ease a nightmare toddler into the sweetest of dreams.
When asked about ‘controlled crying’ and other methods parents use to deal with sleepless babies, Rowley feels sceptical, saying these strategies don’t take into account the skills a child may be struggling with, and show a profound lack of understanding of child development.
“What frightens me the most,” says Rowley, “Is that often these are the only alternatives offered to parents by ‘professionals’ not only in Australia, but around the world. These approaches, in my view, are disempowering to a child, and neither empower a baby with the ‘life skills’ needed not just for sleep and happy days while they are young, but for happy schooling, friendships, communication, careers, marriages and life experiences.”
After months or even years of sleepless nights, some parents may feel a good night’s sleep will never happen again, however, Rowley has rarely come across a hopeless case – in fact, only around four cases in twenty years – usually due to a medical condition or other external issue. “I’m proud to say that when I start and follow right through with a programme, I still have a 99% success rate, even in extremely difficult scenarios,” says the smiling author.
Although Rowley currently has no children of her own, she insists she is like a mother to hundreds and hundreds of babies every year. “Once I start my own family, I will have to seriously scale back on investing in everyone else’s future to invest in my own, and I want to make sure I have everything in place before I do that. I have been blessed to have been exposed to thousands of scenarios because I have not started my own family, and that is how I have such a vast base of knowledge,” she told AWO.
Now, with a brand new baby book weighing in at a healthy 1.3kg, Rowley’s newest addition will certainly have little ones all over Australia easing into the Land of Nod. Dream Baby Guide has the goods to bring parents everywhere peace of mind, understanding… and a good night’s sleep. Rowley can relate. As she proudly says about her own new baby, “It was worth all the sleepless nights, tears and hard work.”