Sleep...you either love it or hate it.
Before my son was born, I had this picture perfect view of how life would be with a newborn, as I'm sure a lot of new mums or mums to be imagine life to be like. I, very naively, had it pictured that my own baby would just eat sleep poop repeat!! How wrong was I???!!!
I had it all mapped out before he came along, where he would sleep, how he would sleep, what I wanted to do, what I didn't want to do. But they are so unpredictable at times, that the first few weeks at home with a newborn were very different to how I imagined them to be. I was a first time mum, with nothing to compare a previous experience to, and none of our antenatal classes talked about sleep. Yes, they spoke about safe sleep, but nothing really about how much sleep your baby should ideally get or how to help them go to sleep. After getting married, I moved to a new place where I had no friends who were having or already had their own children, so no one to really talk to about it.
In all honesty, I think my son sent us home with a false sense of sleep. During our stay in hospital he was the quietest baby in the ward. Not a peep came out of him even while all the other babies were crying. It gave me hope that he would be a great sleeper and I wouldn't need to do a lot myself. I couldn't have been further from the truth. The first few nights were horrendous. He was crying and screaming so much that even I, his mum, couldn't settle him and it made me feel awful. I didn't know why he wouldn't stop crying. I though I wasn't doing any of this right. After the first few nights of this, I bonded with him and was able to settle him day and night, but he was still not sleeping great whether it was day or night.
Rightly or wrongly from day 1, I decided to be 'strict' and after 5pm I encouraged only sleep in the bedroom and tried to have the whole dark scene be present so he was aware of night and day. I had no idea at the time how much they can really know the difference between day and night, but my thoughts behind it were the sooner I start, the easier it would be to help him.
The only way I could settle him for naps or bedtime was bouncing up and down. I tried every other trick in the book, but this was the only way for him. Very rarely did he fall asleep in the car, either the journey was too short or we got stuck in traffic and he didn't like that. 3 months on, when they should be starting to fall into some routine, he was still only having 20 minute naps. I would bounce him, wait for a few more minutes before I put him down, and then I would be sure to get 20 minutes to myself and then he would be awake crying again. At first I thought this was normal even at 3 months old and I just couldn't get anything done. I'd start something and then always have to stop because he was fussing again.
This went on for a few weeks after which I decided to start some form of sleep training, but I had no idea where to start. I was apprehensive at first. What if I can't do it? Will it hurt my baby? Will I still have a strong bond with him? What if I don't do it right? All these questions were going through my head everyday. I was lucky enough to have support during the process and we did it. I used gentle methods and helped my son to self soothe himself. At this time he was still too young to need a feed in the night, but he learnt how to self settle and re-settle in the night after a feed. And fortunately, those dreaded 20 minute naps became longer and more age appropriate. Our routine became more solid and one that I could predict what time we could go out. This was the best thing I could have done for my son.
3.5 years on - we've had many sleep ups and downs since my sleep training journey began which I will delve more into my next blog. But for those of you who are struggling with similar issues - know that you are not alone, and help is only a call away.
The best thing about my journey as a mum...my little boy still comes and gives my hugs and kisses. The sweetest little thing he does and I'm so grateful for him.