On the Imperfect Mum, we get a lot of questions about sleep. I often take a big breath when reposting these, as we normally end up with a big battle between these two sides, with each side passionately believing they are right and best.
Firstly, I want to clear up I am not an expert. I have no degrees or intelligent letters behind my name. Never studied anymore then I’ve wanted to. I’m not a professional!
BUT, I am experienced. I have 4 children and have battled this myself for a LONG time.
So, with it being such a sensitive topic – Why would I post about it? (This might be my last post ever! Ha ha!)
This is my beautiful sister. She is pregnant with her first child.
I am SO excited!
But I know, she will ask my advice. After having 4 awesome kids, I must have gotten something right??? Right?!?!
So, as I lay on the floor of my 4th babies room, praying she would ‘SERIOUSLY, JUST GO TO SLEEP’ (If you have read the book, you’d understand!) I started to wonder how I could possibly help my sister.
I wish I could tell her a magic formula. A secret password that would have them drop off instantly.… But I haven’t been told one myself (yet!)
But I’ll share with her (and you) my experiences and what I do know.
With my first baby, we were wrapped around that little princess’s finger! She had us hooked. Fed to sleep, rocked to sleep, hushed to sleep, patted to sleep – You name it, we did it!
The love I had for that little bundle of joy was extreme. I was going to be the BEST mother and not fail. Other mums would let their babies cry to sleep, but not me. To this ‘perfect’ mum: crying = something wrong and I wasn’t doing my job *sigh*
Things were fine in our routine world, until we had friends over for dinner. The usual routine of feed until asleep, gently place in bed while hushing, and then quickly creeping out of the room did not work that night. Every noise woke my princess and soon I realised what we had created.
Things had to change. We had another baby on the way, and I could not be in two places at once – or have a princess who wakes at the slightest noise.
So, baby 2# – different technique. We had heard it’s best if baby falls asleep alone from an early age. And so, this baby we wrapped tightly and propped a bottle next to him so he would feed himself to sleep. If he cried when the bottle was empty we quickly slipped in his dummy and done!
What’s funny (now) is we were still ‘assisting’ Baby 1# to sleep at this time while 2# settled himself. For baby 1#, we began using the “Camping out” technique. This is where you, very slowly week by week, move yourself further away from baby. Takes a while – but it worked with our hard to crack stubborn princess!!
So, with baby 2# we now had dummy attachment issues. If the dummy fell out while sleeping, guess who had to find it for them, until they could find it themselves?? So, while going to sleep was better, the work came later in weaning away the dummy. (I’ll save that story for another post!)
Baby 3# – Didn’t like swaddling, but loved his dummy also. He also loved his daddy’s chest. And I think his daddy liked him falling asleep on his chest, so he had the excuse to watch TV!
And finally, Baby 4# – Didn’t like dummies. Or blankets. Or singing. Or routine. Or Bedtime. In fact – she HATES bedtime. Still does. *sigh*
I was her ‘dummy mummy’ for a long time as this little girl would feed and feed every night. Someone told me this was just her storing up milk for the night, so I continued. But then she would wake numerous times through the night, still wanting to be fed – so I started to doubt this advice. (I was told later it was actually a sign of being overtired!)
In a sad, sleep deprived, desperate mood at 3am one morning, feeding again, I did it. I took the step.
I used my phone and searched the local library online for a copy of the book ‘Save our Sleep’. I have friends who LIVE by this book, so thought I’d take a look. I was desperate!
I didn’t know how it would work – as I said before – I don’t like hearing my babies cry. I would never judge parents who could though. In fact I was envious as the proof was in the pudding – their little darlings slept very well!
Reading “S.O.S” did give some advice I wish I knew at the beginning of my sleep journey. In her book and on her website here, author Tizzie Hall (aka – the international baby whisperer) states the two most important rules when it comes to babies and sleep.
1. Always put your baby down for a sleep or nap in the place you intend him to wake up; and
2. Try to teach your baby the skill of self-settling as early as possible. This means going to sleep without aids, such as rocking, patting, feeding or even the use of a dummy.
I didn’t do well with Tizzie Halls regimental routines. In fact, the book made me feel quite guilty as a mother after reading it, because I could not always follow her suggestions. With 4 kids, school runs, different feeding times – for me, it did not work.
BUT – Her two sleep rules DID help and I wish I’d known them earlier!
Especially Rule 1# – I once read for babies, it’s like falling asleep in your bed, then waking on the kitchen table. For little babies, who slept in the womb which has the same sounds / sights / tastes each time they sleep and wake – the world would be a scary place!! No wonder they want their familiar comforts (such as their mum, dummies, soft animals, blankets, own bed) there when they wake up -the same as they were when they went to sleep.
As for 2# – To be honest, I actually don’t mind being my child’s comforter. It hurt, in a way, when my babies would cry for their ‘dummy’ more than their ‘mummy’ sometimes. But, I also didn’t want my children to depend on me so much…
But, that’s when I recalled my own journey and my first baby. My eldest, is now 8 years old. Despite all our pampering and “tsk tsk’ed” actions and things we apparently did “wrong” with her – she now sleeps fine on her own, is very independent, while also secure in knowing her mum is always there for her – and the nights of camping out and sitting by her bed are now pleasant fading memories.
These days, I ask her to go to bed, and she does *relief* There IS light at the end of the tunnel!!!
And so, finally, my conclusion:
Advice is great – but it is not law. What works for some children, will not work for others. Choose what advice works best for your children and your family and stick with it. If a baby screaming unsettles you – try something different.
Whatever action you take, make sure your partner agrees, and you both understand any consequences because of them. I can’t rock my baby to sleep every night and then expect baby to go to bed differently because I have other plans. That would be unfair.
If you decide to comfort your baby to sleep, understand they may need a repeat of this through the night, until they understand the big world. While I still rest my hand on my babies back to put her to sleep, she now sleeps fine all night, secure in the knowledge that we are close and won’t leave her.
I had set up a digital photo frame in my babies’ room with photos of my eldest kids as babies to remind myself how fast they grow. Or put some printed photos on the wall. I know it’s hard sometimes, but enjoy that middle of the night feed and the experience of bonding with your child that no one else will ever be able to do! One day soon, it will be over. They are a gift and they really do grow up so fast!
To my sister, I don’t have all the answers – I’m sorry! Only you will know what will work best for your baby and family. Trust that mothering intuition!! May you never doubt yourself. I am so happy for you and the journey you are about to embark on. It really is the best and the hardest job in the world. It teaches you so much about yourself that you never knew.
And when you need someone to vent to, who understands what you’re going through, there will be a community here, waiting to hear you out, who can say – I understand. This time will pass. Hold on. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You are stronger than you think you are.
Sending BIG hugs to those who are sleep deprived at the moment. It is not a pleasant place to be =( Wishing you a good nights sleep very soon! x