If you could hand over all responsibility for night feeds to another person, would you do it?
The nights with Isabella, my youngest, during her first year were the hardest experience of my life. It was like running on a treadmill, with no end to the workout in sight.
She was up for several hours, every single night, until beyond her first birthday. There was no predicting when she would stir, it often changed from night to night.
Sometimes she would sleep between 10pm and 3am, then refuse to return to sleep until 6am when my eldest rose for a day of fun. Sometimes she woke up every hour from midnight.
So for more than I year a slept on a sofa bed in my daughter’s bedroom, jolting awake once every two to three hours when she cried for me. With angry fists flailing around her head, there was no way to settle her other than a feed.
I continually reminded myself, while rocking back and forth in a sleep deprivation-induced trance, that it would get better. Soon she would sleep for longer, surely?
By the time we reached month six I was upset. By month seven, I was angry, and by month 10 I was on the verge of tears several times a day. Anything could set me off. Dropping the lid for the milk on the floor. My toddler having an epic tantrum. The same episode of Paw Patrol for the 10th time in a row.
A fog had descended over my brain. Rational thought was difficult. I enjoyed my time with my children, but I wished so much for a good night’s sleep. I wanted to feel rested, even just for one day.
I tried everything to improve her sleep during this year.
Keeping her naps regulated. Feeding her more in the daytime. Nothing worked until month 13 of my sleep hell when I put my foot down and refused her any boob or bottle access at night.
Should I have tried that method earlier? Maybe. But when you’re worried that your growing baby needs sustenance, it’s pretty hard to do anything but give them what they need. Their health and wellbeing is more important than being tired. As hard as being tired is.
And that right there is the conflict us mamas have with new babies. We like to sleep six hours a night, though eight would be lovely. Babies just want to eat 24/7.
I’ve been reading about night nannies more and more over the last six months. Companies have sprung up in London and around our area offering the service.
For a price, a night nanny will come to your home and spend the night caring for your baby so you can have a rest. They will also use their expertise to get your child into a better sleep routine.
Basically, it’s like having a real-life Mary Poppins come into your home.
Sleep is important to me. I love being in my bed. Bed is my happy place – warm, comfy, and quiet. It’s my domain, where I get to choose what goes on Netflix or what book I read.
And yet despite how much I value, and need, my sleep, I couldn’t imagine giving up those night feeds for anything, as frustrating as they were.
I’m happy that I was there for my baby, even if she did drive me to the brink of insanity in the process.
It’s not that I judge people for using a night nanny – I really don’t! If you have the budget and want the extra help, I say take it.
It’s just that for me, I wanted to be there myself, responding to her needs.
Maybe I’m a sucker for punishment, or maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of being the mother that my baby was demanding. I wanted to push myself to the very brink, if that’s what my baby needed me to do for her. I wanted to be the one to be there for her.
But it’s also more than that. When I look back now, with perhaps just a little help from a pair of rose-tinted glasses, I remember the beautiful moments we had together in the darkness.
There were moments when I could hardly make out her face, but I could see her eyes shining as they gazed at my face.
There were moments when she ran her fingers through strands of my hair as they dangled close to her face.
There were times when I felt her smile against my skin.
Sometimes she nodded off in my arms and I just held her for a while, even though I could have tried to put her down and get back to sleep. I just wanted to feel the weight of her in my arms.
Night feeds are an absolute bitch. They are hard. They are draining. They make the days nearly impossible to cope with.
But there are moments that take your breath away. It’s those that make this whole parenting debacle worth it.
Still though, I must confess, I am extremely glad she sleeps through now! And I’m sure if she wasn’t at this stage, I might be considering giving Mary Poppins a call.
Would you consider using a night nanny? Have you used one? If so what did you think of the service?