So I have been meaning to write about our struggles with sleep for some time now but one thing or anything kept getting in the way! Now, two months after getting her sorted into a proper bedtime routine I thought I would share.
You may remember back in January that I mentioned that Spike was sleeping in our bed and wouldn’t sleep anywhere other than on me. I knew this couldn’t carry on when I returned to work. Especially as she was waking every two hours for a feed because she was so close to me and my milk.
The thing is I was kind of enjoying being so close to my little girl. Knowing she was there with me all the time. I loved breastfeeding and I loved waking up to her smiling face. It was hard to do anything about the fact we were barely sleeping. I also didn’t want to force a routine on her when she wasn’t ready. I decided to get some help when I noticed one of the local children’s centres were running a sleep course. Specially designed for parents struggling with getting their children to sleep.
Let me just take a minute to shout out about the children’s centres in my area. I love how much they do for new parents and how much support there is at the centres. It upsets me knowing these places are having to close and stop their services due to cuts. The work they do is amazing. Plus, I honestly think Spike would be in our bed forever without this course!
The course was kinda like a ‘sleepless parents anonymous’ with parents sharing their problems and just talking. They didn’t give me any advice I didn’t know. However, they gave me the confidence to do something about the situation we were in.
In the three week course and they told us all about how kids part-wake in cycles through the night and thats often when they cry out. This is especially the case if theres anything different about their room/environment from when they went to sleep. So, if you are holding a child until it sleeps then you put it down and leave, when they wake later they will cry because they are no longer being held. Night lights which turn themselves off once baby is asleep can cause upset etc.
They recommended a gentle sleep training method. You set a bedtime routine, leave the room and return after 30 seconds if your child is upset. Some people criticise this as a crying it out method. However I didn’t think it was at all. Especially as it takes about 30 seconds for me to run up my stairs and check on her!
So anyway. We tried this out. We set a bedtime routine which was; upstairs at between 7 and 7:30, teeth brushed, washed or bathed (depending on night as we bath her every other night), into her bedroom to be dressed for bed, feed, and into the cot. We then read her a story as she lays in her cot. Once thats done, I kiss her goodnight and leave the room.
One of the things the people running the course said was its actually better if they aren’t asleep when you leave. This helps them settle themselves and thats something I’ve found with Spike. I never leave the room when she’s upset, only when she’s calm and lying down, and I always go back in and settle her almost straight away (usually the exception is when Im on the loo!)
The routine is working really well and for a while we were getting some good 7-7 night sleeps! I was still feeding Spike at the start of this routine. I found after a week or so she went straight back down after her night feeds. Then she soon started sleeping through them too!
Unfortunately for the last three weeks she’s been getting up at between half 5 and half 6 but we’re working on that… Hopefully its just taking a bit of adjustment now the mornings are brighter! Now she’s only on bottles and not breast the routine is even better. It means that she settles for T instead of just for me and she goes to sleep on her own. She no longer sleeps on me, even for her naps. I miss the cuddles but I get plenty of awake cuddles now. Plus, I’m more productive when she’s napping!
I honestly think that at nearly nine, months she actually was ready to go into a bit of a routine herself. This helped with us getting her settled and I really would say the best thing to do is listen to your baby. I tried to get Spike to settle herself well before Christmas. A short two months earlier, using similar methods to those recommended, she didn’t settle. She wasn’t having it so I gave up. I would have tried this all again if she didn’t take to it but thankfully she did!
At a point over Christmas and the New Year that I thought Spike would be in our bed forever. But we’ve got there now and its a great relief. I think its probably quite important to keep reminding yourself when you’ve got a baby that nothing lasts forever. Both the bad things and the good; so just go with the flow and do what you gotta do!