Where did the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ come from? Why has it evolved to mean a good night’s sleep? My only conclusion can be this phrase was first coined by someone who had no children.
Let me say straight off the bat I am fully aware my babies were certainly not the worst sleepers out there. In fact my first was brilliant at night from an early age. She slept through from just a few weeks old and we counted ourselves lucky. Nap time was a different story, more on that later.
Although we told ourselves multiple times we may not be so lucky with number two, nothing prepared us for how bloody difficult it was when she arrived and declared a total sleep strike for huge portions of the night. Bubba Two would wake at random times. Sometimes she would eat then nod straight back off, sometimes she would be wide awake for three hours. Sometimes she would be put back down in her cot, sometimes she screamed bloody murder unless she was being held.
Naps were hell. With a toddler demanding constant attention I just didn’t have time to spend applying a nap routine or shush patting Bubba Two to sleep. As a result I walked for miles and miles with the buggy. On the plus side I shed all my baby weight very quickly but I was forced to pack myself and Bubba One out the door whenever Bubba Two was tired. As this was sometimes four times a day it became tiresome. The only other way to get her to nap was feeding her to sleep and then allowing her to stay attached to my nipple for the next two hours. Basically she just wanted me as her human dummy. We tried an actual dummy, but she looked at us as if we were mental.
I went Google crazy. Loads of people were in the same boat. Many had suggestions but they were so hard to implement with a toddler. I couldn’t put Bubba Two to sleep in her Moses basket downstairs as the noise of playing just woke her up. When I put her upstairs and left her she cried. With her nights also appalling I felt that I was getting no respite. It was an endless cycle. Wake, get children dressed, fed. Go out to get Bubba Two to sleep. Eat lunch. Fight with Bubba One over nap time, engage in similar battle with Bubba Two. Give up and go out in buggy. Eat tea. Bed time for Bubba One and fuss time for Bubba Two lasting until 10pm then restarting at midnight. It was knackering. I was so tired I burst into tears frequently. I felt it was my fault. I was somehow missing something. I should be trying harder to implement a routine.
I had a re-read of Gina Ford which I bought when I had Bubba One. Although I never fully implemented her routines with my first, she did seem to naturally fall into a similar pattern. There was no way I could apply it to Bubba Two. By 7am when she was supposed to have a feed from both breasts according to Gina, I had already been feeding her pretty much solidly for three hours.
I came to wonder if it was possible to die from lack of sleep. I forgot things all the time. I would go upstairs and forget what I went up for. During showers I forgot if I had applied conditioner yet. I rambled incoherently through conversations with hubby. Going out for a night off was absolutely out of the question. Any spare time was taken up with catching as many zzzs as I could.
So how did I survive?
With Bubba One nap times were salvaged with a dummy from about week eight. Before then she fed to sleep every time. The dummy was a lifesaver and we used it until six months when she stopped bothering with it.
With Bubba Two it just took time. I persevered at putting her down. I confess I sometimes left her to fuss and cry. Not all out wailing might I add, but she was left for about 10 minutes if I felt her cries weren’t nuclear. The guilt was overwhelming but I reasoned this had to be done, she needs to sleep for her own health, and mine. Finally after about four months she began to drift off on her own in her bed. By five months she did it regularly and now at six months she goes down for naps nine times out of ten with no crying at all. I think the turning point was when she found her thumb and when it finally clicked in her head that she could close her eyes and drift off without mummy there all the time.
I also used Ewan the Dream Sheep. It certainly didn’t work a miracle and send her off to sleep but I think it did help as part of her nap routine, it was a cue that it was time for a nap. The other key was finding her natural rhythms and cues. This wasn’t always obvious or easy at the start but she has got much easier to read.
It’s easy when you’re in the grip of the newborn phase to think things will never get better and you are all alone. I felt very isolated at times. Sleep deprivation plays terrible tricks on the mind.
Whenever I speak/moan/bitch/compare notes with my other mummy friends though it’s clear everyone has similar struggles.
For me the key was time and trying not to blame myself. Now at six months it’s like she’s a different baby, so easygoing. Although she doesn’t sleep through at night I’ve learned to stop asking why and just accept that’s how things are for now. Plus I find the positives, like it gives me time to plug my headphones into my iPad to catch up on Love Island or read tales from other mums doing the night shift. It helps to know we’re not alone!
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