I’m hiding in the en-suite waiting for the baby to fall asleep.
You won’t find this one in the baby sleep books.
Last night I stayed awake reading about sleep. I should have been snoozing, preparing for the 2am wake up call.. and the hourly wake up call after that.
I’m hiding in the en-suite because I really needed to pee so I took a break from feeding, laid him in his cot and he went quiet. I’m waiting til I’m sure he’s asleep before I emerge.
I could stay here indefinitely except the two year old is bound to come looking for me.
When I was pregnant I read books on hypnobirthing, homebirth, gentle birth, breastfeeding, even early potty training. But the only sleep-related book I read was one purchased by my husband on recommendation from a friend. I dipped into chapter 2 and arose, a flood of tears at the point where she wrote about leaving baby to cry/fuss/settle for the length of time it took to boil a kettle, make and drink a cup of tea.
No way I could leave my baby cry that length of time. I projected myself into the future, weeping over my mug as baby called out for me from his cot.
Truth is until that point I had given almost zero thought to how you get a baby to sleep. Baby becomes tired, you place them in their cot, singing sweet lullabies over them as they gently drift into their slumber?
My first baby is born at 9pm after a 42 hour labour and almost 2 nights of no sleep. It’s 11pm by the time I am in the ward, the lights are dimmed and the midwife is helping me to encourage baby to latch on to feed.
I am exhausted. The parts of my body that I can still feel scream for rest. I have never been more ready for sleep in my life. Baby drifts off and the midwife swaddles him (the only time in his life he was swaddled properly-all of my subsequent attempts resulting in piercing screams from baby) and I heave a sigh of relief.
“Now you must wake him every two hours to feed”
What? Wake the baby?
As it turns out baby doesn’t need me to wake him. His own internal belly-powered alarm clock wakes him instead.
And continues to wake him. Multiple times a night for months.
My second baby. A dream sleeper.
Easy to get to sleep, increasingly longer night time stretches of rest for both him and me. I finally realise that putting baby down “drowsy but awake” is a real thing.
He takes long naps (baby number 1 took half an hour to get him to sleep for a 20 minute nap) sleeps through the night for a whole week at 3 months.
Ah that week. The pinnacle of his sleep achievements (and my ‘dream baby’ smugness).
At 6/7 months he wakes every two hours; sometimes every hour.
Dream sleeper me arse. He tricked us all.
I can’t do sleep training. I don’t have a moral objection to it. I’m just not patient enough. Not consistent enough.
Instead I do the one thing all of the baby sleep books agree doesn’t work. I try multiple things within the same half hour. Lullabies, picking up and putting down, white noise you name it.
At the peak of baby’s wailing/lowest ebb of my patience I give him the boob.
Result. For a couple of hours.
I don’t do sleep training. I don’t have a moral objection to it. The truth is I’m patient enough.
Patient enough to put my sleep needs on hold for a bit.
Patient enough to remember that he will only be this small for a small time.
The truth is I like to take him into my bed in the middle of the night, when exhaustion precludes anything but lying him down beside me and allowing him to nurse, his tiny hands reaching out to grab my boob.
The truth is it’s cosy. The truth is I’m lazy. The truth is I can manage on a lot less sleep that you’d think. The truth is I’m almost 40 and this will probably be the last baby I feed to sleep.
All of the above.
I only get to write the first piece of this post before baby cries out, once, twice, three times. I leave my hiding place and go to him. He beams up at me; not ready for sleep.
Inhale, patience. Exhale, smile.
I pick him up and carry him downstairs. Kicking legs and giggling as we join his brother.
Photo credit Sinéad Feeney.