‘Sleeping through the night’ – a phrase that has haunted me since Xavi was 4 months old and according to Google was fully capable of sleeping through the night by then with no milk, no cuddles, no rocking, nada! Well Xavi is now 13 months old and i can probably count on two hands the times he has slept through the night… and this isn’t that magic 7pm-7pm sleeping through.. no no no this is Xavi’s version… 7.30pm-5.30am at best!
And what makes me feel worse is that most of the mums i know have kids (you know who you are!) that not only sleep 7pm-8am but they put them in the cot AWAKE… yes i repeat AWAKE… what the hell?? Then they go on to happily fall asleep on their own and if they wake from rolling around, the floorboards creaking, teething, or a nightmare they simply ‘self-soothe’ (another phrase i loathe) themselves back to sleep!
So how are they doing this? What am i doing wrong and why has my kid been teething everyday since birth (telling myself that makes me feel a lot better). After some soul searching I realise I made some key mistakes at the beginning and have come with a list of key DO NOTS if you want your kid to sleep through the night:
1. DO NOT PUT YOUR BABY TO SLEEP WHEN THEY ARE ACTUALLY ASLEEP
Yes crazy i know but by letting your baby fall asleep in your precious arms, doing the dead arm test after holding them for at least 10 minutes, carefully putting them down in the cot while you continue to hold them down until you are absolutely sure he’s in a deep sleep, and then creeping out of the room like a ninja…DOES NOT MAKE THEM STAY ASLEEP. Since they are soundly sleeping thinking they are still snuggled up in your arms, when they wake up they will seriously FREAK THE FUCK OUT and think why am I alone, wheres my mama, dada help me, give me the boob, give me something, anything to make me feel not alone! Babies basically need to learn to fall asleep on their own so when they go from deep sleep cycle to light they’ll just do what they did when they first went to sleep.. ‘self soothe’ all on their own.
2. DO NOT ASSIST YOUR BABY TO SLEEP IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM
In the early days my boobs were often my secret weapon – I felt powerful, I am the god damn baby whisper gloating to my hubby I can put Xavi to sleep in 5 minutes with some boobage while he has to rock him rapidly for a good hour… ahh how naïve I was. Once this habit started I did not break it till Xavi was 11 months old! Yes people, and he got his first teeth at 8 months so my poor nipples have just about recovered from being used and abused! This also includes using the bottle to fall asleep on or giving a dummy. One thing I am proud of is that I never gave Xavi a dummy (mainly because I had mine till 4 and my nickname became goofy at school from how bad it messed up my teeth) so I’m not an expert on this but I do know most mummies continue to give their kid a dummy way past 1 when the recommended age is max 6 months. So biggest lesson is if it’s a habit hard to break don’t get the kid used to it in the first place.
3. DO NOT LET YOUR BABY IN YOUR BED… EVER!
At first I thought this was so lovely… cuddling up to my Xavi in bed having him fall asleep on me and never having to miss him because he’s with me all the time. Well 13 months later no no NO… I have chronic shoulder pain, if I move a mm it wakes him up, if I need to pee I need to hold it till morning, if Xavi wants some comfort he can suck me dry as and when he pleases all night, and to top it off he snores just as bad as his daddy! Now this is very hard to do because when you’re a half asleep zombie and your kid wakes every time you attempt to put him back in the cot the easiest option is bring him into the bed so you can get some sleep.. well just remind yourself you will NOT sleep, instead it’ll be a constant battle between you, your husband and your baby (who is comfortably sleeping on you with his hand right down your armpit) on who gets to stay afloat on the bed the longest, and who gets the most duvet, otherwise be prepared to freeze all night with a full bladder having to stay as still as a corpse yet being alert enough to rock or pull out the boob at the mere whimper of a cry. So whatever you need to do to not let them in the bed.. even if it means applying some of the DO NOTs of number 2.. you can tackle giving up these after.
4. DO NOT RUN TO THEIR ROOM WHEN YOUR BABY CRIES
With technology these days and a baby monitor glowing into your face all night its easy to run to your baby’s room the moment he starts to let out the tiniest cry thinking let me quickly put him to sleep with cuddles and some gentle rocking before he fully wakes up. Well after 13 months of on and off sleep training when I reach my breaking point I now realise a little crying does not cause any psychological damage to your baby, nor do they love you less or even remember you let them cry for a certain period time. In fact what it does do is teach them that at the simple command of a cry you will go running! And if you leave them to cry for a set period of time often they will realise no ones coming, and go back to sleep. Well I’m still a wuss sometimes and go running to Xavi after ten minutes of crying so I definitely suck at this but the times when I’ve sleep trained he always cries for a less amount of time the next night and so on before he falls asleep. So don’t be a wuss like me and remember a few tears won’t cause any lasting damage, in fact Xavi wakes up smiling ear to ear like nothing happened all night (which I still can’t figure out if annoys the crap out of me or makes me relieved that Damien won’t be with us for another 12 hours)
5. DO NOT CHANGE YOUR BABY’S BEDTIME ROUTINE
This is extremely difficult given holidays and unpredictable social gatherings but where you can try and stick to the same routine and similarish timings that you put your baby to sleep, including naps. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is these tiny humans are creatures of habit, they thrive on routine and any change in it will make them go completely APE SHIT on you. So I have wrestled with the perfect amount of naps, timings and bedtime for months and I’ll have a lot more to say on it in future blog posts but basically experiment, keep a log (I use an app called baby feed timer) and the day he sleeps all night try to repeat because that’s the magic combination that worked! For Xavi, most of the time he has a nap in the morning for around 40 minutes-1 hour, then an afternoon nap for an hour-90 minutes, and bedtime around 7.30/8pm. Then he freaking wakes up at 5.30am usually, which I’m still working on so watch this space for developments. Also weirdly if I put him to bed any later he still wakes up at the time but is more grouchy because he went to bed later so babies seriously don’t make it simple for us!
Hopefully these tips can prevent your kid’s inner Damien from surfacing at night. For me, the struggle continues and I’m sure he’ll still be teething way beyond he actually gets all his teeth at this point. But when I have the patience, help from the hubster, and reached my limit of dealing with a devil child… sticking to the above points do actually work and Xavi can be an angel all night. But then of course something happens to fuck it all up like a cold, separation anxiety peaking, sleep regression, a wonder weeks growth spurt, or just because they fancy pissing mummy and daddy off tonight for jokes! And the only DO NOT for that I have is.. DO NOT put down that glass of wine, wine will make it all better, wine is good.