Parenting rule number one: Don’t. Get. Cocky.
I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that I broke this rule when it came to the Big One’s sleep. He never woke for more than two feeds a night and slept through twelve hours at twelve weeks. He then consistently slept through, with the exception of a week in Portugal at 9 months and an
hellish interesting weekend in a caravan at 13 months when his molars came through.
I attributed this to our unwavering determination to ensure a consistent bedtime routine. He would nap in his cot for every nap of the day. He generally fed and went straight back to sleep in the night. He fed every three hours like clockwork. I thought it was because we’d been so good about tuning into his needs and ‘persevering’ with napping in the cot.
What a load of b*llocks! The truth…. we just got lucky.
Because then Little One came along and we did everything the same. And by ‘everything’ I mean some semblance of a bedtime routine and that’s it! First time around I took A LOT of credit for having a naturally good sleeper. So here are the ‘rules’ that my babies just haven’t had the memo about:
#1 Put baby to bed drowsy but awake
The reasoning: If baby is fed or cuddled to sleep, they will wake in the night and expect the same in order to fall back to sleep. Sleep ‘gurus’ use the buzz words ‘sleep associations’ mostly to sound important I think.
The reality: What a load of sh*te. Our eldest fell asleep feeding until he was over a year and slept through consistently. Our youngest has, even from around four months, sometimes been awake after his last feed of the day and has been put to bed ‘drowsy but awake’. On those nights? He wakes up more! On the nights he falls asleep feeding? He sleeps better. Go figure.
#2 Make sure baby falls asleep in his cot/Moses basket (basically wherever you expect him to spend the night)
The reasoning: Baby will be disorientated and then will need your help to fall back to sleep. I’ve actually read this before; “your baby falling asleep on the sofa in your arms and waking up in his cot is like us falling asleep in bed and waking up on the lawn.”
The reality: Except it’s not is it? It’s like falling asleep on the sofa next to your partner and waking up in bed – equally (if not more) comfy and the place you’re supposed to spend the night. You can’t compare a baby waking up in his comfortable bed with waking up in your back garden in the middle of the night. Yes, he might need you to reassure him you’re there but he wont be disorientated beyond all belief, lying on the grass, shivering and soaking wet (because, let’s face it, this is Britain, so if you woke up outside, it would probably be raining). Cuddle your babies on the sofa if you bloody want then transfer them to their cot/Moses basket etc. Obviously don’t transfer them to the garden.
#3 Sleep begets sleep
The reasoning: The more sleep children get the more they need.
The reality: Little One naps for two hours or more every day and has done since 8 months. Big One only ever napped in 45 minute chunks for the first twelve months. He was on two naps by 6 months. I think we’ve covered how both of them sleep. The first time Little One slept through was when he had spent nine hours awake at six weeks old. Sleep begets sleep my arse.
#4 Food will help your baby sleep through
The reasoning: Food will fill your baby up and when baby is full they will sleep longer.
The reality: Big One slept through at 3 months, way before the introduction of any food. Little One still wakes up around three nights a week, despite being fully weaned. Food does not equal sleep. Unfortunately.
#5 Give formula for the last feed and throughout the night
The reasoning: Formula is not as easily digested as breastmilk so keeps baby fuller for longer – meaning they wont wake to feed.
The reality: Utter nonsense. Big One was breast fed for double the time Little One was and barely had formula at night before sleeping through. Little One had formula from a lot earlier on. And I don’t know if this has come across yet but HE’S STILL WAKING UP!
The conclusion to all of this: your baby will sleep through the night when they are ready. There may be things you can do to encourage them. But ultimately? They will sleep when they sleep.
Hopefully before he turns two*
*crosses fingers, toes, legs (definitely legs) and anything else possible. In the meantime…..caffeine.