Sleeping Like a Baby

A rare post for me. A post where I confess I got it wrong. I hate that.

When Dd was born 14 years ago we didn't have twitter, I'm not very outgoing and I had few friends, none with babies, and I didn't join any 'mummy groups' (shudder) so I relied on books. I took some of the advice and rejected other bits. This post is just about the sleep thing... It's a post of what we did, why we did it, what happened, and why I wouldn't do it again, and what I would do if I had the time again.

I brought my newborn daughter home from hospital at 2 days old. And I exclusively breastfed her.(that's a whole other post)  We had a cot in our room, but it was clear she was too tiny to sleep in that from day one. I had a moses basket and she slept in that, either downstairs with us until we went to bed and then ... and then...

sleeping baby
DD 2 days old
Well to start with she was like most babies and had no schedule of sleepiness and wakefulness, she woke when she was hungry and slept when she was tired, usually in 2 hour or less gaps. For the first six weeks I fed on demand and she was with me all the time, my husband slept on the sofa or in the spare room and DD slept in her moses basket on the double bed, next to me. So I didn't exactly co-sleep but I don't exactly let her sleep alone.

I behaved like a normal grown up during the day, I walked the dogs, (I carried DD in a sling), I did housework, I watched TV. And I fed DD. But of course, at night I hardly slept, I was feeding or changing or just lying awake worrying or listening. By six weeks I was exhausted. I can vividly recall laying in bed in the dark with a crying baby in her basket, I had fed and changed her, I had cuddled her and sung to her, it was dark and I was sobbing too, rubbing her tummy gently and pleading with her to 'please go to sleep mummy is SO tired'

Eventually, despite her being so tiny, so new, I decided to try controlled crying. Not Crying it Out - a practice that seems to involve leaving your child to sob hopelessly until they either vomit or fall into a sleep of exhaustion, but controlled crying, a sort of 'planned ignoring for a bit'.

I read up on it and set a timer. 'Leave the baby to cry for 5 minutes alone in a darkened room'. When you are a new mum, bone tired and hormonal, weeping at everything, listening to your baby cry for 1 minute, never mind 5 is like the worst torture. Of course it is! It's supposed to be and I was an idiot - but more of that later. After 5 minutes I ran to DDs side, I followed 'the rules', I spoke quietly, stroked her, comforted her briefly then left again. I did this three times, each time was worse than the one before. Amazingly after the third time, she slept! And weeping, so did I.

I vowed never to do the crying thing again. It was too awful. But the same book also suggested nap times at set times in the day. I had been thinking like an adult of course, not a baby! The book said that a baby waking at 5 or 6 should be fed, washed changed, played with and cuddled and then put to bed for a nap by 9am! I was amazed, but of course, why not. So I started that, and a second nap at about 1pm too after dinner. Babies sleep all over the place but she did slip into a pattern once I started the planned naps. It was bliss.

From about 7 weeks she slept through the night.

When I say she slept through, I'm not talking about popping her to bed at 7pm so we could have a fun adult evening of course! She fed and fussed all evening on and off until about 11pm when I'd give her a last feed, change her, cuddle her, read her a story or sing her a song (yes really) and then put her into her cot, in our room, and I'd stumble into bed myself. Then at about 5 she would wake for breakfast! I'd feed her, while lovely husband made a cup of tea.

sleeping baby
DD at about 3 months

DD slept in our room, in her cot, with us until she was one year old and then we moved her to her own room. I didn't want her old enough to start shouting out scores for our lovemaking! She could get out of her cot by the time she was 18 months, and when we moved house (when she was 2) she gained a midi sleeper bed. She would get out of bed at 4 or 5 am and come padding in to our room and slip into our bed almost every night. A cute cuddly toddler sneaking into bed with you is not the worse thing that can happen. We just squished up and all slept on.

She continued to come into our bed for various lengths of time until she was much older. Finally deciding that her own bed was fine and that she could play quietly or read until we got up.

So would I change things? Yes. Would I do the controlled crying? No. I'm not sure if it really did anything, maybe it just tired her out - it certainly stressed me! If I had the time again I would simply keep her with me and make more use of daytime naps (for myself!) in the early weeks and months. I would still do the planned nap times though,as that seemed to really help with her sleep. As she grew older, even though she dropped the morning nap, the afternoon one was essential for a good nights sleep until she started nursery school!

She is 14 now and I miss having a tiny person needing a cuddle in the wee small hours. Trust me, however bad it seems now (if you are reading this at 3am with a crying baby or a clingy toddler) you will miss it when they grow.

My advice to new parents? You can do it. You will be tired. Listen to advice but don't feel you have to take it. All babies are different, you might get a 'sleeper' or a really wide awake one. But that baby is your baby, an amazing small person and however they make you sob with fatigue, they will one day sleep all night and suddenly, while feeling more awake you will feel less needed, and you'll miss it, just a tiny bit.

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