Who isn’t ratty without enough sleep? I argue about the smallest things, often things that don’t even have an argument in them and my God was I hanging the 1st few weeks after she was born. It’s the one thing you really can’t do without. I think we might have been lucky with Lo-Lo. She has slept through most of her nights recently from about 5 weeks (I say this but am aware we’re only in week 6 now so I hope I’m not jinxing us here!). By sleeping through I mean she does not wake up/feed/cry and if she does wake up we’re not aware of it and she will go back to sleep without any intervention from us. You do hear stories of some babies who sleep from the start (apparently i was like this) and others who will cry pretty much 24 hours (my hubby).
So is it nature or nuture? Or both? Who knows but there’s no harm in trying to help nature along. Here’s what we’ve been doing:
From week 1 at NIGHT:
– If she cried between 12am and 5am, we didn’t pick her up straight away– we let her cry for 5 mins. Then hubby picks her up, changes her nappy and tries to calm her for 5 – 10 mins in case she just needs to go back to sleep. This is so they do not associate waking up in the middle of the night just with feeding
– Only pick them up if they are awake i.e. don’t wake them. Check their eyes are open! If they are not, leave them alone. Research has shown that babies have a sleep cycle of something like 2 hours, between which they can cry/start moving a lot/Lo-Lo makes some incredible noises at night etc… but this does not mean they are awake or need picking up. Sometimes parents pick them up anyway to try to pre-empt and stop them from crying at night. However this can do more harm then good as 1) you could be waking them while they are still asleep 2) they could start feeling that they need to wake up for YOU during the night– odd theory but has been shown to be true!
From week 1 during the DAY:
– If she cried during the day, we’d wait to see what it is she needed. We tried not to swoop in and pick her up automatically. I originally found this difficult because she’s my gorgeous baby who I hate to see upset, but a way to force me to do this is to go for a shower. I need a shower (by 12noon minimum – high standards or what!) on a daily basis. Yes I would prefer if she wasn’t crying or was sleeping, but you need one and if she was crying she would just have to ride it out til I was done. All 10-15mins of it.
– End of the day bath time routine: Ideally just before bed. As she would cluster feed in the evenings this came out anytime between 7-9pm depending on how she’d slept/eaten during the day. Apparently a good bath knackers them out and of course it’s nice to keep them clean. We also massage her, hopefully this relaxes her further.
– End of the day feeding routine: This used to be a bit of feed around 6pm, bath, then both breasts and 100ml of formula to end with. Over these last few days sometimes she feeds on the breast and this is enough and she will still manage a decent night’s sleep. However the thinking behind giving her formula is that it is heavier and takes longer to digest hence leaving her fuller for longer, helping her sleep.
– Other ideas: Some friends also swear by: having their baby sleep on their tummies (once their neck is strong enough)/a reflux pillow/making sure the baby gets enough fresh air time during the day
The idea of waiting (at night and during the day) is expressed further in Pamela Druckerman‘s ‘French Kids Don’t Throw Food‘ (thanks Jo for the recommendation!). It can be draining to do and stick to, especially the waiting in the middle of the night, but I figured getting more sleep in the long run would be worth the pain. Apparently you can use the night time method up until they are 3 months, after that you may want to try letting them cry out. Crying out is supposed to work very well, the problem is that often the parents are inconsistent. Understandably your heart breaks to hear them cry so some nights you might give in, unfortunately this sends a mixed message to the baby. If you’re going to do it, it’s worth toughing it out. It could take one night or 7, but as long as they are safe/clean and have fed well before you put them down, you should have a clear conscience. It is worth remembering why you’re doing this and that it doesn’t mean you don’t love them! In fact you are helping them in the long run to be happier and healthier babies. You know how your baby is during the day if they don’t get their naps? Fractious and grumpy. Same thing if they don’t get a good night’s sleep.
It’s worth also considering the idea of waiting generally is a gentle way of teaching a child patience. It’s easy to think I’m doing my baby a favour by being super attentive, but actually I’d be teaching her that she will always be tended to immediately, a trait I do not want to develop as it will lead to future disappointment. It’s never too early, because it’s not a punishment and it’s nothing drastic. I also like this idea because ultimately babies are little people, need their own space and need to figure out how to be content on their own. This circles back nicely into helping them sleep better at night! it’s all connected.
A recap of her sleeping pattern for the last few weeks:
- w/c 1st July (week 6): Mon: 9hrs / Tue: 6hrs / Wed:8hrs
- w/c 24th June (week 5): 6/6/9/7/7/7/7
- w/c 17th June (week 4): 4/2/3/7/3/5/4
- w/c 10th June (week 3): 2/2/5/1/7/8/8
- w/c 3rd June (week 2): 3/5/8/6/7/4/3
You’ll notice she already had a couple of long sleeps from the start… this is what I mean: is it nature or nurture? I’m still not sure but I hope some of the above helps. Let me know if you have any other tips.