“Is she sleeping throught the night yet?” Ahhh… That immortal question you are asked more than any other. It tops the tops in the repetitive baby questions chart – more than: “Is it a girl or a boy?” (she’s wearing pink – what do you think love?!) “How old?” or “How are you finding it?”. The question is asked by friends, family, strangers at the bus stop, on your tax return form (ok maybe not there but you get the idea…). The pressure as a first time mum is immense to reach this seemingly impossible goal when your baby is a newborn. Helpful titbits from others when you have had 30mins sleep in 3 days consist of things like: “My mate at work said their baby was sleeping through at 3 weeks”, “Oh god I hope there is nothing wrong with her – why isn’t she sleeping through yet?”, “I don’t get it? You just put them in the bed to sleep and walk away don’t you?” this helpful comment genereally from someone who has no kids.
Now smile gracefully if you have not reached the holy grail that is a WHOLE night’s sleep as the following paragraph may annoy you and leave you with steam coming out of your ears – or possible sobbing from sleep depravation… At 7 months old our little un has been sleeping from 7pm all the way through until 8am since about 5 months. She was “technically” sleeping through the night around 3 months – technically meaning 4/5 hours sleep in a row – who comes up with these terms?! Again probably someone who doesn’t have children!! “Oooh aren’t you LUCKY!!!” other people say… Lucky?! LUCKY?! Are you kidding me?! Luck had nothing to do with it! This is a result of weeks/months of determination, stubbornness and hard bloody work on mine and my partners part when she was very little. We agreed on a plan and we stuck to it religiously, it paid off. There are other the people who just think “LIAR!!“ when I tell them – these are generally the poor haunted souls who babies still aren’t sleeping through the night yet – I was in this camp when she was 1 or 2 months old, trust me!.
Now, every single baby is different (lest us not forget!) but there have been lots of people who’ve asked us to tell them what we did/are doing.. With this in mind I’d like to share with you our method to get her to this seemingly impossible stage in the hope it might help a few of you get there too. Now please (I repeat) remember every baby is different!!
Given the rate of baby’s brain development we decided that 6/8 weeks was the best time to start sleep training. We felt this was an age where she would be ready for it – up until this point the world was still a very confusing place – a baby still doesn’t understand that it is now out of the womb (see the 4th trimester) – we really must always remember this.. They would crawl back inside mummy if they could and they just want to be close to you 24/7 – I don’t (personally) feel this is the right time to be putting a baby in a room on its own or putting them to sleep in a cot and leaving them for a hours with just a baby monitor for comfort. A lot of people start earlier and a lot wait until 3 months to get the 4th trimester stage out-of-the-way. I say go with your gut – you know your baby better than anyone and know when the time is right.
Now please before you think we had it easy – let me breakdown the 1st 6-8 weeks for you in my house. The first 3 weeks I slept downstairs in the front room on the sofa with baby ‘in’ (I use that in the losest term possible!) her Moses basket. I slept downstairs as my partner had just started a new job right before I gave birth. I insisted he slept upstairs to get a full nights sleep as it was so important that he kept his job! Plus the fact I couldn’t handle the thought of us both being ratty from lack of sleep! To say I didn’t get a wink of sleep for 8 weeks is an understatement – she would sleep FINE in her basket in the day, but come night-time didn’t want to be anywhere else other than asleep on mummy – from 11pm-1am it was on and off non stop crying… She was feeding every hour or so – to be frank – it was living hell. No one can prepare you for what it feels like! I also took it upon myself to think that I could still do freelance work, do the tidying up, cooking and cleaning and have visitors round all the time – WRONG! At about 3 weeks we moved upstairs into the spare room – every time I put baby in the basket – same thing “wahhhhhhh!” I literally “slept” sat up in bed for 3 weeks with her in my arms. Ha ha! Did I just use the word ‘slept’? how very very amusing!
I learnt about the 4th trimester and dealt with her with this in the back of my mind – I also started to co-sleep.. This was sooo much better! BFing was a doddle – baby was happier, i was happier and I started to get some semblance (2 hours here and there!) of sleep. I read an amazing book called “The No Cry Sleep Solution” and I also realised the sooner I and accepted my life was going to be on hold for a couple of months – the better. I started asking for help and told my clients I couldn’t do work for a while (this workaholic was never going to be able to handle 9 months not working!!). Then we discovered something even more amazing… White Noise! As soon as we discovered this we played it to babby every night and she started sleeping in her Moses basket. As soon as we felt she was starting to get the hang of day being the time to be awake (more often) and night being the time to sleep we decided to start training. Just a quick comment on that actually – i’m not sure if you are aware but when babies are in the womb they are awake more often at night than they are in the day – this is because your movements in the daytime – walking etc – mean they are swayed or rocked from side to side which is obviously a real comfort and relaxer to them (this is why babies like to be rocked as its yet another thing they remember from their favourite place – your womb!) As you are still at night they are more liable to be awake. This continues after birth and they need you to teach them the right way round – this takes time.
Anyway – here what worked for us.. After doing lots of reading on different methods, I felt the most important things to stick to were: Routine, Repetition, Relaxation and Reassurance
1. Routine: Decide what you would like your routine to be. In the early stages its all a bit mental – but we don’t even really think about ours now tbh. Its very, very much reduced down from what it had to be (we really don’t do all this stuff anymore as we don’t need to), but below is what we started doing at the beginning of sleep training:
Prep: When planning a routine, one of the most important things we found was preparation – getting everything ready before we started – nothing will make you more stressed than flapping about and running up and downstairs because you have forgotten lots of stuff! We’d start at 6:30pm.. Fill up a hot water bottle to put in her basket (OBVIOUSLY we take this out before we put her in the bed!), do her feed (a bit too hot so its cooled by the time we are done), put her sleeping bag/bed-clothes out etc and turn the white noise on in the bedroom and the lights off.
Play: We’d take baby upstairs to the bathroom, put her on her changing mat and play with her for about 10/15 mins – pulling faces, blowing raspberry’s and generally making utter idiots out of ourselves… The aim is to get her tuckered out from all the excitement (Daddy is the king of this one and its nice for him to spend this time with her when he’s been at work all day)
Bath: Smile/sing all the way through bath time – that way she now sees it as an enjoyable relaxing thing (our little un lies in the bath sucking her thumb she is so chilled out!!)
Wind Down: After bath we talk in quiet voices, take her into the bedroom (with low lights), give her a massage with olive oil and dress her for bed and put her in her sleeping bag
Feed: We made sure baby had a good long feed (that goes if you are BFing or finishes all the bottle if you are formula feeding). We always made sure – no matter how tempting it was to leave it as she falling asleep – we burped her well before laying her down in the cot
Sleep: As I already mentioned we always put a hot water bottle in her bed before she gets in to take off the chill, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the shock of the cold mattress wakes them up! Of course ALWAYS remove the bottle before baby gets in! We also tilt mattress a little at the top end with a small towel folded under it – this REALLY helped when she was younger and was seeming a bit colicky – she stopped crying as much as obvs laying flat when you have just eaten is not best for digestion – it just makes sense to tilt them a little (we dont do this now she is older). Rock her to sleep (don’t let anyone tell you once you rock you will always rock – this is a ridiculous notion.. You don’t see 10 year olds being rocked to sleep do you? LOL we did this every night and it was no longer required at about 4/5 months.. People who tell you this are generally in the Gina Ford camp) and have white noise playing all night – we have the sound of the rain – this is also so handy if you are downstairs clanging around in the kitchen as they can’t hear a thing!
2. Repetition: When we decided on our routine, we STUCK TO IT! That was every single everyday at the same times everyday. Baby will get to know its bath/bedtime and should look forward to it. As soon as ours started to “get it” we could drop stuff out of the routine and not be quite as strict – but that initial period it was so important.
3. Relaxation: We made sure we created an atmosphere where baby is relaxed just before bedtime. Speaking quietly, low lights etc
4. Reassurance: Baby soon learned that bed and sleep is a nice place – not a lonely scary place… No ‘crying it out’ bollocks in our house thank you very much! We waited until she was asleep to go downstairs and as soon as we heard her stirring on the monitor we would be up there like a shot. She soon came to realise that we would come when she needed us and then she naturally became less inclined to wake up and fuss. At about 5 months we changed things up a bit as we felt she was very much ready for it (by 5 months babies have had the brain development growth spurt that means they now know when you go away – you come back – up until this point they have no understanding of permanence - so when you go out of their vision they think you are never coming back.. So sad!!), so we’d leave her awake (if she was – sometimes she fall asleep after bottle), no rocking etc and would come downstairs to let her get herself to sleep – its so important they learn to do this – we’d only go up if she was CRYING crying and then we would go up straight away.
And that’s about it. Its sounds hardcore initially but as I have already said by 5 1/2 months our routine was very simple – literally take her up for a bath, feed her – put her in the bed around 7pm come downstairs and she is asleep until 8am (she is such a lazy little thing that if we dont wake her up she will bloody well sleep until 10am!!! Handy if we want a lie in at the weekend!!) I know my baby and I know she does that as she has been taught that bed is a nice place through all our hardwork. As I am slowly learning – there is NO easy way with children in general – you have to do it the hard way first in order for it to pay off in the long run. Can I also say though – the other thing I am learning is that as soon as you think you have something sorted – baby likes to change it up.. LOL.. Teething time is coming up in house so I’m sure this whole sleeping thing will be out the window very very shortly!!!
So is your one sleeping through the night? What are your sleep routines?