Sleep – our personal battles

Every morning when I check into Twitter I read about how lots of people’s children have slept. Invariably there are virtual fist pumps for good nights or upset at bad nights with disturbed sleep, crying or the inevitable move into the parents bed at some point.

Sleep for us has been ok. At the beginning, obviously, I barely got any. Joni was breastfed on demand for 5 months – so her wish was my command! Her wish at the beginning during the night was to feed every 2-3 hours. Initially, for a week or three this was a big deal. It would involve lights on, application of cream for soreness, feeding, nappy changing and then watching her a fair amount. Then we got into a routine of me barely waking up and managing to feed her and us both go straight back to sleep.

This carried on with varied success – obviously some nights were better than others – Joni was as unpredictable as other babies in that sense. The price you pay for feeding on demand I think.

Then I felt like it all went wrong.

Our sleep set up annoyed me. She slept better in bed with me but this didn’t work for us – Chris would have nightmares that he was squashing her or had lost her and I find it very hard to sleep peacefully when Chris isn’t there so sleeping elsewhere was not an option. We had a beautiful crib, it was the one that Joni’s Grandad slept in in the ’50s – lovingly refurbished in a beautiful Cath Kidston fabric by her Grandma. But it didn’t really work for us. I couldn’t see her in it, as on it’s stand it was higher than our bed and because of the surgery i’d had I found it really hard to lift her in and out of it from lying down. So the stand was abandoned and she was on the floor in the crib. Cue fear of throwing a pillow on her in my sleep. Then, when she was about 10 weeks she started bashing her fists on the sides (which were solid) and waking us all up.

So we moved the cot into our room and this worked a bit better. She seemed to like the space and I loved being able to see and touch her from lying down. She slept through the night most nights for a while.

This is where I think I made my biggest mistake. For some reason I had it in my head that I absolutely should not be introducing solid food until she was 6 months. At 5 months she started feeding every 45 minutes day and night and I was shattered. Exhausted. Fed up. So I stopped breastfeeding. Really, I should have introduced solid food a bit earlier and could have fed for longer. Obviously, this disrupted her sleep.

Then she got ill. She was ill for a solid 4 months. Chest infections, ear infections and then a bug which eventually had her in hospital because she was not gaining weight. Needless to say this put our sleeping regime out of the window.

I really thought that by this stage she’d be sleeping through the night.

She does sleep through the night now, when she’s not ill or teething. Which seems to still be all the time. When she wakes up I go straight in and pick her up, offer her some water and sit in her room cuddling her until she is settled again. Sometimes this takes 10 minutes sometimes it takes 2 hours.

I still have big issues with her sleep. I cuddle her to sleep every night – mostly because it’s easy, she drops off within 5 minutes, but a little bit because I love cuddles.

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I’m worried that this won’t be an option anymore when Baby2 arrives. I’ll be home alone at bed time so I really need to use the next three months to get Joni to go to sleep on her own after her usual bed time routine. Blurgh. Hard work and no rewarding cuddles for me.

I should also probably sort out her day time naps. This is where we are probably laziest and it really should change.

She generally has either a nap early on in the morning and then one after lunch or a longer nap over lunch time and an earlier bed time.

If we’re out and about she’ll happily nod off in her pushchair

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Or in the car. But if we’re at home I am often lazy, or fancying a nap myself and I give her some milk. I know I shouldn’t be doing this during the day at all. She still has prescribed formula from the GP and there’s really no need any more. She shouldn’t be needing milk to soothe her to sleep. Not least because of the damage it’ll do to her teeth. This is something I need to gather the energy to stop – and then she goes to sleep on me and if I’m lucky I’ll manage to get her into her cot. This has to change.

Or does it? Does it all have to change? In his book Kiss Me! Carlos Gonzalez talks about how children are predisposed to sleep in the company of their parents and the requirement for children to sleep in their own room is an invention of the 20th Century. He believes, in fact, that a lot of the order and routine that we expect from our children are a new phenomena. He doesn’t exactly sing the praises of a lot of modern parenting techniques either.

I completely agree with so much in this book, but I find it hard and challenging too. Maybe I’m selfish by wanting my child in her own room and to be able to sooth herself to sleep? I know I’ll miss cuddling her to sleep, but how will it make her feel?

I don’t think there is a right or wrong per se, but I want to do the right thing for us and for Joni especially – but I’m not sure what that is.

What do you think? What works for you?

Also – just look at this girl …

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6 Responses to Sleep – our personal battles

  1. khloeee says:

    This resonates a lot with me. We are pretty lazy with Arlo’s sleep habits, especially at nap times when I still feed him to sleep. He currently needs at least half hour one-on-one attention to fall asleep, and I worry how on earth this would work if he has a younger sibling. Also, Sam is the same with nightmares when Arlo used to be in the bed (not that Arlo liked co-sleepin much anyway!).

    It’s so easy to think we made mistakes and encouraged habits, but it’s also easy to forget the reasons WHY we started these ‘habits’ in the first place. You just do what is best and what works at the time.

  2. Katie says:

    Holly used to fall asleep on me every evening and was then transferred into her cot, this happend until charis was born so holly was 31 months. As soon as charis arrived I put holly straight into her cot at 6:00 with a bottle of milk and it took two days for her to learn to get herself to sleep without a cuddle. After two days she drank her milk by herself and drifted straight off too sleep alone. I felt quite sad at first as she only ever cuddled me when going to bed or poorly but it did allow me more time to feed charis and get on with other things!! I decided from very early on not to do the same with charis and Charlie, mostly because it would have taken forever to do the same cuddling routine with 3 of them ! Charis and Charlie have both been put in their cots, (awake) at bedtime from birth and it has made life easier as they get to sleep by themselves and if they wake in the night they don’t need cuddling back to sleep coz they’ve never had it!! Sounds quite mean but I find it works for us!!

    • bornin2011 says:

      Sounds like a good solution to me. I think I’ll really miss the cuddles though! It’s amazing that C and C both self settled themselves from so young, I think that’s the only way I can see things working for us or I’ll never be able to manage both on my own!

  3. CamillaGray says:

    Good blog. If you want my honest opinion you might struggle when you have a 2nd if you don’t get the cuddling to sleep, when number 2 comes along it just might not be possible and then you could face 2 screaming children!
    I didn’t feed on demand I went for 3-4 hour feeding and mine both slept through at 9 weeks and 10 weeks. I wouldnt stop them feeding in the night until I had hit 4 hours that just happened naturally but in the day I would stick to it. It worked for me. Mine both suck thumbs so self soothing was never a problem which
    meant I put them to bed awake and they fell asleep. I think I am lucky. Mine were text book babies. They are both toddlers now and for the past month wake between 6-6:30 thanks to the birds!
    I found number 2 has to fit in to your life routine with another toddler, mine was left to cry much longer then number 1 was because I was usually making number 1’s tea etc.

  4. Josie says:

    Gosh I don’t have a clue what the answers are. My little one is only 3 months and every night seems to have a different pattern. Some night she wakes every 5 hours, others every 2 hours. I kind of drove myself crazy trying to work out how to encourage the 5 hours. My mum gave some good advice after a while – just do the best you can, and don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you make. At some point they sleep through easily and all this will seem like a distant memory. Here’s hoping 😉

  5. Charlotte says:

    Much to many peoples horror, this is what we do:

    She naps once in the day, it used to be mid morning but now it depends on how the previous night went. At the moment she’s teething and it’s the worst bout so far (up a lot in the night, restless, cuddles back to sleep or a bottle because these seem to be the only two things that comfort her and because she isn’t eating a lot so I let her have a bottle in the night) so she’ll still nap mid morning unless we are out in which case it’s around 3pm. Sometimes she has a bottle, other times she doesn’t, again it just depends on how much she has eaten. Swollen gums = yoghurts or milk only, she won’t have anything else.

    Bedtime goes like this… 8 out of 10 times she wants to be danced to sleep with music on. She may fall asleep in her cot if she’s that tired. Either way works for us, as long as she sleeps. I know we are making a rod for our own backs but we are comfortable at the moment with this, even though people gasp or frown when we tell them.

    It’s about doing what is right for both of you. You have plenty of time to instill guidelines or rules. Ii hope you can find something that works for when baby number 2 arrives and don’t listen to any negative comments others make. There is no right or wrong way, just remember that xxx

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