*N.B. I’m planning to write a separate post about breastfeeding, so this is mainly a post about sleep. Or lack of. Or of finally getting some sleep after what felt like a lifetime of none….
Ted really didn’t sleep that much when he was a baby.
At least, I don’t think he did.
But he must’ve done, mustn’t he? Because that’s what babies do. So I’ve heard.
Perhaps he did, but I was too exhausted myself, and shell-shocked and – insert more new mum clichés here – to realise, or to form proper memories.
No, let’s go with my initial statement: he really didn’t sleep that much.
Before he was born, we bought the Sleepyhead Deluxe. I’d heard how these (very expensive) inventions were a boon for getting babies to sleep, and they were portable too! How handy.
I romanticised about plonking my beautiful snoozing baby in it next to me on the settee, while I enjoyed a box set and a chocolate HobNob or two.
I can laugh at my naivety now. I know everyone says it, but I was so unprepared for the sleep disruption and sleep deprivation following Ted’s arrival.
And he did sleep, of course. It’s just that he was never a very settled newborn, and so neither was his sleep.
He was colicky for the first three months (which I’ve previously written about) and we had some awful nights as a result: 20 minute snatches of sleep here and there, two to three hours at a time when things began improving, slowly, around month four.
And things finally improved to the point of which I’d dreamed about – i.e. Ted sleeping through! – a mere* 16 months later.
*’Mere’ is used tongue-in-cheek here, if you hadn’t noticed.
How Ted Finally Slept Through The Night
Ted finally started sleeping through at the start of this year, when he was about 19/20 months old. YIKES.
I always remember our lovely next-door neighbour telling us, when Ted was a newborn, how her first child didn’t sleep through ‘til he was 11 months. 11 months! She obviously thought she had it bad.
I recall thinking at the time, in the newborn fug, how on earth will I survive almost a year without proper, unbroken sleep?
YEP YOU MIGHT WANT TO ADD ANOTHER EIGHT OR NINE MONTHS ONTO THAT LOVE. Y’KNOW, FOR GOOD MEASURE.
And so for 19 months or so, our nights featured at least one wake-up, when I would feed Ted back to sleep.
One wake-up was a good night; one was completely manageable. It was when it went into the twos and threes and lordhelpus sometimes more than that, that I wanted to fling myself out of the nearest window.
I was finally getting to the end of my tether with it around Christmas time, and Graham and I talked about implementing some kind of ‘sleep training’.
And then took another month or so to do anything about it.
In the end, it was surprisingly OK. Not completely painless, but OK.
Here’s what we did:
Night 1 – when Ted woke up, Graham went in to see to him, rather than me going in to feed him as I’d always done. Ted didn’t like this. He cried, on and off for around an hour. It was awful.
(People might judge this regardless…but he wasn’t crying continually for an hour. He settled himself after 10 minutes or so, and would fall asleep, only to then wake up again. Graham kept going in to stroke his back etc at regular intervals.)
Once he’d settled, he didn’t wake up again until the morning.
Night 2 – Graham went in again when Ted woke up. This time, Ted was asleep again after about 15 minutes, and didn’t wake up until the morning.
Night 3 – Ted slept through.
As stated, we didn’t implement this until Ted was almost 20 months old, and obviously I have no way of knowing whether it would have been effective if we’d tried it earlier.
(At the time, Ted was still breastfed about three times during the day and at least once at night – for comfort, clearly.)
There are a few reasons why we didn’t implement our ‘training’ earlier: mainly because, whenever we discussed it and were gearing ourselves up to try it, Ted would go down to one wake-up per night, and I’d say the situation was manageable.
And then soon enough we’d be back up to 2-3 wakings, and the whole cycle would start again.
But the fact that Graham has to get up for work early each morning and is sometimes away with his band, and never did night feeds because Ted was breastfed, all meant that he wasn’t keen on dealing with the night wakings (YEP COS I’M SO BLOOMIN’ KEEN ON IT, SUNSHINE).
I’m very aware that this all makes me sound like a 1920s housewife and yes, sometimes I wanted to punch him in the head. Hard. Several times over.
But it’s done, now. *Goes off to duff up punchbag with G’s face on it*
And also, sleep training and ‘controlled crying’ mostly felt too harsh when Ted was smaller. We had tried it, intermittently and with no real conviction, when he was under a year, and I just couldn’t do it.
Some experts would say that babies don’t ‘need’ feeds at that age, and maybe they don’t, but they do need a lot of comfort. And it just didn’t sit well with me to ignore this.
If our successful ‘training’ at 19 months hadn’t gone as well as it did, if Ted hadn’t shown signs of settling himself early on and had instead continued to get upset, then we would have stopped.
Note that I am making no judgement on parents who do sleep training/CC earlier. Sometimes your sanity is at risk, sometimes your situation needs to change. I get that, and you have to do what you gotta do.
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What I’ll Do Differently With Baby Number Two
And now…now we’re months away from going through it all again with baby number two.
And I’ve been thinking if there’s anything I might do differently, if indeed there IS anything one CAN do differently.
Because on one hand, there’s the argument that all babies are unique; that they’ll do their own thing no matter how many Swedish sleep aids you buy.
And then there’s the argument for Baby Whispering and Gina Ford books and getting them in a routine that ensures they sleep eight hours straight from day dot.
I mainly sway towards the former argument, not least because I panic-bought Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg when Ted was about two weeks old, read about ten pages of it and had to stop myself from reading anymore, for my own sanity and self-worth.
From what I remember, it’s about getting into a routine of ‘Eat – Activity – Sleep – You’ as early as possible, with those four words making up the acronym EASY (ha!).
Maybe I threw in the towel too EAS-il-Y, but I knew from reading a small section of the book that it had the potential to send me doolally if I tried – and failed – to follow it to the letter.
(I must’ve felt my sanity would be better served with two hours sleep a night instead, ho ho.)
So how WILL I do things differently this time?
1.I’ll read a couple of baby sleep books, but will take them with a pinch of salt
Given what I’ve just said about how reading a few pages of the Baby Whisperer completely traumatised me, this might sound a bit daft.
BUT after being reminded of Tracy Hogg’s seemingly impossible advice, I’m now curious to read it while not under the pressure – literally – of a screaming newborn.
Is her advice really that impossible? I suspect so, but I’m interested in giving it another go. I’ll also revisit another book that I ordered during one of hundreds of 2am wake-ups: Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
From memory, and as the title suggests, this book takes the opposite stance to Tracy Hogg and Gina Ford and all of those cruel baby oppressors (KIDDING…or am I?) and suggests various ideas that don’t involve putting your baby outside in the garden overnight or whatever GF says. (She doesn’t really say that, I promise.)
(One thing that Pantley is big on, from what I recall, is trying to get babies to form an attachment to something other than you – which I never managed with Ted and is no doubt a large factor in why he was still waking to be comfort-fed at 19 months.)
AND THEN…I will take all of the advice with a pinch of salt, because I mainly believe babies do whatever the heck they like. However, I will still give them a whirl.
Due to my weird fear of ‘jinxing’, I did absolutely no ‘swotting up’ before Ted was born and had no knowledge WHATSOEVER of babies: what they do, how they’re likely to sleep, ANYTHING.
And so I’ll be interested to see if being better informed helps in any way.
(And yes OF COURSE I know I’ll be ‘better informed’ through having had a baby already, not from reading a book, but I’m still going to have a look at those damn books again, OK??)
2. I’ll be prepared to set up a bed for me and baby away from Graham and Ted
I wrote in my newborn essentials list about setting up a camp bed in Ted’s nursery during the peak of his crap sleep, and I found this very hard last time, because I hadn’t prepared myself for it.
Ted was so unsettled, and neither Graham nor I were getting any sleep, and it was all pretty awful. It made sense that we slept away from Graham – during the really horrendous, 20 minute stints period – so he at least didn’t feel like death before going out to work every day.
I’m not saying that this sort of set-up is essential for everybody, but you might want to consider it, so it’s not a massive shock if it does end up happening.
3.I’ll have my ‘miracle’ swaddle blanket, sling and noise machine at the ready
I also wrote in my essentials list about these three things being lifesavers in the early days last time, yet they were purchases I made relatively late.
Ted was already a few weeks old and I’d already aged 25 years by the time I realised I needed them. They all helped.
I can’t afford to age another 25 years unless I decide that ‘octogenarian’ is the look I’m going for, so I will be using them all from the outset this time.
(And baby number two will sleep in the Sleepyhead in a Snuzpod next to me, which is the set-up we had last time.)
In addition to these three points, I will keep front of mind my belief that babies all do their own thing.
I will expect things to be pretty dire for the first three months at least.
I will repeat the mantra THIS TOO WILL PASS.
I will expect a rough ride and I will not put pressure on myself to achieve anything other than ensuring that we all make it through the day in one piece each day.
And anything else will be a bonus, right?
Bye for now x