The following meme appeared on my Facebook feed this morning and made me incredibly cross:
‘Your baby doesn’t need to be taught how to sleep. Your baby needs to be cuddled so when she is developmentally ready she will feel comfortable falling asleep on her own’.
Incidentally, this came the morning after I have just started sleep-training by now 8-month-old. I have written a few months back about getting baby to sleep in his own cot. The boy is very comfortable in his cot (and night-time cuddles in my own bed are more for my convenience than his), but for the past 4 months he has woken multiple times a night – sometimes up to every hour. And while some of the nights transformed me into a zombie whose blood must have turned into Red Bull syrup by the amount I gulped every day, while I was at home, lack of sleep was something I could – sort of – cope with.
But have you ever had to face 150 teenagers and get them excited about rocks and formulae after being woken up to a screaming baby every hour of the night? Have you ever driven – even a few miles – in busy traffic while having spent the previous night pretty much entirely awake? There is a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Decision-making, the ability to respond appropriately to other people, thinking time and physical strength are all affected by sleep, or lack thereof.
My first week at work was horrendous. The job is fine and so were the kids, but the fact that my boy was over-excited from having been to the childminder’s all day and just general change to routines made for some very bad nights indeed and I was glad that my superiors had agreed to ease me in as much as possible. We then spent a few days at the in-laws and the boy got increasingly worse at night, what with so many different faces, experiences and surroundings. By night 3 he was up screaming for hours. I tried everything, from cuddles, to feeds, to shushing noises, to Calpol. It was the night that I made two decisions: to stop breast feeding entirely (he’d still been given evening and night time feeds) and to start sleep training.
As always, there is a balance to be found. Believe it or not, no one in their right mind likes it when their babies cry. However, upsetting them is, at times, necessary for their own good. It is short-term pain over long-term gain, for both of us.
So sleep training has started off with refusing night time feeds after his evening bottle. In the interest of not making this more cruel than necessary, I filled a bottle with tap water, to keep by the bed.
He took to the evening bottle astonishingly well and slept until 11pm, when he woke, expecting to be transferred to my bed and to be fed. Well, the latter didn’t happen. As you can imagine, there was outrage at the offer of water over milk and bottle over boob. There were tears and loud protests, which went on for about an hour. But eventually he accepted his situation, drank some water and went down.
He woke again at about 2am, but – realising the boob wasn’t gonna happen – went back down after a few minutes.
At 4.45am the need to suck something – anything – took over and he attempted to suckle my arm, knuckles, fingers, but eventually had to accept plain water from his bottle. He slept until 7am.
I have to say, he has slept better than many of the previous nights. I expected it to be a lot worse, I hated hearing him cry, but with plenty of cuddles, hand holding and mere reassurance of my presence he did really well. It was the long-term goal of a good night’s sleep that made me persevere and not simply revert to the easy option of flopping my breast out to go back to sleep as soon as possible.
Luckily, we still have a few days of holidays left, by the end of which I expect to see a significant improvement in night time spent sleeping through.
What I do NOT need, however, is being guilt-tripped by the sodding holier-than-thou brigade on Facebook over trying to do what is, essentially, the best for everyone in this family. Because, let’s face it: what use is a grumpy mummy in tears over yet another terrible night, arguments with the husband, because I’m just too tired for anything at all, an annoyed daughter whose mother cannot face going out or trouble at work, because things don’t get done? None whatsoever.
So I will sleep-train, persevere, out-stubborn until the boy starts to sleep. I have been told by a fair few people that their children didn’t sleep through until the ages of 5 or 7 and that they just got on with it. But honestly, I don’t think it’s worth the upset it causes the rest of the family – or me, for that matter.