Monday, 30 January 2012

Night Night, Sleep Tight, See you in an Hour!

The joys of night parenting…

Night time parenting is a huge subject. Whether you are a sleep deprived parent of a 6 week old, 3 month old, 9 month old, 18 month old, 28 month old (all of which I have been)…. all the same feelings come bubbling up.
What am I doing wrong? Is pain waking him? What could I do differently to help? What did we do differently that one blessed night he slept through? Why do all the other babas/ toddlers sleep? Is it me?
I love my Little Man (LM) more than anything but I am sooooo tired. So I am forced to again think all these thoughts. And as I write this I look forward to seeing what baba number two kicking in my belly will be like, will he/she be an a illusive sleeper, or will he/she lead us on another sleep adventure.

LM has never been a sleeper. Whoever came up with the expression “I slept like a baby” relating to a great nights sleep never met my boy.

sleeping beauty

LM had reflux when he was a baby, and so during the nights he didn’t settle too well in the Moses basket. We would put folded up towels under the mattress, so his body was at a slight tilt, which helped his pains a lot. And during the day, he slept in the pram while moving or in the sling (see previous post on baby wearing- baby-wearing-i-always-wanted-to-wear-my-baby).
We very much practice attachment parenting. But before we had been introduced to Dr Sears and all his attachment parenting info, we were confused. I wanted to stay close to my baby; I wanted to listen to his needs; and respond accordingly. But at night it was tough.

Obviously I was breastfeeding LM all through this and still am.

We moved LM from a Moses basket to a cot in our room at about 8 weeks. Me or hubby then had to get out of bed, pick him up, sit back in bed, give him to me (if I was too tired to get him and hubby getting him), feed him, wind him, maybe feed him some more, and then put him back in cot. He would then sleep for a further few hours. But it would take me a little while to get back to sleep, I was clock watching, analysing why he woke, whether he’d wake again soon, or whether I’d have a few more hours. So I wasn’t sleeping as well as I could have been.
Luckily, at a LLL (La Leche League) meeting I got some great advice. To take the side off the cot and try to line the height of the cot base up (our cot had 3 different heights) with our bed. Then I could simply pull LM into bed while staying lying down, feed him and slide him back.

I also borrowed a great book from the LLL, “Sleeping with Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to Cosleeping” by James J. McKenna. It made me more confident that we were co-sleeping safely.

So that night we made the changes, and lucky for us the bottom setting of the cot lined up perfectly with our bed. We put a bedside locker on the other side of the cot, so the cot was sandwiched between the bed and bedside locker. We also wedged towels in the gap between bed and the cot mattress to ensure there is no gap between the two.
It made a huge difference. LM still woke, but I didn’t need to sit up, didn’t need to fully engage in the world, and could easily go back asleep after feeding.

I also loved it. I got to stare at my LM while he slept so peacefully. He looks totally different while he sleeps. He looks like his Dada, and like himself when he was born. I was told recently by someone with a 13 year old that that doesn’t change, their child still looks as they did when they were born when they sleep.

Then at 7 months, we hit another bad patch, waking every 1 to 2 hours. Again the same questions and doubt. It was probably just the huge growth spurt at 6 months, or starting solids, or more interaction with the world disrupting his sleep. But when you are tired, you look for dramatic, easy solutions.
We thought it might be us waking LM, or contributing to his waking. We even videoed him to see what caused the sudden waking. But no light bulb moment. So we moved him to his own room. This helped briefly, but then as he went back to waking every few hours, it made it worse. As instead of having to just take him from his cot in our room, I had to get up, cross a cold corridor, pick him up, feed him on rocking chair, and settle him back to sleep and then back to our bed. Tiring!

We contemplated moving the cot back into our room, but that felt like going backwards. So after some advice from an experienced friend who breastfed her youngest until he was 3, said just take him to bed with you, and no you will not roll over on him. So we then adopted full co-sleeping. So we put LM in his cot initially to sleep, with hubby usually putting him to bed, with a story and some singing. We had been trying this for a while to break the connection between going asleep and breastfeeding, so that apparently when he wakes again he will go back asleep himself without looking for the breast. Emmmm. I’m not convinced of this. LM never got that memo!! Whether or not I feed him to sleep didn’t really affect how he slept that night or how early he woke.
Then whenever he woke in he came to our bed. And then through the night he fed when needed.
Since 7 months old until his 2nd birthday, we have had many more ups and downs. 2 full really Sleeping Through The Night (STTN), so from 8pm-7/8am. But also many stretches of waking up every 2 hours and feeding for an hour at a time.
So when I was 2 months pregnant, I needed, really needed, sleep, so we decided to try night weaning. A feat we had never tried before in LM’s 25 months. I feared unbearably screams, crying, cries for “Mama, I want mama” (or more heart wrenching “Mama, I need Mama”). But we had a very smooth transition. I admit we did use reward charts- stickers and prizes of little cars when he had so many stickers. I naively thought there was nothing wrong with this approach. Then recently I read a blog post about the negatives of rewards, can't find it at mo, but then i did a google search and came across a good few more, felt a bit guilty. Oh well. What’s done is done and we learn and move on.

This lasted a good few months, of maybe just 2/3 nights a week of wakings but even at that it was around 3/4 am instead of 11pm. But then teething reined its ugly head. And now it’s back to square one! LM has always had very bad bouts of teething. I live in hope that after this bout of teething is over he will go back to his sleeping through. Hope Hope Hope!

So things that helped me/us:
-     You may initially meet a lot of other mums, relatives, and random people on the street, who ask: “So is he Sleeping Through The Night??” Smile and say “he’s sleeping well thanks” and move on. No lies, but leads to no unhelpful advice, no comments on co-sleeping, no comments on breastfeeding, or your parenting style in general.
I did not do this on LM, but plan to on #2.
-    Also on STTN- the actual definition of STTN is that a baby sleeps for 5 consecutive hours, so could be from 8pm until 1am. I didn’t know this early enough.
In my opinion that is not sleeping through the night, but it gave me some solace, in that maybe some of the mums telling me their babas slept thru, also used this definition, or that they were simply lying, or not including the brief but disruptive several rises to put back in a soother, or pat backs, or hush, etc, etc.
Well I can dream!
-    Throw the clocks away, do not time breastfeeds, do not obsessively take down notes
-    Co-sleeping- helped beyond belief. While I still can’t sleep while feeding (I really envy anyone that can), I usually can rest and relax.
-    Meeting a lot of other mums and realising that very few babies sleep through the night as in 8pm-8am. And we were not alone, and many other parents were in similar or worse positions than us regarding sleep.
-    Realising I have the beautiful amazing happy baby I have. Nothing we will do will change him. And one day soon he will be happy to sleep all night every night on his own and I will miss these nights full of cuddles and soft kisses on his soft head. I just need to remember that at 4 am!!!!!

Good Article from Dr. Sears on co-sleeping:

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