Sam’s first trip abroad

Yes, it might be pushing it a little to describe going on a bridge over a river into the Land of Song as ‘abroad’, but it’s the closest Sam will come for a while so I’m sticking with it.

 

Wales

We are just inland from Cardigan

 
We arrived in leafy Pembrokeshire last night after a 4.5 hour journey along the picturesque M25 and M4. Astonishingly (and I don’t think this is too strong a word here), Sam fell asleep on me at home, slept as I put him in the car … and remained asleep until we reached Blaenffos, the closest village to our destination! Even then, he only whinged a little rather than launching into a furious tirade. 

Overall, the drive couldn’t have gone better and it was a marked improvement on the last trip when I was 7 months pregnant and incredibly uncomfortable sitting for that long.

He slept well last night; we kept him in with us to help him adjust, but tonight he’ll be in the cot. As for naps, for now I’ll feed him to sleep at nap time and let him lie on me. When he’s more used to it here, we’ll attempt to put him in the cot for naps but, since this is a fairly recent step even at home, we’ll see how we go. We’re here for over a week so hopefully he’ll settle into his usual routine during that time. 

So here we are! We survived the journey and my grandparents have finally met their cheeky, energetic great-grandson. Sam seems entirely happy here and has skipped his usual shy, quiet period where he susses out his new surroundings, instead opting for jumping and shouting just as much as at home. 

I already miss the jumperoo.

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Return on investment 

I’m all about a good ROI, so when it takes 50 minutes to get Sam down for a 15 minute nap, it really doesn’t seem worth the effort. 

Overall, sleep has been improving and although we generally have a couple of wakings before we head up to bed, Sam now usually sleeps 3-5 hours at a time between 10pm and 7am, after being in bed by 6.30/7pm. 

Naps are more hit and miss. He’s a fan of the 20-40 minute nap, and it can be pretty quick to rock him to sleep if I get the timing right. Not always though, as today has reminded me. It’s tiring when it takes such a long time and then he doesn’t have a decent sleep! I’ll try again at 3.20pm (the 3 hour mark) and hopefully he won’t fight it so much then… Unsurprisingly, he’s pretty miserable and tired now.

I do envy mums whose babies enjoy 1-2 hour naps! 20-40 minutes in his cot is better than when he slept on me, but I wouldn’t mind having a relaxed shower or leisurely lunch one day.

However, sleep is getting better so I very much hope that naps will follow. I couldn’t have imagined that we would even be at this stage a couple of weeks ago! We go to Wales next week and when we get back it’s time to start looking at how to teach Sam to fall asleep on his own. We know he can do it, so he needs to remember that he can and realise that there’s no need for crying and whinging and fighting sleep! 

On a different note, I can’t wait for our trip to Wales. Sam will finally get to meet my grandparents! Here’s hoping he doesn’t start crawling while we’re there….! 

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. 

When napping isn’t happening 

Sometimes you simply have ‘one of those days’. We’ve started a new plan to help Sam sleep (more on that in another blog post) and today is the first full day of it. Nothing complicated, just help Sam nap when he’s tired and hopefully better night sleep will follow. Simple.. 

Getting him to sleep hasn’t been that hard today, although I have cheated a bit. I fed him to sleep this morning, the next naps were induced by the car and I rocked him to sleep for this one…three times…before finally feeding him down because he really needs a decent nap. 

The first time he slept 40 minutes and woke of his own accord. Fine. We played and I timed our trip to Dorking with when he would next need to sleep. Easy. When we arrived, I put the car seat on the pram frame and set off into town. 

A lorry hurtled past and he didn’t wake. Perfect. 

Then it got chilly and a large gust of cold wind blew across the pram.

That nap lasted 13 minutes. 

Obviously, Sam then remained awake for the rest of our time in town (a hugely unsuccessful trip in itself), cried half the way home then fell asleep in the car again. Got him inside and left him sleeping in the car seat by the front door while I ate lunch. The postman struggled and faffed around getting a letter through the postbox, but Sam stayed asleep. Phew. 

Then he rang the doorbell. 

To give me a parcel that wasn’t even for me. 

That nap lasted 15 minutes. 

After some play time in his ball pit, jumperoo and mat, it was take 4 for nap time. I’d fed him in advance (he took 150ml from the bottle over the course of half an hour!!), so we were ready. 

It took 10 minutes, but I rocked him to sleep. 

Then I realised I’d left his bib on, so I carefully undid it…and by now, you know what happened. 

I rocked him to sleep again, put him down and got some tidying done. He lasted 10 minutes. 

I rocked him to sleep again, put him down and had just about settled downstairs when he woke again. 

I gave in. I fed him to sleep and decided to get some online stuff done while sitting next to him. He’s now been asleep for around 40 minutes.  I would like him to sleep long enough that I don’t have to attempt to slot in another nap before Carl gets home…fingers crossed!! 

It’s early days for decent naps and our new sleep plan…I’m very aware it won’t happen overnight. One day at a time. However, today really is one of those days where it doesn’t go your way! 

On the plus side, Sam really is getting to grips with sitting up on his own and he enjoyed himself playing in his ball pit, how is he 5 1/2 months already? 

Sitting on his own

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.

The night we threw it out of the window (routine, not the baby!)

Our evening routines haven’t been working. Yes, Sam will eventually go to sleep in his own bed, but I’ve been spending 2-3 hours feeding him and waiting for him to fall asleep deeply enough that I can put him down…and after all that effort he’s been waking within an hour. Carl and I spend our evenings apart – he takes Sam for a walk then does bath time, then I feed until he falls asleep. If we’re lucky, we eat dinner at 9.30pm and have half an hour relaxing before Sam wakes. 

Last night, we decided to scrap it all. And how much more pleasant the evening was! With us both settled on the sofa, Sam fed as usual, with his usual awake time in between feeds (upstairs I put him in the bed to watch the music mobile, last night I just sat him on my knee or the sofa). Carl and I ate dinner at 7.30, together. Sam started drifting off around 9-ish and since I was shattered anyway, decided to head up with him. Lay down to feed him in our bed (where he ends up after 2-3 wakings anyway) and he immediately started falling asleep. By 9.30 he was fast asleep.  

Some may call this a backwards step. However, Carl and I were able to spend the evening together, went to bed at a time of our choosing and didn’t wake hourly. In fact, we had the first 3.5 hour sleep in weeks… In my eyes, this can only be positive. 2 steps forward (we no longer have screaming meltdowns all evening and we know he can sleep in his bed) and one small step back (to regain some time together and sanity, and more sleep). 

I didn’t spend 3 hours in a dark room feeding. I had a solid 3.5 hours sleep. 

It felt wonderful. 

We’ll be back on our ongoing evening routine dilemma when we return from Center Parcs; we have a wedding to attend in July, so we need to work out how to get him fed and asleep without us. However, for the next week, this will work for us. 

You read that right by the way; we’re off on holiday!! I will try to keep updating while I’m away but if I don’t manage it, then have a good week all! x

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…

Sleep at 4 months

As if sleep wasn’t hard enough to come by…we have hit the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. For the last couple of weeks Sam’s sleep has deteriorated and he’s now waking hourly, has a quick feed/comfort suck and goes back to sleep for another hour. 

This is more draining than I could ever have imagined. 

So, what do we need to do? 

Firstly, wait it out for a couple of weeks to check it IS sleep regression and not a growth spurt or teething, both of which can cause regular night wakings. 

Then we need to remove his sleep associations (feeding and rocking), and teach him to go to sleep on his own. 

I asked for some advice from a Health Visitor on Thursday and was told he needs to learn to sleep on his own using the ‘Pick up’ (when he’s crying), ‘Put down’ (when he’s calm again) method, until he falls asleep. Obviously, she’s never seen what happens when you try this with our little angel…

Anyone who has met Sam and witnessed his epic meltdowns will appreciate what a nightmare task this is going to be…and would quite rightly ask, how do you even start? 

I have no idea. 

Somehow, Sam needs to learn that he doesn’t need food or rocking to fall asleep, so when he wakes between sleep cycles he can go back to sleep on his own. 

Frustratingly, I have WATCHED him do this! On Thursday, he woke up, looked at me, smiled…and went back to sleep. Right in front of me. I’ve also witnessed it a couple of times on the monitor. However, he has to be very, very sleepy and all the stars have to be aligned ‘just so’. I would never be so bold as to say he knows how to do it, just that on those occasions it was slightly easier to fall back to sleep than stay awake. 

So, dear blog readers, wish us all the very best of luck. 

Oh, and please send caffeine. 

Operation ‘cot bed’ has begun

Firstly, you can stop being impressed by the fancy code name for this operation, it took me ages to come up with it. 

The clue is in the title really. Last night, we decided to see how Sam went in his cot bed. We have to start somewhere and if it’s anything like the cot and bath, he’ll take a while to adapt. It’s only in the last 2 days that he hasn’t cried in the bath! With the cot, I initially put him in it for one sleep a night and once he’d got used to that, we moved him in for the whole night (obviously around feeds!). Both were slow processes but we got there in the end.

So, we bathed Sam and then decided to bite the bullet and feed him in his room, see what happened. He fell asleep straight after the feed and we put him in his bed. So far, so good. Then Archie (one of our cats), slipped in and jumped into the bed, waking a startled and now crying Sam. 

I returned to feed him again (helping him learn to fall asleep on his own will be tackled another day!!). It took longer for him to fall asleep this time but we put him in his bed once he did, then I went downstairs to start dinner and Carl sat with him.  

Holding Carl’s finger as he sleeps

This time he lasted half an hour before waking. At first he was just shouting, so Carl tried to settle him without picking him up. However, this soon turned to tears so Carl took him out and started calming him. 

Tears often mean hunger, so I returned to feed him again. It took quite a while, but he eventually started dozing off. Once he was almost asleep, I went to eat my dinner (now ready) while Carl continued calming him and, upon my return 15 minutes later, he was asleep so we put him back in the bed. Carl went to eat his dinner and when he returned to find Sam still sleeping, we set up the monitor so we could leave him. 

Oh my goodness, the baby was sleeping on his own! What to do with our freedom? 

“We could go to bed. It is nearly 9pm…” 

Which is exactly what we did, crazy people that we are…although I struggled to fall asleep, keeping a close eye on the monitor and waiting for Sam to wake. 

He lasted 2hrs 45mins asleep. I woke to hear him fussing and crying at 11.15pm. As agreed in advance with Carl, I brought him back to our room to feed and finish the night. 

It’s a good start!  

“This too shall pass”

This is a phrase I’ve heard a lot since becoming a mum, it’s meant to help you through the difficult times. Last night was the first time that I found myself repeating it over and over in my head…”this too shall pass”. 

We’ve had a hard couple of nights, but last night was probably the worst we’ve had in Sam’s short life.

It started off so well. He napped during the day, didn’t cry for whole his bath (for once), fed and went to sleep afterwards. 

The trouble started when we went upstairs. Just like the night before, Sam woke up the minute he was put in his cot. It had been a few hours since his last feed though, so it wasn’t wholly unexpected. Just like the previous night, Sam fell asleep feeding but woke up as soon as he was placed in his cot. I fed him again, he fell asleep…he woke up as soon as he was put in his cot. This time I rocked him to sleep and then let him lie on me for a little while. He woke up as soon as I put him in his cot. 

I rocked him to sleep again, let him sleep on me and then gently rolled him so he was sleeping next to me, all cuddled up. 10 minutes later he woke up. Once again, I rocked him back to sleep…you get the pattern by now. This went on until 2am (started at 10.30pm) when I propped myself up on a pillow and left him sleeping on me for an hour. At 3am, I removed the pillow and slid down so we were lying flat. He woke up. Every time, he woke up crying, which is most unusual; he isn’t a crier at night. 

Thinking he might be hungry by this time, I lay down and offered him the breast – I hadn’t yet slept, I needed him to sleep. He then fed/slept/comfort sucked for the remainder of the night. Every time he woke up and wasn’t on the breast, he cried. 

It was a long night. 

There could be a number of reasons… A wonder week, teething, feels clingy at the moment, frustration…

We’ve noticed that he’s getting really frustrated at the moment. He’s desperate to sit up; he can pull himself upright but doesn’t have the strength to hold himself there. He really wants to stand, but it’s not good for such a young baby to hold their own weight yet so I have to keep his weight off his feet. Yesterday, I kept sitting him back down down and he would cry every time.

All in all, we’re having a hard weekend. We’re going on holiday to Center Parcs in 3 weeks, I really hope this has passed by then! His cot bed arrives on Tuesday and I’m hoping that he may settle better in a bigger space.