Friday 26 August 2016


Talking about babies and their sleeping habits is a loaded topic. There are a lot of judgements that seem to fly around about the type of person - and mother - you are depending on the path that you take. Because, after all, motherhood is a journey, and is different for every person.

However, there are times when I try to listen without judgement because I am open to hearing someone else's story. There are times when I am willing to try anything that has worked for someone else. And this is true for all of the stages of childhood.

Today I am sharing my experience - not as a way to say it's the best way, but to say it's what has helped our family. 

When our first child was born, I felt out of my element. I hadn't grown up around lots of siblings, and even when my friends started to have children, I still didn't know or understand what they were going through. But I was also interested to know what was working (or not) for them, and willing to listen.

After learning that we were to become parents for the first time, my husband and I took classes through the local hospital. These were mainly about what happens during the birthing process, but also provided tips, advice and current medical recommendations on different elements of caring for a newborn baby. For example, the hospital wanted to encourage parents to place babies sleeping on their backs as research had shown that this had helped to reduce the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome significantly. They also discouraged parents from sleeping with babies in their beds, for the same reason. Even at the delivery of my most recent baby, the hospital's policy was that newborns had to sleep in the bassinets, and not with the mother. SIDS was sited as the risk factor.

Because I was a new mother and wide-eyed, I didn't want to take this risk with my first child. However, there were times when I was so tired that sometimes he fell asleep with me in bed as a newborn, always during a nighttime feed. However, the few times that this happened, either he or I wouldn't sleep so well. Even when I was desperate for one of us to sleep, it never worked for us. I was always worried that myself or my husband might roll over onto the baby. It has always been my experience - with all four children - that we both sleep better when in our own beds. (And this is true for the children as they have aged too - they are too wriggly!)

Co-sleeping is something that seems to becoming more and more popular - at least from my admittedly small sample of mothers who I follow on Instagram. And that is fine - I understand the need to find something that works for each person's circumstances. But it is not something that has worked for us. 

When I was pregnant with our first child a friend gave me a book as a gift. She was an intelligent woman and a high achiever - a classic type-A personality. The book was called Save Our Sleep. At first I put it to the side, but when I felt overwhelmed with my newborn I started to read it. Then another friend, whose baby was sleeping at six weeks old, gave me another book: The Baby Whisperer. I also read this, and started to follow through on some of the advice. While I have never been overly strict on following routines, we have found them to work for our family. All four of my children - who have each had their own distinct personalities - have now been sleeping through the night by about three months old. 

For me, what the books above have helped me to teach me is ways to understand my baby, and their needs. For example, if a baby has just been fed and they start to cry, I always check their nappy first or try to determine if they have wind. My first reaction is not to breastfeed straight away. I also try to ensure that they have a "full" feed each time, offering both sides - and this usually happens when they are about three hours apart - versus "snacking".

Also, swaddling has worked for us. If they come out of their wrap, then they are more likely to wake and not have a full sleep. I've always found wrapping with the arms up - as above - allows the baby to suck on their hands and comforts them. The giant wraps from Li'l Fraser have been really good for this, as I have mentioned before.

And by following some form of a routine, I can read their cues better for when they are tired and need to have a nap. If they are starting to grizzle and they have already had a feed and a nappy change, then I know it's time to put them down for a nap. If I get the timing right then there is little to no crying.

And the word "crying" is often quite loaded too. But when babies make a noise, they are trying to communicate. With each of our children I have learnt to read the different sounds they make - because different cries really do mean different things. Sometimes our baby shrieks and often this proceeds a burp or wind. This doesn't mean that he's hungry - because when I first tried this, he actually refused. Similarly, when I put him to sleep he makes different sounds and I listen to what he's trying to tell me. Sometimes it's, "I'm tired and not happy here but I'm not hollering. I just want you to know that I'm here." And so I wait. If his sounds escalate then I will go and pick him up. But I don't rush in at just any sound. Sometimes it almost sounds like he is forming words. They are almost a string of sighs. 

If the baby has woken up and their nap was only a short one then I might take them for a walk before feeding them. If they are "rooting", I will breastfeed. But if they are content then I will hold off until closer to their feeding time. Generally, I feed every three hours - starting at about 6.30/7am - put the baby down at about 6.30pm and give a "dream feed" at about 11.30pm. Now our baby is sleeping through until 6.30am. When he is about four months old, we will transition to a four-hourly feeding time.

It is a flexible arrangement and by no means dogmatic. But knowing roughly when he should be feeding helps me understand his needs better. This has been true for all of my babies. And it may help you.

image the indigo crew

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