My Christmas wish was simple. All I wanted for Christmas was a good night’s sleep.
We spent Christmas week at my in laws’. By Christmas Eve, there were 12 adults, three kids, two babies & three dogs. My wish did not come true. In fact, far from it.
Between The Little Auntie, who as much as I love her, at age seven, has absolutely no volume control even when we frantically remind her babies are napping; being somewhere new & unknown (Baby Girl never settles well in new places); sharing a room with her (we seem to disturb her as much as she does us); & the Other Half having flu, I got very little sleep.
Though to be honest, this is no different to usual. I’ve made it no secret there has been increasingly less sleep since around four months old. To the point where I was regularly living on only two hours a night from six months old.
So Christmas week has been even more tiring than usual. Truth be told, I was looking forward to returning to our quiet, little apartment on Boxing Day.
And that’s when our Christmas miracle happened.
Baby Girl slept through the night. And again on the 27th. From 7pm til 7am.
I woke feeling refreshed & rested, albeit shocked & confused!
Baby Girl was nine months at the beginning of December & I reached breaking point. I still stand very firmly against just letting her ‘cry it out’, but we have started our own form of gentle sleep training. I couldn’t continue to live on so little sleep. (As the girl who previously couldn’t function on less than eight hours, ten if possible, it’s shocked everyone how long I’ve held on. Including myself!).
Baby Girl hasn’t fed during the night since 5.5 months old. She dropped the feed of her own accord. She had a dummy until teething began at six months at which point she refused it. During the warm summer, I gave her water if she woke; she would drink half an ounce then roll over back to sleep.
But between teething, chronic wind, a cold, then a dose of flu, we slowly got into the habit of picking her up when she cried at night. And slowly, it seems, she became a bit of a cuddle monster.
So, our waking routine now goes something like this:
- Baby Girl wakes. Wait a few moments to see if she’s just moaning in her sleep or is awake & upset.
- If she cries, go in, turn on Ewan the Dream Sheep, pat her, ‘reset her’ if necessary (ie, lie her back down if sitting or standing), shush her, let her know she’s not alone, that everything’s ok, then walk out of the room.
- Wait ‘x’ amount time, then repeat of needed.
- Repeat until she settles.
The time we wait varies. To begin with, it was one minute. Then two. Then three. There were tears from me at the start having to leave her for any amount of time. It felt wrong of me & as though I wasn’t doing my job. But this technique does seem to be working for us. We noticed a marked difference within a week or so. And despite having a rough few days while we were away, touch wood, she seems to have slotted straight back in now we’ve returned home.
I still won’t leave her for more than five minutes to cry. As far as I’m concerned, a baby cries for a reason. Even if that reason is, ‘I’ve woken up & startled myself by practising crawling in the cot in my sleep!’. They have little other ways of communicating at this young age.
I’ve also read about the damaging effects of prolonged exposure to stress hormones if babies are left to cry too long. And I subscribe to the theory that, with controlled crying, babies stop crying because they learn no one will come, not become they learn to self settle.
While I appreciate that six or seven minutes may not be considered ‘prolonged exposure,’ this is what feels right to me. And so far, our technique is showing that you can gently train your baby to self settle without the distress of being ignored while crying. (For more info on these theories, see Margot Sunderland’s What Every Parent Needs To Know).
Though last night Baby Girl did wake at 2am briefly & started her day at 6am (yawn), it’s still a vast improvement on where we were a month ago. Fingers crossed this is the start of things to come. Definitely a high to end 2014 on if it is!