We take for granted that the end of every day we get into bed and sleep, which then before you know it turns into: the Alarm clock going off, hitting snooze a couple of times and then getting up to the delights the next day holds. Or at least I did before I was pregnant…
Pregnancy for me was a restless night of rolling over and over trying to get comfortable with my ever-nocturnal bump kicking away, and deciding how desperate I was for a wee (for the um-teenth time that night) compared to the effort of getting up and out and back in to bed, and then back to sleep. Ok, so I’m reliving my final few weeks because truth-be-told the beginning and middle of my pregnancy wasn’t too bad at night. I was always uncomfortable but you get used to that. And I bought one of those long sleep pillows to lie on my left hand side against which helped, as well as having a bedside fan, and a sheet under the duvet so I could throw the duvet off and on in the night much to my husbands displeasure, whilst still remaining vaguely covered. The last few weeks of pregnancy were not so kind to me at night, resulting in overwhelming tiredness as an additional factor of the latter stages of pregnancy. In retrospect I think this is the body’s way of preparing you for your newborn baby – its no coincidence you wake frequently, its training! Once baby Leyton was here, I would have given anything for those uncomfortable night’s sleep because some is better than none!!!
We had a fairly average baby (or perfect I think is a better word ;-D , who wants to describe their child as average?) in terms of weight, at 7lb 2oz, so he wasn’t a massive eater, he just preferred to graze. This meant 45-60 minute feeds every 1.5 – 3 hours depending on what he felt like… this of course impacts on sleep because babies aren’t born with a night and day clock. It takes time to learn the difference and as it happens, I was told, having a bump that is lively at night often means a baby that is when he arrives too. Joy. So the frequent feeding is a 24 hour a day job meaning all through the night and this can last for a quite a while.
My choice to breastfeed also meant there was no real reason for the hubby to get up in the night with him, I saw no real advantage to making him do this other than sympathy and it was an unwritten decision that me doing the night excursions meant he would be as hands on as possible in the day/evening, in between all the feeding. Everyone is different of course and if you bottle feed/ express feed you can share the duties – which I recommend no matter what time of day, as you can get a bigger window to nap if you don’t have to wake up to feed the baby! Every little counts! But napping means purchasing some day time sleeping aids – blackout blinds for the nursery and your room if that’s where the baby will be the first few weeks, an eye mask for when the blinds don’t entirely work and ear plugs or a cd to block out any baby sounds (whale music, pan pipes or an Ibiza chillout album, whatever works for you!) N.B. I would recommend only trying to block out baby sounds if someone else is currently watching the baby – if it’s just you and the baby in the house, this isn’t advisable!
10 WEEKS OLD
At Leyton’s 8 week check-up the doctor asked if we had any bedtime routine eg a bath every evening and a story then bed. I was a bit surprised as I thought he was waaayy too young to implement a bedtime routine and we didn’t bath him that often (not like he was at the ‘Playing in a sandpit’ age yet?!) I hadn’t even thought about it and didn’t think he would take to it this early on – especially when day and night just seemed to merge into one and it’s hard to see when ‘night time’ begins! I had read the Gina Ford Contented Baby books about structure and routine which all sounded well and good, and we tried to structure the feeding every 3 hours as he was getting older but still found it difficult in practice – if he was hungry before the 3 hour mark we just had to feed him! This would then throw off my other timings. We had been putting him down to sleep in his moses basket in the lounge during the day and then after his 11pm ish feed we’d take him up with us (feeds were roughly 2am, 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm, 11pm. Sleep and feeds are very interlinked).
We were inspired by the doctor’s advice and started trying to time it so we could bath him and read him a story before his 8pm/ 8.30pm feed and after that feed we’d take his moses basket up to our room and put the baby monitor/ Angelcare baby sensor mat on (our house isn’t that big but the extra peace of mind helped me!) I also started to go to bed at this time as I was knackered and thought I’d make the most of catching up on sleep. The health visitor also gave us the advice of ‘stay on the floor your baby is (eg upstairs or downstairs) when they’re very young whilst the cot death risks are higher’. Which is fine at night time but was bad and unpractical advice for the daytime as the woman had scared me into either trying to get him to nap in the lounge or having to stay upstairs with him. I know now to do what feels right for us.
We found that after two weeks (at the 10 weeks old mark) he wasn’t waking for his 11pm feed and then soon wasn’t waking for his 2am feed either – so as far as I can see the routine did work and he was getting in the habit of having a longer sleep at night. We were still feeding 3 hourly in the day to make sure he was getting enough milk without those nightfeeds, and I also didn’t want to change this as I do think my friends’ advice of Fill Him Up To The Brim In The Day meant he wasn’t hungry at night. Obviously we’ll never know if he would have done this regardless of routine or not, but I would recommend to all new mums out there to try it. Every baby is different but I think having this routine helped him work out the difference between night and day, and helped me feel more human because as he got older I could stay up after putting him to bed at 9pm ish and have a glass of wine or hot tea and biscuits with the husband.
5 MONTHS ON
People recommend 6 months old is about right to move them into their own cot and room. To me, this was food for thought as there is a lot for the baby to take in at this age when weaning is due to start around 6 months too, and theyre often trying to sit up and or crawl.
Plus, everyone has a different set up for their baby – you could:
- Use a bassinet, moses basket, rocking/swinging crib or cradle, bedside cot (attaches to your bed), a cot/cot bed or co-sleep in with you?
- Have the baby in your room indefinitely or just whilst they’re small?
- Maybe the nursery hasn’t been finished decorated? Or there’s no room for a nursery at all?
For us, we had the moses basket in our room and intended to move him into his own cot in his nursery later – but found as he got to about 5 months old he reached the top and bottom of it, and would turn and rustle it in the night. In fact that rustling would often wake me up in a blind panic worrying if his was ok, and disbelief that another night had passed where I woke up but he slept through!! Also, when my husband got up for work (sometimes at Silly o’clock in the morning) it would wake us both up as he manoeuvred round the room with that exaggerated quietness that seems to still wake you. The one where turning on the bathroom light sounds like the light switch is in your ear. All this meant we bit the bullet and moved Leyton into his cot in his own room at 5 months.
I didn’t take this decision lightly – I missed my little noisy sleeper and actually cried the first night. And I was adamant that once we moved him we wouldn’t move him back – I knew that success might hinge on consistency and him getting used to it, no matter how hard the first few days were. So I thought about it a lot before we decided to do it. Surely he would miss me too, I thought? A few days before we started putting him in his cot in his nursery for his day time naps, to get him used to sleeping in the big open space, the smells and look of his room. And then that day arrived – we took him up after his 8pm feed into his cot and zipped him up in his growbag. He did wake and cry in the night the first few nights, but only for about 10 minutes then settled himself back to sleep. And no, I don’t think he really noticed I was gone. I try not to get offended at this, as one friend said it’s probably a good sign that we’ve made him feel secure and safe and he knows not to worry; we’re somewhere nearby. I always knew I’d be one of those mums hesitant to take the next step and wanting to keep them a baby forever, so I consciously try to push myself when I know I’m doing things for my benefit not his. I was scared of him going in his room, not him. He was clearly ready and sleeping ok. And since being in there, he stopped waking for his 5am feed. So from about 5 ½ months old to present, we feed him milk at 8pm-9pm and he sleeps from 9pm – 7.30am when he wakes for milk. And the fact all 3 of us are well rested makes up for me still missing him in our room. It had to happen at some point, because if we have baby no. 2 (or practice making baby no. 2!) I did not want Leyton in the room with us forever!
As we’ve dropped a couple of feeds in the day and started weaning we’ve managed to bring his last milk forward to 7.30pm-8.15pm so I get slightly longer at night to do housework, but this has meant he wakes a little earlier in the mornings. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
Naps are still a mystery to us though. This is where we tailor the routine to Leyton and follow his lead, which I think works best for us. Leyton has never been a big napper, which may also have contributed to his longer sleeps at night. He would force himself awake and therefore become overstimulated and cry quite a lot during the day. A nap/walk in the pushchair, or nap/drive in the car would be enough to keep him up from feed to feed, which isn’t the ideal scenario as it goes. Alternatively after a milk feed I could hold him and he would doze off if I sat still holding him – again, not ideal if you have visitors or planning to go out or put a load of washing on! Around 4 months when he started drifting off after his lunch feed, I started putting him in his moses basket and leaving him to self soothe (cry for 5-10 minutes) before checking on him again. Slowly I started doing this every day at the same time until he started napping longer for up to an hour. My golden rule was no naps after 4pm though or it might disturb his night sleep (a Gina Ford titbit). And at around 7 months this swapped to a morning nap. I think the milk feed and cereal breakfast zonks him and he started napping around 10am – 11.30am.
So I’d recommend if you want a nap routine, take note if your baby has a nap around the same time of day 2 days in a row, and on the 3rd day see if you can try do a wind down routine in anticipation (I would take Leyton to his darkened nursery and sing to him or put his cot mobile on and rock him. I then leave the mobile on with him sleepy in his cot, and he drifts off himself) Keep this up and see if your baby will take to the routine. I wish I had started this when Leyton was younger, as looking back I don’t think I gave him the right environment to sleep for a long time during the day. We have to guide them in what we know is best sometimes, ( a health visitor told me to stay on the same floor as the baby at all times which is not actually the best advice, and it confused me into trying to get him to nap in the brightly lit lounge with The Wright Stuff or Lorraine quietly on the TV 😉 ! Sometimes it’s just worth cancelling your plans and staying in for a few days to see if anything will stick – give yourself and your baby the chance to get into the habit of naps or sleeps! Leyton does now ‘self-settle’ where he will be put in his cot awake, tucked in with the mobile on, and go down for a morning nap for 1-2 hours every day. And don’t forget to get some sleep yourself when your baby is napping, everything else can wait…. a happy rested mumma makes a happy baby!
Products I’d recommend related to sleeping
- Long sleeping pillow for pregnancy (Dreamgenii Long Pregnancy pillow that you can rest between your legs is brilliant: Kiddicare £24.99 www.kiddicare.com)
- Tableside fan (£12.95 from Amazon )
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs (3 pairs for £3.49 at www.boots.com)
- Blackout blinds (£12.99 generally for a roller blind at www.dunelm-mill.com then we put up nice curtains to match the nursery)
- Moses Basket
- Cotbed (Tesco)
- Growbags (£14.99 for a 2.5 tog at www.mothercare.com, but H&M and Babies R Us also do reasonable ones. Branded GroBags are normally around £35.)
- Moses basket blanket set (£19.99 for the set at Babies R Us www.toysrus.co.uk)
- Cotbed blanket set
- Cot mobile
- Night light (Leyton loves his frog projector £14.99 at www.argos.co.uk)
- Baby monitor
- Anglecare Baby sensor mat (£79.99 for movement and sound at Amazon or £55.95 for movement mat only at Amazon)
- Room thermometer (£13.50 for the gro-egg thermometer at Amazom )