Home Baby Sleep – It’s Overrated Right? We Don’t Actually Need It Do We?

Sleep – It’s Overrated Right? We Don’t Actually Need It Do We?

by Rachael Binder

So I’m finally getting round to writing another blog post and I thought I’d focus on sleep for this one as reading about sleep, talking about sleep and trying everything to get Ollie to sleep has consumed my life for the last 2 months but finally we’re in a good place!

I ended one of my previous blog posts saying how a few days in (all those 8 months ago!) we’d finally managed to get him to sleep for a couple hours at a time at night and how amazing it was. Well that’s what night times were like for the first few months – if we got a few hours between feeds we were doing well. But it was okay – it was to be expected – he couldn’t go all night without a feed so I got used to being up every few hours. However, just because Ollie was sleeping for a couple of hours at a time didn’t mean that I was. Once he’d gone back to sleep I’d spend the first 20 minutes making sure he was actually asleep (because he had reflux and would usually be sick as soon as I put him on his back so I would have to change him and start the whole damn process of getting him to sleep again!) and then once I’d decided it was safe to go to sleep myself my brain starts pondering how the world began or what we are going to have for tea three weeks on Tuesday! Plus Ollie started making such strange noises in his sleep I just couldn’t go to sleep (I need silence to be able to sleep!) So I’d be lucky if I’d get an hours sleep in between each feed.

It was exhausting (especially seeing as every feed had to be me) but somehow I just did it! I had to! I think most new mums will agree that the first couple of months are just spent in a sleepy daze where your constantly tired but you don’t actually feel tired anymore because that’s just life now – you’re so used to being tired that you just accept it. Eventually I resorted to going into the spare room between feeds and leaving him in our room (Kai was still in there) because I have such sensitive ears that as soon as he woke I was straight back in there seeing to him before Kai would even flinch!

Then one day, during the day, Ollie fell asleep on our bed on his tummy and we got a good few hours sleep out of him – he seemed to be happy – he wasn’t sick and he wasn’t making noises. So from then on during the day we would let him sleep on his tummy whilst we were watching him and then once he had good enough head control we decided to let him sleep on his tummy at night too (a big no no according to ‘the rules’) but we felt it was the right decision and 20 years ago sleeping on their backs was frowned upon and they had to be on their tummies so it wasn’t like we were doing anything too radical. That’s when the sleeping situation drastically improved and we got down to just a couple/three feeds a night (very occasionally only one – they were good nights!)

So we plodded along like that for a while and then when Ollie was 3 months old we moved him into his cot in his own room. Partly because he’s a long baby and had got too big for his baby box and partly because I wanted to be able to sleep in our bed again! We have a video monitor with a sensor pad so I felt confident putting him into his own room as I could see him on the monitor, hear him, see a flashing light to show he was breathing and even talk to him if I wanted! Luckily you can change the sensitivity and volume  on the monitor so any little noises in his sleep don’t come through. Now he was in his own room we tried to develop a routine and have a set bedtime of between 7-8. It didn’t always happen but slowly a routine started to fall into place and somewhere along the way we got down to just one feed in the night – success!

Then we booked a holiday for when Ollie was 4 months and I was worried we’d mess up this new routine but thankfully he slept in his pram whilst we were out in the evening (on his tummy – we got a few strange looks!) and then we just transferred him into the cot when we got back to the room. When we got home, we got back to normal and all seemed fine until he got a cold. Then he was back to waking several times. Ah well – it’ll pass – it’s only a cold. But it didn’t. Well the cold did but the waking several times didn’t. He continued to wake several times and we were in a new routine. A new routine I didn’t like! I did so much reading – was it the dreaded 4 month sleep regression (although we were closer to 5 months)? What could I do about it?

We kept plodding along and I kept thinking it’d improve but it didn’t. If anything he got worse where eventually it got to the point where he was waking 5-6 times a night. So after HOURS of reading, when he was around 6 months we decided to do something I said I’d never do. Sleep training. Crying it out. I always said I could never leave my baby to cry but we had to try something and everything I read seemed to suggest that unless he could fall asleep on his own things wouldn’t improve. And he couldn’t. He was fed to sleep for EVERY single feed – day and night. Always had been. It wasn’t something I purposefully did, it just happened. He was always just fed to sleep. It was the only way I knew how to get him to sleep (he’s never had a dummy) and it was the only way he knew how to fall asleep. So when he was waking 5-6 times a night he was being fed back to sleep each time. He didn’t need feeding – he wasn’t hungry but it was the only thing we both knew. So crying it out seemed like the only option to break this cycle.

Night one – I was so anxious. I was bracing myself for no sleep at all and having to listen to him cry it out for the 5-6 night wakings. 7.20 he went down in his cot AWAKE. He fussed around for 10 minutes and then the crying began. He cried for 30 minutes. I went in after 2 minutes, then 5 and then every 10 to reassure him. By 8.05 he was asleep. He woke at 5.30. Yes it was early but he’d always been an early riser – if he slept past 6 it was good. I couldn’t believe it – I hadn’t had to listen to him cry once in the night! Night two – he cried for 40 minutes and then slept through until 6.05. And so it continued with the crying getting less and less each night and him sleeping through each night until between 5 and 6.30. I’d say it took two weeks until I felt confident that I would put him to bed and he would go off to sleep without crying. But we’d done it. It wasn’t nearly as bad or as hard as I was expecting and we are now on night seventy one (not that I’m keeping a record or anything) and have a baby that sends himself to sleep and sleeps through.

In all honesty, I really should stop keeping a record now – I did it to see if I could spot a pattern between naps, bedtime and wake time but he doesn’t seem to have any pattern! If he woke before 6 I used to just leave him in his cot until 6 (or try to – if he started crying I’d go in earlier) and then get up for the day. However, now if he wakes before 6 which is probably about 75% of the time I feed him and then put him back to bed. He then either sends himself straight back to sleep or rolls around (without grumbling) for anything up to an hour before going back off but will then sleep for another hour/hour and a half (meaning sometimes we get up as late as 8 – I don’t get any more sleep – it’s just disrupted slightly). This just seemed to make more sense than us both just lying there awake until 6 (with him often getting pretty grumpy). Kai says I should turn the monitor away from me and just go back to sleep once I’ve put him back down but I physically can’t sleep knowing he’s awake so I just lie there watching him and then try to get back to sleep myself for an hour once he’s off. The days where he just goes straight back off are blooming marvellous! And the days where he sleeps until gone 6 are even better – even though I’m up earlier, the sleep is uninterrupted (well if I could sleep through a night without waking but that’s my issue not Ollie’s and a completely different story!) I did worry that as soon as we hit a problem like a cold or teething he would wake in the night and it might all go tits up but so far we’ve had two colds and he now has two teeth and we haven’t had a single night waking so fingers crossed!

So night times = sorted! Naps, on the other hand, were still a load of rubbish. He would still feed to sleep for his naps and then we got to the stage where he would only sleep on me during the day meaning I had no ‘me’ time to get stuff done. So we decided to nap train too. So now when it’s nap time we put him down in his cot awake. It’s probably been about a month and he still does groan/moan and cry sometimes but he does send himself off to sleep. However, he is a crap napper. He has a 35 minute sleep cycle and then bam! He’s awake! To begin with I got myself so worked up over trying to get him to nap longer as they say if they don’t sleep well in the day then night times get messed up and I didn’t want anything to spoil our good nights. So again I did lots of reading and trying of different things but nothing seemed to make a difference. 90% of the time he would sleep for 35 minutes a time, 10% of the time he would do a random long nap – bliss! But whether he has a total of an hours daytime sleep or three hours it doesn’t effect his night sleep (again I have made notes and cannot spot any pattern!) so I’ve given up worrying about it.

I put him down for his naps every 2-2.5 hours (that seems to be his maximum awake time) and see what happens – if its a long one then great, if its a short one then never mind. Only downside is we’ve now gone the other way and on the odd occasion where I want to feed him to sleep and him to sleep on me (like when we’re out and about and I can tell he’s tired) he won’t! So at the minute we try to time our outings etc around his naps but again I’ve started to be more flexible and if it means he’s awake for longer then so be it.

All I can say is sleep seems to solve all problems. He is such a happier baby since he’s been sleeping well at night. He hardly ever has grumpy days (we used to have quite a few) and he’s gone from HATING the car and SCREAMING on EVERY journey to being as happy as larry in the car and even sending himself off to sleep if he’s tired and it’s nap time.

So all I feel that’s left to crack is trying to get him to sleep in the pram when we’re out and about and it’s nap time or in the evening if we’re on holiday – we’re off to Barcelona in a month so we shall see! And hopefully one day he will decide that 6am is a bit too early and sleep in a bit more – I’m hoping this is before his teenage years!

Taken from my blog: www.rachaelbinder.wordpress.com

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