Tuesday, 22 September 2009

She sleeps like a baby

Here I sit, with a glass of wine, at home, relaxed, blogging. I've just seen a friend out who had visited for a few hours, after a lovely chat. It's close to my bedtime and I'm looking forward to a nice night's sleep, to be up again in the morning for a busy day at work.

A scenario which only a year ago would have been an impossibility. Wind back even two years, and you would see a nervous wreck, who endured the torture of being woken every. single. hour. during the night.

How did I get here? What did I do right? Especially when all the books told me I was doing it wrong? If I hadn't got a PhD yet, I'd have one now. A PhD in baby sleep. I know it all, I've been through the worst, read the books and flung them against the wall to spit on them and throw shoes at them. And here I am, alive and above all, with all the night sleep I can ask for. I know about controlled crying, cry it out, feed to sleep, baby whisperers and every trick in the magic box of getting baby who will not sleep to sleep. My pride is unspeakable: My 2 1/2 year old (today) sleeps through the night, from 8pm to 7pm and also gives me a daily present, the best present ever, of a two hour nap. I am one happy mummy.

Cubling is a spirited baby. Spirited babies are hard to soothe, very active, don't nap well, hard to get off to dreamland, like to be carried, cry a lot and long, are strong willed, and have more than the fair share of personality. There were moments where I was close to despair, where I seriously questioned if I'd done the right thing wanting to have a child or if I was creating more suffering than joy.

My baby cried a lot. She cried in the pram. She cried between feeds. She cried when tired. She cried when not bounced. She did not take a dummy, a bottle, a finger. She only ever settled when on the breast or when held. I dreaded going out for walks because without fault, she would not nap but scream the park down. She would not nap when moving, she would not nap when still, she would not nap for more than 30 minutes. There was no doubt, her inability to nap meant over stimulation and yet less sleep and more crying. We had entered the vicious circle of the spirited baby.

Nights were reasonably ok. After 2am that is. Before that we had to endure either a feeding marathon or 7 hours of screaming. Once she did sleep, she would wake every 3 hours for a feed and fall asleep over it, and as long as she did that, I functioned. But then there were teeth and she would not give me 3 hours spells of sleep. I trialled the theory of 3: 2x3 hours of sleep - bliss, 1x3 hours of sleep, I'll get through the day if it's less than 3 nights in a row. less than 1x3 hours of sleep or 3 night of only 1x3hours of sleep and I was close to acts of aggression.

There were low points. Once, I phoned Crysis. I was in tears of despair, shaking with panic and sleep deprivation. Once, when a month of hourly wakings at night time had turned me into some person I didn't know, I deposited Cubling in a different room, as if that would make her stop crying. I was close to shaking my beautiful beloved baby. Really close. I did shout at her. 3 times I think. I'm not proud of this, but it did help and above all - it prevented me from shaking her, it got rid of all the frustration which needed some outlet. Strangely it also stopped her crying, and she strangely didn't look bothered by it.

Until finally, after all else had failed, a desperate forum post of mine brought the solution: an electric swing. I put Cubling into it and within seconds, she was asleep. She started to nap 3 times a day, 3 precious hours (one nap was even 1 1/2 hours!) where I could recharge my batteries. I finally threw out all books - all they did was tell me NOT TO EVER USE AN ELECTRIC SWING BECAUSE IT'S EVIL!!!

It's not. It's great. It worked.
And I weaned her off it at 6 months, replacing it with the buggy, where she napped until she was almost 2.

Night times were still hard going. Cubling was teething incessantly and the only thing that would calm her to get me my magic 3 hours of sleep was mummy milk. We did try to wean her off night feeds but with each tooth or illness, a week's effort was gone, something we couldn't keep up while working. So I waited for 20 teeth to come through and on the eve of number 20 saying hello, at 17 months, the night of no more mummy milk was neigh.

Within 2 weeks, she slept through regularly, until 5.30 or 6am, which was followed by another few hours after an early morning feed, the most beautiful, relaxing, cuddly, blissful feed you can imagine. There was nothing like snuggling up with Cubling in the early hours and knowing that she would sleep for another 3 hours, at my side. I was in the land of maternal bliss.

Maybe I should have weaned her off night feeds early, I don't know. All I know is that controlled crying, pick up put down, patting and humming, singing and shuggling, hugging and cuddling, touching and stroking, dummy, fennel tea and bottle DID NOT WORK. They made things worse if anything. The only tools I had were an electric swing/buggy during the day and my boobs during the night. Between them, we managed to stay sane.

Cubling slept for the first time for more than 5 hours at a time at 9 months 3 weeks. She started to sleep through regularly at 17 months. Even then, it took me an hour to send her off to dreamland at night time. The books told me I created a bad habbit and she'd be a bad sleeper for life.

Well look at her now, please would you: light out, not a whimper until the following morning when I actually have to wake her. I'm only sleep deprived because I can't stop blogging, tweeting or checking my emails, because I want to knit yet another row or watch a film.

So if anyone tells you this or that is best or the only way, handle with care, you're baby may not agree. Go with the flow. Give everything a go. See what works for you and be proud of it. Don't worry about so called habits. You can change any habit later when you're not so tired.

Above all, please believe me, if your baby is a bad napper/sleeper, it doesn't mean she will always be. There is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll be off to bed then. Good night.


Josie @Sleep is for the Weak said...

Oh I love you.

Wonderful post - thank you so much.

What you describe is almost exactly my experience and you don't know how much comfort it gives me to read your happy ending.

I can really relate to the realities of having a spirited baby for whom the 'rules' don't seem to work, and to the frustrations of teething interupting any progress you were making. That is us EXACTLY. Kai has just cut tooth number 14 with 15 & 16 not far behind. He teeths like you wouldn't believe, nights and nights, sometimes a week of extra disturbed and unhappy sleep for each tooth. I do seriously think things will be better once they're all here.

Thanks again for your contribution - can't wait to include it xx

Perfectly Happy Mum said...

I am very lucky to have never experienced this with my children and I am looking in awe at you and Josie and at every women who go though it and pull through sane! I am not sure how I would have coped at all.
That's a great post! Px

Mwa said...

Lovely post. I hate it when these guides say what you are not allowed to do. I have a post of my own ready to post tomorrow on precisely this topic.

Cave Mother said...

Fabulous post! And very comforting for another mother of a "spirited" baby. For us, walks in the pram were the early salvation - lots of crying but, eventually, sleep. Now the boob and a sling gets her off to sleep for naps and at night, and we get the (very) occasional five hour stretch of sleep. Mostly it's 3 hour stretches though, and she's a full year old. But at least she ha salways been a fantastic co-sleeper, and has never kept me awake for more than half an hour during the night. So it's not all bad!

It's true, some people really don't understand how difficult it can be when you have a spirited baby.

cartside said...

Josie, for us too it was so clear that every teething episode just led to constant night wakings, so we decided to co-sleep, feed to sleep and wait until tooth no. 20 cut through at 17 months - after that it was a walk in the park.

PHM, with hindsight it's really just a phase, if a long one. It passes but you don't know that at the time which makes it so very hard.

Mwa, absolutely, you have to figure out what works for your baby. E.g. my health visitor kept telling me to use controlled crying or even CIO - I tried the former for 5 minutes, resulting in a very sick baby and an hours worth of puke clean up. However feed to sleep and co-sleeping worked really well.

Cave Mother - it was like enlightenment when I read about spirited babies, like - that's my child! I'm not alone! This is normal! We also had mostly 3 hour stretches after 7 months or so, interrupted by very quick feeds - co-sleeping like you, so I hardly noticed them. And now I think spirited babies are the best, my toddler is so full of life and personality, it's unreal, so much fun.

allgrownup said...

great post! why can't everyone follow instinct? do things our own way. chuck the books. we did too!

carol b said...

great post - 'see what works for you and be proud of it' is the best advice any parent can be given.

Joyce L said...

Thanks for the blog. My almost 4 month old daughter won't sleep unless rocked in the buggy or with the dummy. Even then she only catnaps 30 minutes and at night still does 3 hour stretches. Your advice has been helpful to a first-time anxious mum who is constantly being guilt-tripped of what not too do by well meaning people and books. I'll go with my instinct and look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks again :)



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