Sleeping Beauty, Sleeping Beautifully

Yup.

Right now, as of this minute, my daughter is sleeping through the night.

By Christmas (at seven months old) I was getting really over waking up anywhere between 1 – 6am to feed and settle. This was on top of the Dream Feed I was still doing around 11pm. It was like I’d run out of juice. Where I’d previously been bouncing through the day on five hours of (broken) sleep, suddenly I was mainlining sugar just to get through the day.

I started by trying to drop the Dream Feed a few times, but failed dismally. She wouldn’t have a bar of it. We ended up losing it with the unorthodox approach of flying 12,000 miles. I know, not that easily done – but I’d recommend it! The jetlag from a long-haul flight knocked LB’s Dream Feed out the window.

Right, one down.

On arriving home in January we embarked on a month of upheaval, house-moving and portacots. I just didn’t feel right cutting out her overnight feed while there was so much else going on – especially considering we’d also just been overseas for a month. I wanted to allow LB plenty of time to settle back into her own cot and her own routine.

February became The Month. And randomly, as she woke up ‘early’ for her overnight feed at midnight one Friday, that became The Night.

Being a beautifully stubborn little thing, I was fully prepared for my daughter to give me hell for weeks, once I turned off the overnight tap. The first night she grizzled and cried for an hour, with Mr Bun going in every 10 – 20 minutes to settle her. She then slept through until 5am, stirred, and slept again until 7. I, of course, woke at 4am and stared at the monitor, wondering when she’d wake.

The next night I went to bed almost hoping she’d wake up, so we could continue bedding down the ‘new approach’. But, she slept. From 7pm until 7am, waking at 5am and putting. herself. back. to. sleep. This kid NEVER resettles herself, not when she wakes up after midnight.

I was so confused.

There was one night, about a week later, when she woke at 3am. I spent almost two hours going in and out of her room, settling and soothing as she grizzled, until she fell asleep again. And that was almost two months ago. Since then, I pop her down into bed and she smiles and laughs as I tuck her in. She’ll chat away to herself for a while before falling asleep. She’ll then stir a few times throughout the night and early hours, but settles again until waking up around 7am.

Forgive me if I’m sound boastful here, but it is bloody amazing.

I believe in sleep training, and I was fully prepared to commit to it as long as it took. But it didn’t really take long … no, it didn’t really take at all. You see, she was ready. She was probably as desperate as I was to get more sleep, but just didn’t know how to go about it. All she needed was a little bit of encouragement.

The amazing thing is, she’s sleeping more deeply at night. I can now pop my head in and check on her when I go to bed, whereas before that would definitely wake her up, and she’d be hollering until I fed her. AND – wait for it – she’s napping better during the day.

Since she was eight weeks old my baby hasn’t napped for longer than 40 minutes. It has absolutely been the hardest thing I’ve had to manage, hands down. To have her roll out a few one or even 1.5 hour sleeps in a week is amazing for me.

I am aware this will change. There will be teeth, colds, developmental leaps, slumber parties and bad breakups with boyfriends. BUT. This Mama is getting some sleep for the first time since les bump was small enough to let me sleep through. And that is a BLOODY GREAT THING.

The Un-Asked Question

I find, when your bub gets to about six months old, people stop asking;

‘Is she sleeping through the night?’

It’s like it becomes taboo … because, y’know, she should be*. And if she isn’t, well – that’s just awkward for all concerned.

LB is very much NOT sleeping through the night. She is doing the very opposite of that, unlike when she was four, or five months old. I know this, because back then I was optimistically (and, yes, a little smugly) noting it down in my calendar. Scribbly little exclamations in biro ‘Until 7am!’ … ‘Through ’til 7.30!’ popped up three or four times a week for a few months. I was excited – thinking, this is surely IT. She’ll start doing this more and more often, until the nights when she does wake up become the exception. WOooHooo!

But, no – she has slept through only once in over a month. Not only that, a few weeks ago she started waking at 1am and 2am again. I still give her a Dream Feed at 10.30/11pm, so this is clearly not a hunger thing.

When she’s up before 3am, I settle and re-settle until it’s 3:00 and she gets a feed (if I feed her before then, she’ll wake again at 4/5am). If she wakes after 3am, I leave her grizzling for 20 minutes (in the vain hope she’ll go back to sleep – hardey har har), then feed her.

So. Waking at night. Sometime it’s 1am, sometimes it’s 3am, sometimes it’s 4.30am. Either way, when I feed her, she goes right back to sleep until I wake her in the morning.

Why do I feed her at all? Well, she still hasn’t doubled her birthweight so I feel like I should be giving her that overnight feed if she needs (wants?) it. The other reason is we’re heading overseas for Christmas and I really don’t think I’ll be able to handle the stress of sleep training her out of her overnight feeds, while staying in someone else’s home.

People suggest I go to bed at 9pm (or earlier), to get a few hours in before the Dream Feed. But you know what? Those few hours in the evening are the only time when I am ME. I get to sit, enjoy a glass of wine, watch TV, talk to my husband (wow – another ADULT) and generally remind myself who I am. I can’t give that up.

After six months of broken sleep you’d think I’d be OK with it. I mean, she’s a baby right? And a pretty young one at that. Suck it up!

But I actually feel more tired, and less able to cope with the hours – particularly the 1am nights when I have to do two hours of settling and THEN a 45 minute feed. I just feel so drained, and empty – running on zero sleep for so many months. I am really ready to get my nights back.
Zzzzzz …

*Fuck off.

She knows.

I don’t know how, but she just does.

A week or so of less and less sleep … Long days, longer nights. Teething? Immunisations? Growth spurt? All I knew was I was getting more and more exhausted and more and more desperate. Last night I broke down, told Mr Bun just how very tired I was … ‘It’s like those first few weeks*’
But then, last night, she slept through. Ohh, when she woke at 6am, I rolled over – saw the time – bliss.

And this morning? She’s been napping for 1.5 hours. Again, amazing.

 

So, yes. She knows. Her Mumma was at breaking point and she decided to give her a little rest.

 

Thank you darling.

 

 

*It’s not. Nothing could every be that exhausting. See? I’ve forgotten already.

On Anxiety

My daughter is four and a half months old. We are a third of the way through a year. Time is passing. She is growing – stretching and plumping and advancing before my eyes.

Since she was born, I have had the full might of the wonderful Australian health system behind me. Obstetricians, GPs, paediatricians, maternal health nurses and gynaecologists all working in unison to ensure my daughter and I have had the best start possible, into this brave new world.

My family have been there. Offering help when it wasn’t asked for. Allowing me to need support, to feel helpless; to be helped. At every instance, every milestone, I have been checked in on. How are things? How am I coping? How am I feeling?

Fine, fine. She truly is a wonderful little baby. I have nothing to complain about. Everything is OK.

But, it’s not. I am not OK.

I think I have a problem with anxiety. It is getting worse. I am getting worse.

It’s crept up on me, because she is not a newborn and I am no longer so new at this myself. And she is – really is – a happy, settled, beautiful little girl.  So, how could I possibly be struggling?

It’s other mothers that make me feel this most acutely. If I’m having a particularly bad day, I venture a hesitant, ‘It’s hard’, out into the conversation. But unless I can back this up with tales of abject baby-based horror, I’m met with blank looks. I’ve even been second-guessing this post. Fretting that my anxiety isn’t seated in something with more substance.

You have nothing to complain about.

And I don’t. She’s perfect. I know, it’s me.

I don’t think I’m depressed. Every day begins with my heart hurrying at the chance to see her face again. I function well. I get dressed, put on make-up, eat, clean, visit friends, run errands, make sure I tick off the endless list of Things To Do. And I enjoy myself. I know I am lucky to have this life.

But what were a few road bumps a while ago, now send me into a tailspin of fear and worry. When she doesn’t nap. Or doesn’t stick to a routine. Or life intrudes into whatever carefully mapped-out schedule I have in my head … I don’t cope.

There’s a constant, endlessly repeating cycle that exists … like living in the twilight of happy and not. When she’s awake, I am ecstatic, hungry with love for her. When she’s crying in bed, not sleeping, I am exhausted with disappointment. The other times, I’m brittle and taut – watching the clock, eyeing the monitor, one ear and eye always out. ‘Is she awake?’ ‘Is she overtired?’ ‘Have I failed this time?’ ‘What will I do if things don’t go to plan?’

It’s affecting how I enjoy these precious days. When I leave the house, knowing she’ll miss a nap, I worry she’ll be ruined for the rest of the day. When Mr Bun and I settle down to dinner, I worry she’ll wake up ‘early’.  When I pop her down after her late feed, I worry about the night ahead. Worry worry worry.

When she doesn’t sleep, we both feel it. She is unhappy. Her smiles drift away. Her feeding and playing and sleeping all suffer. She has a worse day – and then, so do I. But I should be able to bear that. I should be able to take it in my stride, shrug with the understanding that she is just a baby, that these things happen – and that it will get better.

Instead I obsess and worry as to what it means. I fear for what’s to come, constantly. Every time I use the dummy, I picture a spiral of screaming addiction ahead of me. One bad night has me convinced months of bad nights are coming up. One tough morning and I’ve already written off the entire day.

It’s affecting my marriage. Poor Mr Bun now asks, hesitantly, ‘Has she had a … good day?’ He’s not asking because of her. It’s because of me. How will his wife be when he gets home? Will there be tears? Snapped whispers of ‘Don’t wake the baby’? Or just the silence of my concern filling the room?

I had a realisation last week that turned a corner for me. I’m not so sure fixing Little Bun’s sleep will mean I am fixed too. The rising panic in my chest will remain, and just find some other cause to focus on.

I have always been a huge proponent of therapy and getting help when you need it. I am the first to encourage loved ones to seek help. I am an avid believer in mental as well as physical health. But what’s unsettling is when it’s me, I feel helpless and – yes – embarrassed.

None of what I’m feeling is normal. I know that – but it’s still hard to face. On the good days, I forget all of the above exists; with relief I let it fade like a bad dream. Then I have a bad day, and I’m desperate for help again.

I am seeking help, I will get it, and things will improve. We are looking into sleep school, and support for me too. In the meantime, I’m writing this post. Because no matter how much you wished for this, how tough you are, how wonderful your baby may be, and how tight your support network is – you may still need a little help.

Musical Beds

From day one, Little Bun has been sleeping in our bedroom. Actually, probably from day 20 or something … the first few weeks she slept in her pram in the living room while one of us lay exhausted, weeping across the sofa. But let’s not go there.

Since then she’s been in her beautiful little moses basket just by our bed, snuffling and farting her way through the months. Before she was born, I declared grandly that we’d have her in with us ‘for six weeks … at a push‘. What I didn’t realise is I would like – no, LOVE – having her little body sleeping in the same four walls as Mr Bun and I.

Beyond the obvious convenience of having her right there by me, so I could attend to the nighttime feeds and whatnot without moving too far, I felt I slept better with her there. Although this is probably a false impression, as she’s pretty bloody noisy when she wants to be.

But as my little girl stacks on the pounds (literally, guys – she gained just under a KILO between three and four months … that’s nearly two pounds, imperial fans!) she’s clearly very close to growing out of her basket. And at four months she’s also become much more aware – I didn’t want to get into a situation where moving would cause her distress or disorientation. To this point, a few months ago I started popping her down in her own cot/room for naps, so she could become familiar with the routine, and so I could access our bedroom during the day.

Then, on Friday – GASP – she went back to her cot after her bath. And since then I’ve been settling her ‘for the night’ in her room, then moving her into our bedroom just before her dream feed. She then spends the rest of the night in with us. Little steps.

It may seem like I’m dragging this out longer than I need to – but you see, her bedroom is pretty much the furthest spot from our room, in the house. We’re in the front, on the ground floor – she’s down the back of the house, upstairs. By no means do we have a large place, but she seems very far away.

I know I need to make the final move and let her sleep the whole night upstairs. It means a little more disruption for me, as nighttime feeds and any other little squirms and cries will have me going up and down stairs. But I think it will actually be better for her, and may even encourage (!) more consistent sleeping-through-the-night action.

Wish me luck!

F&*%$ING Sleep Cycles

GAWD naptimes are doing MY HEAD IN.

I need advice! I need reassurance! Heeeelp!

It’s been nearly a month of this approach now, and we’ve had exactly one big win, and one *pttthhhhh* fail.

Win: a relatively calm bedtime at 7, dream feed at 10.30 and sleeping until anywhere between 3-5am. This overnight feed is getting later and later (or earlier?) Last night, she did 7 – 7 with the dream feed in between. I’m hoping this starts to become a more regular occurrence!

Fail: naps. They’re getting worse. She just will. not. sleep. past one 30-40 minute cycle. Here’s the drill:

  1. Wakes at the end of a cycle, doing anything from chatting and smiling, to grizzling, to crying
  2. I then spend an hour or more of going in and out, shushing, patting, sometimes picking up and cuddling, and often – *sigh* – the dummy. Why do I persevere? Because sometimes she’ll go back to sleep for another hour or more.
  3. This can mean she’s in bed for 2.5 or 3 hours, but only gets 30mins to 1.5 hours of sleep under her belt
  4. I’m pretty sure she’s not hungry, as she’ll settle immediately and start smiling whenever I enter the room, and does go back to sleep (eventually) if I stick with it

It’s this ‘going back to sleep’ that’s really mucking with my mind. If I knew she was awake for good, I’d suck it up, get her out of bed, feed her and start the whole Eat/Play/Sleep cycle again. But I know she can (and will) go back to sleep. It’s just the hour – or more – it takes to get her there. It’s exhausting and disruptive for me, and I dread to think how it must be for Little Bun.

We’re on a four hourly feed cycle, and (again) my gut tells me this is OK, as when she’s in the car / pram she’ll resettle from one cycle to another quickly and calmly, and certainly won’t grizzle for a feed until the four-hour mark.

And yes, I’ve tried getting her up regardless. She’s exhausted: doesn’t feed well, is yawning and rubbing her eyes after half an hour. I feel awful, like it’s my responsibility to get her to sleep because she really does need it.

Am I doing something wrong? Would a hungry baby go back to sleep like she does? Have you experienced anything like this? Should I stop worrying and accept what I can’t control*?

*BAH HA HA HA HAAAA HA

Tears Before Bedtime. And During. And After. And …

Little Bun has been a fabulous sleeper from early on. She napped like a champion from week one, and I entered her second month with hours (literally) of downtime every day under my belt. She’d crank out two naps of at least two hours every day, with a few shorter ones thrown in for good measure.

Nightime was also smug-worthy. While yes – granted – she wasn’t sleeping until 10 or 11pm, by six weeks she was going from then until 6 or 7am. I threw my daytime naps away and started to see the under-eye bags disappear.

So, when things started to go sour a fortnight ago, I wasn’t too sure how to handle it. The infamous 45 minute sleep cycles that Little Bun used to snooze happily through, with just a peep and a snuffle, were suddenly waking her up. Loudly. And she wasn’t going back to sleep.

And as we head towards the big 12 weeks, I began to wonder just how long we could manage evening after evening with her on our laps. Not conducive to adult things like dinner and conversation. And not really fair on a little bebe who needs a proper bedtime.

And finally, I would really like a routine. I’d like to know in advance when she would probably be napping, and probably we awake – so I could plan things like doctor’s appointments, or a visit from a tradie, or even – gasp – going out for a coffee with more than 30 minutes notice.

You know where I’m getting to, right? We’re doing some sleep training.

She’s still young, so the approach I’m taking is very gentle on her (and me!) It’s really just about teaching her to self-settle through one sleep cycle to another. I’m shushing and patting and notching up future chiropractor bills like no tomorrow. It’s only Day 3, so a set schedule is a while off. At the moment it’s about getting her used to the rhythm of the day; to going down to sleep, and to staying that way for longer than 45 minutes.

Part of me is frustrated as I thought we had this sorted a few weeks back. But since I’ve started (and she’s been getting more sleep) I’ve been seeing a huge difference in her. She is so much more smiley, ‘talkative’ and engaged. I think maybe what I thought was a good pattern, wasn’t so much after all.

The first three days are (apparently) the hardest … and I can attest to that. I’m starting to climb the walls, as I’ve been staying home to really lock in a routine. Yet for the past few nights she’s been asleep by 7 or 8pm, and has gone through until 5 or 6am.

I am ready for two steps backwards for every forward. But I think the small wins I’ve had since beginning are enough to keep me going. I’ll be interested to see how I feel in a week or two.

 
Have you done anything like this before? What did you find difficult? Did it help you in the long run?