“Sarah has slept through the night for the past 2 weeks”, I proudly announced on arrival at a coffee date with my hot moms group. If only I’d known then how I’d laugh at my ignorance months later.
I want to start by saying that babies are individuals; they (like us) are unique human beings, with personalities, likes and dislikes. For the first 3 months of life, my little Sarah Hope slept like a dream (although back then I thought waking once to twice a night was a nightmare). And then like clockwork something changed, and our little sleeper became nocturnal. Overnight.
Before I jump into what I would do differently now if I could back to those first few weeks when her sleeping patterns changed, I want to mention that I have diagnosed my little cherub with every possible baby sickness in the middle of the night.. but none of those have stuck or been true. Quite simply I’ve come to the conclusion that my busy babe, is in fact, just a bad sleeper (like me, I suppose) and all I can do is help her learn to go back to sleep when waking every 2 hours, all night.
Where I went wrong when this habit began
Sleep regression, which happens around 4 months, is common. Some babies manage to work through it on their own; others like mine make it a habit. My 1st mistake with Sarah’s new sleeping pattern, was thinking that she was hungry when she woke every 2 hours – feeding her more than once a night created a habit for her that boob = sleep. My 2nd mistake was responding to moans and not just cries. Babies can moan and then self soothe but if we interfere every time that this happens then they learn that even a tiny noise gets a response. My 3rd mistake was always taking her out of her cot when she cried at night, this is probably my biggest challenge as Sarah is only comforted now by being in my arms and struggles to be left alone in her cot in the wee hours of the morning. My 4th mistake was putting her dummy in when she cried and never allowing her to learn to self sooth (finger in mouth or playing with a blankie etc).
What I’d do differently
- Feed once
We started Sarah on solids at 4 months (very gradually) so apparently she shouldn’t really be hungry at night anymore. Based on this info, I would decide to only feed once a night, and only after 12am – to dummy before and after this, to ensure no feeding & sleep connections are formed
- Encourage Self soothing
I would let Sarah moan and chat to herself without EVER interfering (day or night sleep times). I would only go into her room when she actually cries, and then I would dummy. I would however allow her to self soothe during the day and try to avoid continuously putting her dummy back in if she moaned whilst falling asleep. The hope here would be that she learns to fall asleep by self-soothing and doesn’t require a dummy or being picked up to always ensure sleep.
- Sleep happens in her cot
Fortunately I established this habit at 4 months exactly and couldn’t be more thankful that I did. I placed Sarah in her cot when she started to rub her eyes or show signs of tiredness. I put her dummy in, gave her her little soft blankie and put the mobile on. She amazingly quickly adapted to putting herself to sleep without being rocked. (This is one of the habits I am so thankful to have established then, as God knows that rocking a 9kg baby to sleep now would be not be ideal).
Where we’re at today
Our midwife gave us (at 6 months) two options for our SERIOUS sleep deprivation.
Tune in tomorrow to read about how we are approaching a 6 month non-sleeper..
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