Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shhhhh, do you hear that? Blessed night time silence

I'm sure any new parent will agree with me that the first few months with a baby is hard. There are so many new things to get used to, like having a tiny human completely reliant on you for one, but I think the thing that got me the hardest was the sheer lack of sleep. Of course it's expected at the newborn stage, but some eight months in, the lack of sleep is really starting to take a toll.

She has always been a good day sleeper, but with the cold weather lately, Ellie has increased her usual peaceful once a night dream feed to to screaming awake 2-3 times a night with soaking wet nappies and wanting a feed, cuddle and play each time. Obviously, the constant waking up was murdering Mr Fork and I as each time she woke it would take a good hour to get her back to sleep, what with the nappy change, feed, settle etc. She would stand up and scream in her cot for ages afterward and we'd clutch each other in the dark whispering about what we should do next. Finally at about 3am, Mr Fork would bring her into our bed and we'd all doze uncomfortably until it was time to get up.

One wide awake Ellie!

Some internet research pointed at a couple of potential causes. First, her age indicates she's starting to get separation anxiety when anything changes, including a nappy. Or, waking up in a strange room with no mum or dad immediately nearby when they were there when you fell asleep. I suppose when you put yourself in that head space, it's understandable to be sad and scared and want comfort and play when you wake up. Second, being cold apparently makes babies wet nappies more.

Something had to change, and I can tell you, it was not me getting used to waking up rudely three times a night. Instead, we revised and modified our sleeping routine to better help Ellie learn to self settle instead of using my boob, or snuggles as a sleep prop.  She needs to learn that no matter how cranky she gets, she is still going to sleep in her own bed and not ours. I know that many people like to co-sleep but it just doesn't work for us here.

Now, it's a fairly structured routine, to help her get into the habit of knowing that these things mean bed time: bath, quiet play, book, boob, bed. We put her to bed sleepy, but not asleep so that she can re-learn to self settle. During the constant wake ups, Mr Fork got into a nasty habit of letting her fall asleep on his chest while he patted her bum, and then ninja-ed her into her cot without her knowing.

Chest sleeping baby (milk coma helps)
No more.  Now, we dress her warmly (onesie, sleep sack, blankets over the top, heater at the ready for when it's colder), feed her, tell her it's time to sleep and leave her to it. If necessary, we pat her a little then leave the room. She can scream, we simply go in and pat her until she's quiet then leave again.

If she wakes in the middle of the night, we have stopped all but one milk feed as I know that nutritionally she no longer needs as many as she's getting. She gets one (I can't starve my baby, what if she is hungry?!) and then back to bed. She is fed with minimum stimulation - no eye contact, no talking, no cuddles - as utilitarian as I can make it. Once again, in bed she can scream all she likes, I will get up and pat her, but knowing that she is warm and full, no picking up and snuggling. Definitely no bringing her into our bed... I'm looking at you Mr Fork! Any subsequent awakenings - she gets offered water only as I know she's searching for comfort, not food.

Anyway, it was a week of hell at our place - many times I was up and down like a jack in the box with all the patting.  There was much outrage on all sides - Ellie because she wasn't being snuggled and brought into the big bed, mine because I kept catching Mr Fork breaking the guidelines we'd agreed to and Mr Fork wanting to do anything to shut everyone up. Finally though, success!

We had a sleep through, and then another, and let me tell you, I woke up feeling saner than I had in a long time. Bless you, sleep! I'm sure there will still be awakenings, and I can cope with those, but I do hope this is a trend that continues.

A well sleeping bub
What about other mums? Have you had any luck with infant sleeping?

1 comment:

  1. We're coming up on 20 months and still waking up about 3-4 times a night. So if you ever find a solution I'm all ears!

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