If I had thought that handling a newborn alone is tough, boy was I wrong. Because having to deal with a newborn AND a toddler is way harder than that.
Four weeks in, life is easier and harder at the same time. Easier in that I can more or less discern Zac’s needs when he cries, he’s a lot more interactive now and super duper cute, and Aidan is getting used to his little brother’s presence. Harder because Zac doesn’t sleep as much (if he even sleeps at all!), Aidan can get rather needy, and they tend to go off at the same time in the evenings.
That’s right, the dreaded witching hour.
It is 4.30am. I have been wide awake for a good 2 hours now. That damn teh-c I inhaled at 5pm was potent, damnit. I’m lying in the dark typing out this entry on my phone while Elliott is in his crib. I can hear his cute gentle snores while the husband snores beside me. Not very cute, that one.
And yes, Elliott sleeps in his own crib at the foot of our bed. It wasn’t always the case though.
It’s hard being a new mother.
You are struggling with postpartum hormonal crashes, the sudden dramatic change to your life, breastfeeding (if you opt to do so) and learning to care for this screechy little creature who is so alien yet so endearing to you.
And when the baby wouldn’t stop crying or nursing or sleeping all of a sudden, it can be a hair-pulling experience.
So. Here it is – my cheat sheet to everything that a new mother should look out for when it comes to growth spurts and sleep regressions. Because I was there once, frantically googling “baby won’t stop crying nursing attached to boobs what the hell is going on here”.
Here’s the second part to Rachel’s story on how she sleep-trained her daughter. Read the first part here.
To help our daughter become a better sleeper, here’s what we did.
We came up with a new bedtime routine, which looks like this: I breastfeed her 30 minutes before the time she usually starts showing signs of sleepiness, wipe her down, and read a bedtime story. We turn out the lights, kiss her goodnight, tell her we love her and put her down into the cot while she is still awake. This dissociates nursing/rocking/cradling from sleep. It took us a week to identify the right bedtime for her and stuck to it ever since.
We used a controlled-crying method recommended by a friend. Faith was 9 months old when we sleep-trained her, and she could pull herself up to stand. Naturally, she protested by standing up and crying once we put her down into the cot. We reached in to help her lie down, making sure the back of her head landed on the pillow, while patting on her back and telling her to go to sleep in a firm but soothing voice. This associates lying down with bedtime.
You know all about our sleep woes so I shall not dwell too long on them. As mentioned, we did consider sleep training but we were never convinced enough to actually carry out the plans. It’s not that we believed sleep training to be bad, on the contrary, I think sleep training can be useful for babies with certain temperaments (and definitely useful for desperate, chronically sleep-deprived parents!).
I thought it would be interesting to hear the story of someone who had sleep-trained. So here is Rachel from The Pleasure Monger, who has kindly agreed to tell us her journey of helping her baby to be a better sleeper.
We are in the third quarter of 2013, and I kid you not when I say that I did not sleep in the first half of this year. You see, my daughter Faith, did not sleep either.
As with most newborns, she wasn’t a good sleeper in the first eight weeks after birth. She woke up every one or two hours and only fell asleep on us. Being fed on demand also meant that she nursed pretty often. I was knackered and shell-shocked from the demands of motherhood but adrenaline (and a healthy dose of mom-nesia) saw me through the first two months. Thankfully, Faith grew into longer stretches of shuteye towards the end of 2012; she went down for five or six hours straight and was considered to be sleeping through the night. But just as I slowly eased into motherhood, everything changed when she turned twelve weeks old.