Food, warmth and tummy time…I love you all

[I wrote this post on Thursday. Obviously, we had an awful night last night as if to prove me wrong! I will however still post the below since I do believe we are getting somewhere.]

On Wednesday night, Sam slept for nearly 8 hours! This is a milestone we never thought we would reach and a symbol of how far we’ve come. It may be a long time before it happens again, but we now know it’s possible. I may even be able to go on a night out soon!

Much improved sleep

It is still difficult getting Sam to sleep, and we are continuing to rock or feed him to sleep each time, but that is something we will deal with in the future. However, he now seems to be consistently sleeping for longer stretches; even in Wales he often slept for the entire evening. Considering the weeks we went through where Sam woke hourly, this was unimaginable not so very long ago. 

Weaning is going well

We’ve always said Sam is hungry and has a big appetite. We were both weaned early since milk wasn’t enough (this does happen, not everyone’s milk keeps up!), so this didn’t surprise us. We started giving him baby rice at 14 weeks and introduced fruit purees at 17. 

For everyone who told us that his sleep would improve once we started giving him food, there was an article or someone else telling us that food makes no impact on sleep. 

At 26 weeks (somehow, I managed to hold off until the magic 6 months), we began giving him ‘proper’ purees; meals that have been blended up. It took me a week or 2 to get going, but in Wales I cooked up batches of salmon with carrots, potato & cheese and leek, potato & peas, which he really took to. Since being home, Sam has been having 2-3 meals a day with a fruit & yoghurt pudding, alongside his usual feeds. 

He is a big fan of food! 

It may well be coincidence and I feel that a lot of factors have come together, but his sleeping does seem to have come along a lot. There are more contributors though, I’m sure…

Staying warm

We have realised that although colder temperatures are better for a baby’s room, Sam doesn’t sleep well at all in the cold. As soon as we realised this, his sleeping improved. I’m not saying that we ramp up the radiator and pile on the blankets, but a fleece sleepsuit and a grobag seem to have done the trick. 

22C seems to be a good temperature for him. 

This is a bit warmer than is ‘ideal’ but we bear in mind that when Sam was tiny and the weather was cold, he was cosy in our room and mainly in our bed. During the summer, our house really retained the heat and we were all sleeping in temperatures in excess of 26C sometimes. Now the house has cooled off again, it took us a couple of nights to realise that he might need the grobag again. Instant improvement. 

More settled

He also seems much happier in his cotbed, which is an enormous help! I put him in it during the day so he can play with his cuddly toys. He has a little roll around, picks up and plays with his toys. Thank goodness this seems to have helped and he quickly moved on from crying whenever we took him into the nursery. 

Tummy time 

I’ve often maintained that Sam would sleep better on his front, and he seems to be neatly proving my point this week. Every night, he has either immediately rolled onto his front, or done so shortly after being put to bed. Thank goodness for rolling!

Phew

All in all, the picture is much improved from a few weeks ago. I would never have believed we would get to this stage!

We have our room back!

I’ve been putting off writing this post, since I didn’t want to ‘jinx’ anything…but last Wednesday we took the plunge and moved Sam into the nursery. The first night was far better than expected, the second was very unsettled but, fingers crossed, since then Sam has been sleeping much better. 

After the rolling incident in our room, we decided it was time to move Sam to the safety (and space) of his cot bed. When we initially put him in there, we thought he would struggle, having probably grown accustomed to taking up much of our double, but he adapted pretty quickly. In fact, he now seems to prefer curling up into the side. It hasn’t stopped him getting onto his front (and obviously getting stuck there), but it’s definitely less frequent – or maybe the novelty has worn off for him. I notice that he does sometimes sleep on his front for a couple of hours, but he often remains on his side.

From waking increasingly regularly in our room, he now (touch wood) will sleep up to SIX HOURS. This was unheard of and a dream I never believed would happen. Night before last he slept 7-11 and then 11.10-5.15, at which point I brought him in with us. My rule is that if he wakes any time after 5, I bring him in for the final quick feed and nap. He wakes between 6 and 7 anyway, so this maximises the amount of sleep I get before he is ready for the day!

On Friday, a small miracle happened…I managed to get him to NAP in his cot! Right now, he is fast asleep in his cot enjoying his first nap of the day. He will generally sleep 20-40 minutes, 3 times a day. It’s very helpful knowing roughly how long I have and being better able to predict when. The first is usually 90 minutes after waking, the second 90 minutes after waking from that nap. The third and final is around 3pm, or 3 hours after waking from the second nap. This means he then has a 3 hour stretch to bed. 

  Sussing out naps is entirely thanks to the book I found (The 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program) which focuses on baby awake cycles, rather than sleep. I bought a used copy off Amazon for a couple of pounds. It struck a chord for me since Sam often got tired after an hour or so. This works on the premise that baby’s awake cycles are in multiples of 90 minutes. It’s a fascinating read and also one of the few books that doesn’t recommend teaching your baby to self settle before they’re able. It advocates rocking or soothing them (by any means except feeding) until they’re 6-8 months old, or ready to learn to go to sleep on their own. 

If they cry hysterically, they aren’t ready.

So, it seems we may finally be making some real steps forward. It’s wonderful having our own space back, along with our evenings since he now goes to bed between 6 and 7. It’s a shock to my system getting up at 6-6.30 most days, but it means we have breakfast as a family and Sam has a nap by 8, giving me time to shower and get ready for the day.

If you’re struggling with sleep and nothing seems to be working, keep reading or listening to your instincts. I already ‘knew’ that Sam needed naps after these short intervals, but it took me reading the book to reinforce that I was right. Taking the plunge and moving him out of our room is helping all of us sleep better. 

Do whatever works for you – if your baby needs to feed every hour, then keep them in with you. If your baby needs rocking to sleep, then do it – I don’t for one minute believe we’ll still be rocking Sam when he’s 18! If your baby keeps you all awake and needs more space, try moving them out. 

You’ll figure it out and find what works best for your family. 

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.

There is a light!

This may not happen again for a while. But the fact it’s happened once means that it might again…

Sam slept for just over 4 hours straight last night. 

Whenever he wakes up for feeding, I check the time so I can see how long he has slept. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was 2.52am…surely not right? He went to sleep sometime between 10.30 and 10.45pm! But my eyes did not deceive me, we really had just reached our first 4 hour stretch since the early jaundiced days. 

What makes me even happier is that we had a full on family day yesterday, with 9 people to see and hold Sam, and he really held his own. Smiled, stuck his tongue out (his new favourite pastime) and was generally a delight for the duration of our 5 hour visit. Sure, he got a little grizzly when hungry or tired, but he fed well and then slept happily in the room of people, peacefully curled up on Carl. 

There is a light…

Breastfeeding battles

As I sit here, typing with one hand, one leg crossed under me, the other (after 15 mins of veeeery careful manoeuvring) out in front, feeding pillow wrapped round me and a baby enjoying the longest feed known to man, I have a chance to reflect on how different the story was only 2 days ago.

Samuel was not a natural at breastfeeding. The first night in hospital, we succeeded only with the help of a midwife. He struggled throughout the next day, only managing to latch for a full feed once (with plenty of midwife help again). Over the 4 days in hospital, he showed us that he was more than capable, but just seemed a bit lazy. He would latch, suck once or twice and then get so over excited or worked up that he would bob around too much to sustain the contact and before long it was as if the world had ended.

By Monday, the midwives were concerned at the amount of food he was taking in, even though I was by now hand expressing and feeding him from a syringe. Fortunately, I was able to start properly expressing early which meant that I could feed him breastmilk even when he wouldn’t take the breast. It was disheartening having to reach for the electric pump every 3 hours when he was clearly able to feed for himself, but we told ourselves that he would get there in his own time. We would always put him to the breast first but move on before he started getting stressed.

After a day of trying to feed him – fairly unsuccessfully – from a cup, we switched to a bottle and suddenly he was gulping down as much milk and formula as we could offer him.

Fast forward to Thursday. After a day at home, I was considerably more relaxed about everything and still offering him the breast every time. On Thursday morning, while I changed his nappy, Carl popped his finger in Samuel’s mouth for him to suck. After, I offered again….and he immediately latched for a few mouthfuls. Feeling positive, we fed him the expressed milk as usual and hoped that we were moving forward. At the next feed, Carl gave him his finger again and, this time when offered, he latched on for a 20 minute feed! He had no interest in the left breast, accepting only the right as a feeding station, but breastfed for the next 4 feeds (always sucking a finger first) – with us topping up with formula since I don’t have enough milk yet to satisfy his growing appetite.

This morning…he took the left. Not for long, but I was so encouraged before popping him back on the right. It seems he enjoys cluster feeding in the morning so only an hour later he was asking for more. Unsure of how much I had left due to the earlier feeds and then expressing after, I nonetheless offered him the right…where he proceeded to feed for over an hour…and then spent about 40 minutes on the left! Finally.

He proceeded to knock back over 100ml of formula after this, so I can conclude he wasn’t getting much milk from me, but at least he is getting there.

Here we sit as he slowly feeds away, presumably beginning his evening cluster feeds with me feeling so happy in the knowledge that Carl and I, as a team, are working it out and succeeding. The next step will be getting him to feed through nursing clothes so I don’t have to strip down every time – not very sociable!

To those who are struggling, my only advice is take the pressure off and don’t get stressed. We know we have express milk and formula for the times he doesn’t latch or isn’t getting enough from me (hopefully my supply will pick up soon), so we aren’t worried. He put on 260g between Weds and Fri, so we know he’s getting enough food! Another 130g by Mon and he’s back to birth weight. His jaundice is lifting (more on that another time) and he’s happily feeding away, what more could I ask for.