So this is what everyone’s been going on about…

Last week, we were reaching the end of our tether with Sam waking hourly. Both of us were exhausted and realised that we needed to work it out. The book I’d picked up to try and help with sleep advocates rocking or assisting your baby get to sleep until they’re 6-8 months old, or are obviously ready to go to sleep on their own. This gentler approach appealed to me and seemed logical given Sam can be fairly highly strung! 

It was on Tuesday evening that we noticed that when he woke up crying shortly after being put to bed, his eyes weren’t even open. As a test, Carl went up to see if he could rock him back to sleep. Within a couple of minutes Sam was peacefully sleeping again. He still woke frequently throughout the night.

On Wednesday, we bit the bullet and decided to see if he could be rocked back to sleep during the night, rather than me simply offering him a feed and us both falling asleep again. The wakings were frequent, but most of the time it was easy for Carl to rock him back to sleep. Taking only a couple of minutes to resettle him, we realised that Sam only woke to feed a couple of times. The other wakings were probably habit from usually being fed all night. 

The change seemed to be immediate. 

On Thursday night, he only woke 4 times. Twice he was quickly rocked back to sleep (both times before we had even gone up to bed) and twice for a feed. 

Friday night, he woke 3 times and only once was for a feed. 

Since then he seems to wake 3 or 4 times a night, twice he can be resettled and once or twice because he’s hungry. 

On top of this, he has been going to bed between 6.30 and 7.15 each night. 

Carl and I have had our first run of evenings together since Sam was born. We are even beginning to relax, knowing that the ‘chances are’ Sam will sleep for a few hours at a time and, if he wakes, the ‘chances are’ that he can be quickly and easily resettled. 

We are going to keep him in with us for another week or so, to really get him used to sleeping better, then move him back to the nursery. 

At last, we move forward. 

Of course, we’ll get him sleeping well and then a tooth will appear and it’ll all fall apart!! But thank goodness that, for the time being at least, we seem to have said goodbye to hourly wakings. 

Naps, however, are a different matter and another difficulty entirely…

Evenings last week

I was quiet on the blog front last week I realise. We’ve been focussing on trying to help Sam get to sleep earlier with a longer term aim of helping him fall asleep by himself and, eventually, in his own bed. 

It seems that, no matter how long or when he naps during the day, he won’t sleep after about 3.30pm and is ready for bed by 6ish. So, seeing that pattern, we have him bathed by then and have started reading him a couple of That’s Not My… books in bed, then a feed. 

He generally falls asleep pretty quickly on this feed. Once he woke within 20 minutes, once half an hour, once every time I moved an inch…it varies a lot. After that waking and the inevitable hysteria that follows when he realises he’s been tricked into falling asleep at a sensible time, we calm him before feeding him again. 

This can take a long time. One evening he cried/screamed on and off for hours, even interspersed with feeds. When he eventually calmed, I lay him on our bed expecting more screaming, but he stayed quiet (exhausted). I put my hand on his tummy, quietly ‘shhhh’d’ him…and he was asleep within a minute. So he CAN fall asleep without rocking or feeding (as we know). 

However, on Friday night we had a breakthrough. After his bath, story and feed, he had a bit of a meltdown but did then calm. I put him down on our bed awake and, having been reminded that this sometimes works, found my white noise app. He started grizzling but stopped the second he heard the noise! I held my phone near him and turned the app up to full volume. He lay there fidgeting and fussing, but not crying and after 20 minutes, he started blinking more slowly. Oh my goodness, he was falling asleep! Another 5 minutes and he was fast asleep. That was unexpected! 

I kept the app on all night (Carl retreated to the sitting room…wise move). Sam didn’t sleep much better but he did fall asleep each time I put him down after a feed since he inevitably wakes when he’s moved. 

Last night we tried the same. Actually, last night we were ambitious and tried Carl sitting with him with the app and a bottle. Sam was unimpressed and had a huge meltdown. I fed him again, left the app running and he went to sleep! He stayed asleep for 3 hours, which allowed me to pop out to the evening of a friend’s wedding. Carl stayed home in case he woke, but imagine my relief when I arrived home to find Sam still sleeping! 

Unfortunately, he woke every hour and a half through the night to feed, but it is warm so he may well be thirsty. 

Last Monday he went to sleep at 9.30 after lots of tears. Last night he went to sleep at 7.30…

I think this is what they call progress.

Baby sleep 

Before you have a baby, everyone warns you that sleep is about to go out of the window. Once your baby is born, you’re constantly asked if baby/you are sleeping ok. 

This isn’t news. 

What I was wholly unprepared for was that some babies don’t know how to go to sleep. What? Babies sleep all the time, how can they possibly not know how to do it? 

We discovered that Sam wasn’t a fan of bedtime early on – late night crying until the early hours as he foughtto stay awake. This was due to him being overtired. However, the rest of the time he was fine since newborns pretty much feed>sleep and repeat, so we didn’t think much of it. 

It wasn’t until he started staying awake for periods of time during the day that we spotted it was hard to get him to sleep. It always involved rocking or feeding. This still wasn’t too difficult though, despite him not wanting to nap and getting very overtired. 

A few weeks ago, we cracked down on daytime naps, realising he needed to sleep after 1-2 hours of being awake. This is when his lack of ability to fall asleep on his own really shone through. He isn’t hungry every 1-2 hours so can’t be fed to sleep each time. Suddenly, I was walking miles every day helping him sleep in the pram. I time my trips out to coincide with when he needs a nap since he sleeps in the car (unless he’s hungry). 

Searching on the Internet for ways to help your baby learn to fall asleep is not helpful. It seems to be called ‘Self settling’ and it is such a controversial subject with conflicting advice. Examples…

“You should start helping babies fall asleep by themselves from 6 weeks old”. 

“Babies can’t self settle”. 

“Between 4 and 6 months is a good time to help your baby learn to self settle”.

“If you teach your baby to fall asleep on their own, they’ll think you’ve abandoned them”.

“If your baby doesn’t learn to self settle, they won’t sleep well”. 

Perfect, clear as anything. 

I think it’s a no-brainer that a baby who can fall asleep on their own will sleep better and be happier about sleep in general  – Sam will battle it for 2 hours at times and the fussing, shouting and crying can’t be good for him. 

So, to the methods… 

“Leave your baby to cry”.

“Never leave your baby to cry, this will damage them in the long run”.

“Stay in the room while they cry but don’t make eye contact or touch them”.

“Stay in the room while they cry, sitting next to them and comforting them with your voice and place a hand gently on their chest”. 

“Stay in the room and pick them up each time they cry, calm them again and put them back down. Repeat until they fall asleep”. 

Again, thank you all for the clear advice. 

I think that we all need to do what is right for you and your baby. Never judge anyone else’s method and never dictate what someone else should be doing; you don’t know what they might have been going through each night (or day!) for weeks/months.

Sam is now 19 weeks old and the daily sleep battles are difficult for him and us. When he wakes in the night (generally every 1-2 hours), he needs to comfort suck to fall asleep again, he’s not hungry…which is why we brought him back in with us, so I’m not up and down all night. 

It’s time to help him realise he can fall asleep on his own. He can do it. We’ve seen him do it! We know he can, so we need to help him remember that he can. 

Wish us luck! 

If it doesn’t work, it’s time to adjust 

Sam has now been in his cot bed for nearly 2 weeks and we’re still working on the evening routine. 

For the first week he was overtired… every day. We were missing his early tiredness cues… every day.

After a week of trying to settle an overtired screaming Sam, we decided it was time for a change. 

If it’s not working, try something else. 

We had been starting the bed time routine at 6pm with a bath, feed, then get him to sleep in his new bed – which would take forever. How much/when he napped and fed during the day seemed to be irrelevant. Finally, we realised that he was always asleep in bed by approx 8.30pm. This is evidently his chosen bedtime. 

Now we have a new plan… I try to get him napping whenever he needs it during the day (by whatever means necessary – feeding/pram/rocking). Alongside his normal feeds I attempt a bottle in the morning and give him some porridge in the afternoon (he loves it so much!). Irrespective of when he last. ate, I feed him at 5ish to keep him going until after the bath. He is always grizzly by this time (no matter when he napped) so Carl takes him for a walk when he gets in, meaning he has a 20 minute nap at around 6 – before you ask, no it doesn’t work if we put him to bed instead!! 

Bath follows – before he gets tired – where he has a lovely, vigorous (!) splash around…getting the whole bathroom soaking wet. Then into the nursery to get him changed and fed. I stay in the room feeding him until he’s asleep and in bed – always between 8.15 and 8.40pm, no matter what time we start! 

We’ll deal with him falling asleep on his own another time…