Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting Babies to Sleep

Now this is an issue close to every mother's heart: how do I get my baby to sleep?

I am afraid that I don't have the answer either, though I will share various tips I have learnt by reading and doing.

The first thing I have learnt is that you will not set yourself up for a lifetime of misery by feeding baby to sleep sometimes (or even often in the early days), or by rocking the to sleep, or cuddling them even. While I know that bad habits can develop (no one wants to have to rock their baby to sleep for the next five years for sure), they can be broken quite quickly once you personally have the time and energy to devote to it.

Early on Lily did a few nights sleeping through, then a few more, until she was giving us a minimum of 8 hours at a little over 3 months. Ah - what bliss! Sadly it lasted for maybe 3 weeks max, and we returned to broken sleep yet again - and we still have it.

I do find the adage of 'good day sleep = good night sleep' is true here. When she can't settle to day sleep and is grumpy during the day, we will have more wake ups that night. So having some days at home to ensure sleep routines are followed is important. I found that out the hard way when I had a couple of exceptionally busy weeks and Lily responded by refusing to fall asleep unaided for any naps. One week at home (except for coffee group!) fixed that and she was back into falling asleep herself.

From the beginning I tried to get Lily to fall asleep by herself, and I admit, I worried when I had to help her out. I soon got over that when I realised that worse than a baby who you have to help to fall asleep is a baby who is overtired and has NO show of falling asleep easily, then once asleep will wake up far too soon. It is far easier to start changing habits in a baby who is well rested than one that needs to catch up on a lot of missed sleep.

CIO = crying it out. This term inspires massive debate and some people can get very aggressive on both sides. Basically, some believe that leaving a baby to cry raised their stress levels (cortisol levels) which damages the baby in the future. Other people believe that going in to a child every time they cry is setting you up as their slave.

Personally - do what works for you. I couldn't do CIO with Lily - she has an on and off switch unless it is grizzling so would scream for hours and I am not prepared to do that. But then some mothers are so sleep deprived that they are in danger, mentally, that unless they get some sleep things could go horribly wrong and CIO might be the only way to fix it. Again I say - use what works for you, and don't let others make you feel guilty if you know that you are doing what you and your family need.

The same applies for co-sleeping - if you have minimised the risks (no drinking/drugs/smoking etc) and baby is safe in with you and it works for you - then don't let others make you feel bad about your choice!

Sometimes babies will chat away in bed for a while, or grizzle or even give a little cry before falling asleep. It pays not to react instantly to every sound. Also, the mum going in can sometimes make them think they are going to feed. If you are breastfeeding then you can smell of milk - even if they are not hungry they might want the comfort of a feed. If possible send a partner or relative in to try and settle them before you go.

We are currently trying to stretch Lily at night by not feeding her straight away when she wakes. My husband gets up and tries to soothe her, if she isn't asleep within 15 minutes then i will get up and feed her. We have gone from waking 3-4 hours to a 6 hour stretch last night. i will let you know how this continues over the next few nights and may elaborate more.

In summary!

1. Don't panic if you are doing everything 'wrong' according to other sleep places, you can change what you are doing once you feel up to it.
2. Time at home is important, don't go out every day every week and expect your baby to be getting good day sleep.
3. It is easier to change sleep habits in a well rested baby than one that is overtired.
4. Use techniques that work for you and don't let other people guilt you.
5. try to enlist other people into helping settle baby so you don't have to do it everytime.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm Back! After the festive season...

Well it has been a very busy time of the year and I have been very quiet. I am sure that everyone else was busy too, so you probably didn't miss me anyway!

Christmas and New Years have been and gone, and my daughter has been through her first Christmas. It was great fun, as you would expect. But I think we are extra fortunate in that I only had to visit one family group on Christmas day. Plus they provide everything and give us a wonderful day.

I have heard from friends who have had to travel from one family to another, covering an insane amount of kilometres. Some have to travel for a couple of hours in each direction just to satisfy everyone. I cannot begin to imagine doing that at all, let alone with one or more children in the car.

Is there not a better way? I know some people who have Christmas Eve with one side of the family, then Christmas Day with the other. Or maybe Boxing Day instead of Christmas Eve. Even so, that is a lot of travelling.

I remember when I was young we would all meet at my grandparents for Christmas Day, a whole heap of us, step-families and all, and celebrate together. They were wonderful days as my Grandparents lived in the country, so there was a bit of room and if you really wanted to be alone, you could find peace somewhere.

It also meant there were cousins to play with instead of mere siblings, once all the grown ups fell asleep, stomachs full of food and brains scrambled by a combination of the Queens message and a few glasses of wine or beer.

Things like this seem less common these days, almost like both sides of the family want to put their claim on the younger generations. If we hark back to the favourite saying that it takes a village to raise a child, why can't the village get together and celebrate as one, instead of creating opposing tribes stretching families between them.

Just a thought.