Sleep is for the Weak!
I have to say that I never really thought that much about baby’s sleep while I was pregnant. I vaguely remember my father saying that I wouldn’t get a solid night sleep for the next two years and thinking he was a lunatic. I also remember reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting and seeing all the advice about putting a baby down to sleep awake. But I just didn’t realise how much it takes for a baby to learn to go to sleep, or even that it was something that they would need to learn. Mostly I just thought that the main issue with babies and sleeping is that they wake up often, not that it would be difficult for them to get to sleep in the first place.
I can’t really say that these illusions were crushed when Riley was born because newborns sleep all the time. She pretty much fell asleep breastfeeding for the first few weeks and although some of the books I read had suggested waking them up before putting them down to sleep this seemed cruel to both my poor sleep deprived self as well as her.
A few weeks into it I quickly realised I had a rocker on my hands. And rocking whilst sitting down was simply not an option – only standing and rocking would do the trick. I went with it, I figured she would go to sleep on her own when she was ready. If I’d known then that I’d still be rocking her when she was a year old I might have re-thought this part.
I co-slept with her at night to make feedings easier – it was winter – there was no way I was getting out from under my warm doona!! And it wasn’t until she was about 3 months old that we actually moved her into the bassinet (still in our room).
What If She Never Sleeps?
I think possibly the worst thing about babies and their (lack of) sleep is that in the beginning especially it can be so unpredictable. You don’t know how long it will take you to get them to sleep or how long they’ll stay asleep for. And when it is taking hours to get them to sleep through your sleep deprived delusional haze you wonder what would happen if they never sleep? You also know the longer they are awake the harder it will be to even get them to sleep because they will get more and more overtired . . . This train of thought can easily spiral into panic. It’s only when she was a bit older and I a little less delusional did I realise that eventually they always go to sleep and even overtired babies crash from sheer exhaustion at a certain point.
I got the shock of my life when she first went to sleep on her own. But she had. I naively thought – great from now on she’ll be able to put herself to sleep. Umm, no. This was a one-time deal. And no matter how diligently I recreated the circumstances of the situation it didn’t seem to make any difference – rocking was still required. However, slowly but surely she started putting herself to sleep from time to time until when she was 6 months about half of her naps she would do this – forget about it at night-time. Night time didn’t worry me so much because she was sleeping through until 3/sometimes 5 in the morning. You could always tell when she was going to do it on her own because she wouldn’t cry when I left the room she would just make these talking/groaning noises until she went to sleep.
I kept trying to interest her in little blankies or stuffed toys thinking that these might soothe her but apparently she had an accept no substitutes policy.
How It All Went Horribly Wrong
We went on holidays, and maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not, but it completely threw her sleep routine out the window. Instead of one waking at night, she reverted to three or four. She would only go to sleep by being rocked and even this took hours.
By the time I came home I was totally exhausted and so relieved to get back to the way things were before. But of course they didn’t go back to normal – she started waking up six times a night but on the bright side I was finally able to rock her from the sitting down position.
They say that you do something until it no longer works for you to do it anymore. And at a certain stage I needed to find another way besides rocking. I actually really enjoyed rocking her to sleep and if she had gone to sleep easily that way I think I would have continued, but she didn’t and she woke up every two hours. So I tried the no-cry-sleep-solution but the gradual withdrawal method just seemed to enrage her even more, I tried the pick up-put down method and the same thing happened. In the end I gave up and returned to co-sleeping.
What Worked . . .
Nothing I did – that’s for sure! I moved her into a toddler bed which made a huge difference – she always hated the cot – maybe because of the co-sleeping but I think it was just a personality thing. And I think she was also ready – she’d started not wanting to sleep in with us and being really restless. I decided to at least give her the opportunity to put herself to sleep and would never let her cry but did allow a certain level of protest. And finally she was sleeping through again (about 8 months after that ill-timed holiday). The best part of the whole adventure is that sometimes I miss those middle of the night cuddles or rocking her to sleep and it’s usually on those nights that she decides she might like to sleep in our bed again.