Sleeping Like A Baby

Whoever came up with the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ either had an odd sense of humour or was one of the few who had a baby who ‘slept through’ from early on. That phrase, and even THAT question about ‘sleeping through’, used to get me so upset in the early days and even now I sometimes feel I have to defend the fact my daughter still wakes up regularly at night. I’ve read up on it, it’s normal. The look on strangers faces would suggest otherwise and sadly society seems to be a little deluded when it comes to infant sleep and this is where I feel the issue lies. I can’t lie. On those days we’ve had a tough night of hourly waking up I have moments when I doubt my parenting skills. Those comments and glances really set the seed of doubt! I’m sure the majority of advice comes from a well meaning place and so I’m working on being mindful of that these days instead of getting frustrated and upset.

If only I could feel always feel as peaceful as Paisley looks here…

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So when did our ‘issues’ with sleep begin? From day 1. I remember bringing her home from hospital around 9pm, getting ready for bed and getting Paisley ready then laying next to her all tucked up in her Moses basket and wondering what I was supposed to do next. She would only have to stir and I’d ping awake and check she was fine! Once I stopped being so jumpy I followed her lead and would wake when she woke and offer her a feed then as she drifted back off on the breast I’d tuck her back in again. Those early days I had to keep reminding myself she doesn’t have a body clock and doesn’t know night from day so to let her lead and start working on reading her mind. I think we expected her to wake a lot early on but deep down hoped we’d gotten lucky and she’d be a sleeper…

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Around 4 months, during that wonderful sleep regression everyone ‘raves’ about, I came across an author called Sarah Ockwell-Smith and The Gentle Sleep Book on Facebook. Up to this point it appears Paisley had been ‘sleeping through’ statistically speaking with her 10pm-4/5am stints although, it still felt like it wasn’t enough or ‘normal’ at the time. Everyone from family to work colleagues to the local shop assistant shared their sleep ‘success’ stories of their babies sleeping from 4/6/8 weeks old. At 4 months we were suddenly thrown in to nights of her waking for a feed every 2 hours, sometimes even hourly if something was upsetting her. It was also around the point we became ‘accidental bedsharers’, another hot topic that is plagued with outdated advice. We were told over and over it would pass but it got to 7/8/9 months and we realised maybe this was our ‘normal’. Our expectations had to adapt and we soon realised she wasn’t broken, we hadn’t been doing her routine wrong, it was simply the way she was and we needed to make sure she continued to feel safe when she did wake needing reassurance (no matter how exhausting).

The many sleepy dust faces of Paisley…

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There’s a great book that’s been shared with me called ‘Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters‘ and I’ve found so many interesting points in there I think I will have to write a whole other post on it (I’ve literally 30+ folded pages since finishing it last week). Did you know that in many countries it’s the majority of parents that bed share with their children and it’s considered the norm? There are also greater links with breastfeeding and bedsharing in many other countries and lower risks of SIDS because of this. There is no rush or 6 month deadline to get those infants in to their own space to sleep alone.

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Some Mum friends assured me that everyone would sleep better being apart at night. With so many people saying we would be making that infamous rod for our own back it made us doubt our instincts and we’d spend a few stressful weeks trying to settle Paisley in her cot. It usually ended up with tears from all of us and we’d become exhausted through sheer frustration of trying to get her to sleep in her own room. We must be doing something wrong, surely? We got to a point where she would only settle with me. No matter what we tried she would only calm down and sleep next to me. We gave up fighting it, her, us…we went with our instincts and what felt right for us as a family.

Paisley likes to lay where I’ve been, where it’s warm, the minute I get up to nip to loo or get a drink…

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That beautiful nursery we’d created for her would be where she would sleep at 6 months (as recommended by all the safe infant sleeping guidelines) and at first it felt like such a waste. Then one day she took a day time nap in her own room, then another…and another. Then we thought we’d try her one night in her cot and she went down without a whimper. She doesn’t stay there all night, some nights it’s up to 4 hours and sometimes it’s only 1. We’ve no clue why. I truly believe there’s a right time for every baby and every parent and the more we force what we feel society needs from our babies the more upset we’re likely to cause. If I’d had expectations of bed sharing and her waking a lot in the night I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wasted months reading up on ways to perfect our bedtime routine (and spending a small fortune on the miracle sleep gadgets everyone raves about). What works for one family doesn’t work for another but we are always feeling guilty enough to try anything, right? Looking back now I wish I’d not felt guilty about her spending more time in bed with me, it’s been great for numerous reasons and most selfishly it’s been better for me as I haven’t had to get up 6+ times a night and try and feed in the dark sat up! Feeding laying down is brilliant, you must try it! On tough nights I have to remind myself that it isn’t forever. She won’t need me to sleep with her when she’s at University or need a boob to sleep before moving in to her first home. If anything studies suggest that attachment parenting styles (co-sleeping, bed sharing, babywearing etc) actually create more independence. I can’t prove that yet as she’s only 15 months but I can see a glimmer of Miss Independent in there already.

So if you’re fighting with your instincts about your night time parenting I’d highly recommend having a read of Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters. It’s reassuring in so many ways and has eased my over-active mummy guilt filled brain (for now…).

I would love to hear your sleep stories. Is it reassuring knowing you’re not alone in the middle of the night? I’ve had friends say their baby ‘sleeps through’ only to find they class not giving a bottle and only needing a cuddle back to sleep a few times a night as sleeping through…

 

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3 thoughts on “Sleeping Like A Baby

  1. It’s so true that a lot of it is about perception. I feel that we are very lucky that Dexter ‘sleeps through’; by that I mean that we put him down at 8pm and he gets up at about 7am the next morning, but in between that I am usually up at least once, but often twice or three times, to give him his dummy, a little “shhhh, shhhh”, a hand on his tummy and putting his sheep on. So is that sleeping through? I don’t know, I’m grateful that I’m often up for no more than about a minute at a time (I’m so accustomed to it now that sometimes I don’t even remember getting up!) and I’m also grateful that this, to me, feels like he is sleeping through. I know from discussions on Facebook that other people don’t class that as sleeping through and therefore struggle with it, wanting their babies to sleep even better than Dexter does, so for me, it’s all about perceiving it that way and feeling that Dexter’s sleep is more than ok in my mind?! Ok I’m waffling now, so I’m going to wish you and little Miss P a settled night! 🙂

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    1. Early on you see I thought when people said ‘sleeping through’ they meant they slept…through. No dummy, cuddles, feeds etc. If waking for comfort is classed as sleeping through then we’ve cracked it as she settles as quickly as she’s woken if my nipple is anywhere near her. On the rare occasion I have felt touched out or I’ve not been there she’s taken longer to settle down…maybe that’s then classed as waking?! We’ve never had a night where we’ve been up for hours with her crying but I’ve always thanked my breastfeeding for that as it instantly calms her. Who knows…I don’t think anyone does and maybe these misconceptions are what causes the most issues when Mummies discuss and compare notes?

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      1. Yes I think you’re right, it’s misconceptions and the fact that different ‘types’ of sleep affect people in different ways…I’ve never been a great sleeper, so to me getting up once or twice to give him is dummy is nothing new. We’ve never had hours of crying either, thankfully. Actually I tell a lie, the first night we had him we did but I think that was because I didn’t realise I needed to feed him, poor little thing!! 😳

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