When the fuck did everyone start to get so opinionated about sleep?! It seems to be the first thing everybody asks me; ‘How is his sleep? Are you in a routine?’ The honest answer is; he sleeps. Sometimes a lot at night, sometimes not so much. A routine is something I intend to implement at some stage but it’s pretty pointless now as I tend to just let him sleep when he is tired.
Then there’s the truly awful one; ‘Is he sleeping through the night yet?’ NO HE IS NOT! He is only ten weeks old. I would be pretty concerned if he was sleeping through the night as I’m pretty sure his poor little tummy isn’t big enough to not eat for that long.
There are a million other questions I could list that have been thrown at me; about where the baby sleeps, how often he feeds and so on but I won’t bore you. Worse than the questions, though, are the opinions. ‘Oh you should never feed to sleep! You’re just making a rod for your own back’; ‘If you know they are fed and changed then just leave them to settle, they are just crying for attention’; ‘You need to keep him awake more during the day’; ‘He’s got into bad habits’.
People always tell you to put your baby down ‘drowsy but awake’…is that a cruel joke? Two things happen if I put him down ‘drowsy but awake’…he suddenly becomes un-drowsy, gives me a huge grin and wants to play, or he screams to be picked up again. Maybe when he is older this will work but it certainly doesn’t at the moment. I don’t think I know anybody who this works for with a small baby.
As for keeping him awake during the day I’m not exaggerating when I say there is nothing which can wake my baby up if he wants to sleep. I sing to him (horrific for anyone within earshot), I lay him down (guaranteed to wake him up at night when I really want to go back to sleep), I put him in a bouncy chair, I wave noisy toys at him, I tickle him, I even resort to changing him (in the early days this usually made him scream) but he will sleep through that if he’s in the right mood. You just have to accept when you’re fighting a losing battle, right? Again, maybe this will change as he gets older but me & his Dad both love our sleep and are pretty deep sleepers so, maybe not!
I think it’s an inevitable fact of parenting that everybody who has done it wants to share their wisdoms/horror stories/general opinions. Particularly when it comes to sleeping! I was just so glad to read ‘The gentle sleep book’ and ‘The no cry sleep solution’ as they both gave a great overview of how sleeping patterns actually work and what is ‘normal’ for a baby or toddler. We’d had a pretty terrible week when TM was about a month old and my husband was wondering whether we should be leaving our baby to cry in his moses basket when we put him down; I was adamant that that couldn’t possibly be the solution! I used those wakeful hours at night to read a few books and once I became a bit more clued up I realised that it’s entirely normal for babies not to sleep much at night when they are so tiny. There are gentle ways and ideas to help them, particularly once they get past the four month mark. It’s true; acceptance is half the battle! Once you know that the behaviour is entirely natural and common it seems to shed a whole new light on the situation as you aren’t constantly thinking ‘what am I doing wrong here?’ Things also just naturally settled down so we’re rarely awake ALL night now!
It does make me laugh when people talk about sleep training a newborn and what times they should be doing things; I know this works for some people but I can’t even imagine it! Me and my partner don’t have a strict routine for when we eat and sleep so how on earth could I expect our little baby to have one?!
Now, to be hypocritical: the only real advice I have to give to new parents is this – relax. You are not the only person whose baby doesn’t like their cot/sleeps all day and is awake all night/insert all other sleep problems here. It’s shit now but it should get easier as your baby gets older. It’s natural for your baby to be awake and want to be near you, and for them to wake often. Try and share the burden between you as much as possible. And most importantly; nap whenever you can! I am lucky as my partner works evenings so I can always have a nap during the day safe in the knowledge that even if TM wakes up while I’m asleep I can still get a full hour (or two!). Also, a wrap/sling is a great way of getting bubs to calm down and he often falls asleep in it too!