“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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I totally get all the things you are saying here. And you definitely could have tried them. But don’t feel to badly about not doing those things because honestly I did a lot of those things and it just changes even if you enforce certain ‘good’ habits. Babies go through growth spurts and really do get hungry at night. Caleb can definitely sleep through the night and has done so for a while but then suddenly he is waking up again and we have had all the good habits in place for a while. Only dummy when he has already tried to self sooth only go in if he is very upset etc but I realised recently as a breastfeeding mum after meeting with a lactation consultant, something that I didnt realise before but breastfeeding is not just a form of ‘food’ for baby, its also thirst quencher and not just that, its a closeness a bond and an incredible comfort for baby. To them its there safe space. The lactation specialist said something to me and it just hit home, you aren’t just feeding your baby you are loving him. (Im not saying there arent other ways to love and comfort) but if you have chosen to breastfeed then you have shown baby this incredible safe space that makes them feel so close and loved so its difficult to convince them that some other form of comfort is better. Ag I just wanted to encourage you actually. I felt very similar to you about what i would have done differently. But i personally think you probably couldnt have. You would be more tired and I know iv tried trying to convice your darling to rock or dummy back to sleep when all she wanted was the closeness. And it will get better. It really will. Suddenly she will sleep longer. I know while you are sleep deprived it sucks to hear that. Also we did sleep training… i really think at the tale end of this journey i hope… that it is a milestone thing. And its like expecting a baba to walk when they have barely learned to crawl. I dunno just my thoughts and i think you are doing a great job.
Thanks for your comment my friend. I agree 100% and truly believe that Sarah is just restless soul (like me) and thus struggles to sleep. In saying that, my hope as a mom is to help her establish a sleep routine so that she (and I) feel rested in the morning which is currently not happening at all. I think these habits, especially self soothing could have benefited for a lot if I’d tried to reinforce it earlier and not only start now. But for sure, boob is love and comfort and I am so willing to offer that, if that’s what she is needing. Love to u and precious Caleb and little growing bub too <3
So “glad” to have read this Cait…my little Anah did exactly the same thing from 4 months and has been waking up 12-20 times a night for the past 2 months after sleeping through at 14 weeks! My life changed yesterday when I unfortunately had to sleep train her!! It was something I never thought I’d do (I thought it was so cruel to let your baby “cry it out”) but when both of us are being so badly affected by lack of sleep, it was my last option! And praise Jesus…she only woke up once last night at 3am, fed for 10 minutes, cried for 30 minutes and woke up happy and giggling at 7am!! I wish all moms didn’t feel so terrible and frightened of sleep training!! Both of us felt like new people this morning and Anah is more happier now than ever!! Well done for being such an amazing mom Cait!!!! And for managing so much on so little sleep!! Sending loads of love and would love to catch up xx
Lee, I feel you my friend. We began sleep training on Friday night too and am amazed by the progress already (well apart from last night, haha). Going to blog about it tomorrow – I also never thought I’d do it but trying it for 7 nights and will then make the decision as to whether to continue or not. Love to u guys and precious Anah and thank u for your comment <3
So glad it’s starting to work my friend…I tried all types of ‘mild’ sleep training with pick up and put down etc…and on Wednesday we started with the ruthless one (awful I know) and last night was the second night and she cried for 10 minutes at 7pm, sand slept through until 7am this morning! I cannot believe how well something can work! Thank you Jesus! Xx
Hey Lee. There seem to be all kinds of mild ones. But they didnt work for us ether. What was your approach with ‘ruthless’ do you still breastfeed? So no feeding to sleep?? And when/if she wakes what do you do feed? Or just put her back down with dummy? How often do you go back in and what do you do when you go back in? Would love to hear your approach. Have read so many kinds.
Your little Sarah sounds just like my Ella, with all these same little niggles. Looking forward to part II.
It’s tough isn’t it Tanya. Hope you managed to read my latest post on sleep training. We now onto day 9 and Se basically slept through last night 🙂 There is hope x