I feel like I spent most of the first few months either reading about babies sleep or talking about it. Even when Liliya was only a few weeks old, I was always asked about her sleep patterns, namely how long she slept at night before waking. Even now it sometimes feels like this is a general opening line amongst most mums. Not that I’m not guilty of doing the same thing, it can even feel like some sort of weird competition amongst the babies and the longer your baby sleeps the better. Which is really silly of course. Babies are supposed to wake in the night, that is totally normal and I wish I had spent less time counting the number of hours and comparing her to other babies.
In fact she is a pretty good night sleeper (touch wood a million times). I put this down to our military-like bedtime routine that we started when she was about three weeks old after taking advice from friends who had been successful with similar ones. It really does work. We would do bath-time, followed by a feed, hushed voices, dim lights the whole works. It was easier then because she would sleep a lot anyway so it wasn’t hard to get her off to sleep. Gradually she began to sleep longer before waking for her first feed. When she did wake we did the simple things that were advised to us of keeping the lights off/low, hushed voices and no toys and the opposite during the day etc just so she became used to the difference between night and day. We used to do start at around 10pm simply because it meant her first wake up would be a bit later on the wee hours of the morning and gradually moved it earlier to about 7.30pm now. This does mean her wake-up is at the glorious time of 6.30am but she now sleeps the whole way through!
The day-time naps were another story altogether. While we were strict with her bedtime routine we were guilty of not enforcing a daytime sleep one and yes we held her. And rocked her. All the time while she was asleep during the day. It never even struck me that this was a bad thing! As she got older it became more difficult to get her off to sleep during the day unless she was being held or pushed in the pram. So I would walk for miles and my arms became stronger than they had in years but we persevered so she would sleep.
When she was about five and a half-months I cracked and decided to try ‘sleep training’. This was single-handedly and best and hardest thing we did but it worked a treat. The aim is to teach your baby to put themselves to sleep, instead of relying on sleeping through motion (the pram) or being held. It sounds awful but you essentially leave them to cry after ensuring that they are not hungry, colicky, teething and the nappy is clean. And obviously sleepy. I read about two main methods. The ‘cry-it-out’ method says you basically leave the room and allow your baby to cry until they fall asleep. Repeat again the following day and very quickly they will no longer cry when you put them down and learn to soothe themselves to sleep. I chickened out and took the other approach which is putting your baby down, and coming back into the room at set intervals to soothe them (but not pick them up) until they fall asleep. This takes longer but I felt this was a bit easier, although still traumatic to do.
So day one when she became sleepy, and at this point I would have normally taken her for a walk in the pram, we started the routine. So I fed her, sleeping bag on, dim lights and she was almost asleep in my arms when I put her down in her cot. Big mistake. She immediately started to cry but I made myself leave the room. I cried next door but I stuck to my guns and came back in two minutes later. She immediately stopped crying and started to smile! I couldn’t believe it! So I kept saying shhhh and being very soothing for a few minutes before leaving again. The crying re-started. We continued like this for 40 minutes which felt like the looongest 40 minutes of my life. But eventually she fell asleep. Result! This was the first time that I had my hands free during the day since she had been born, I actually felt a tiny bit liberated. We repeated the same debarcle the next day and once again it took about 40 minutes. But I persevered and on the third day it only took 2 minutes of half-hearted whimpering before she fell asleep. And she was so happy when she woke up! Lots of well-rested smiles, so all the potential psychological damage I was worried about had not occurred! Now it’s great, we have a little routine during the day so whenever she is getting sleepy she quite happily falls asleep on her own in her cot. The only thing I wish I had done is actually get her into the habit of sleeping in her cot during the day, and so avoid the whole sleep training thing altogether but if like me you are struggling it really worked for us! I have spoken to other mums and most seem to have tried some sort of sleep training, usually to help establish a night-time routine. Have a look at the link below which I found useful.
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