Sleep. Obsession. Google. The need for answers. For hope. For something that would work. That was pretty much how it was for me with my first. I had heard things got easier at six weeks. I had heard it wrong.
At a couple of months the night feeds became regular with a 7pm, 1am, 3am and 5am pattern. Surely the hardest bit was done now? I started singing “Things can only get better” without realising in the shower. Then the half hourly wake ups kicked in at 6 months. No evening time anymore either. I know there are far worse things in the world but it hit hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. No time out is hard.
The methods detailed on the internet and in the books I had panicked bought promised success if you could just see things through. The friends with babies that ‘slept through’ proved it could and should be done. The idea that I had failed as I had fed him to sleep so he would never ever be able to do it alone. Well at least not until he was 40. I dabbled with sleep training, really just dipped my toe in. The crying would start on the monitor and if it wasn’t me it was my husband running upstairs after a brief pause, shared eye roll and sigh. Our baby’s upset seemingly inevitably escalated. He self settled rarely. But no we didn’t leave him for any length of time so who knows. It never felt like what we wanted to do. I never had that conviction that I would be doing the right thing for me or for him.
The epiphany came at around six or seven months. He just wanted to hold my arm. He didn’t even want milk. He just wanted to hold my arm. I could let him hold my arm. I could let him sleep all night holding my arm with the covers kept well clear of him. I could sleep. With just me and him on the spare double bed I could be as safe a co-sleeper as possible. I reasoned that there were a lot of things I was doing unsafely as I was so tired; I figured I was probably safer and my baby was probably safer if I got some sleep.
So that was it, the co-sleeping started. Number two arrived and the theme continued. The eldest co-sleeping with his Dad and still often holding an arm and the youngest with me. Who knows what would have happened if number 2 had been number 1. If the tone hadn’t been set by those half hourly wake ups which number 2 never bothered with!
They start in their own beds (after I lie with them to get them to sleep and transfer them from my bed to theirs) and then they waddle to us in the early hours. It’s almost seemless and we all generally get a good rest. I don’t dream about sleep how it used to be anymore; I know that it will return one day. I do dream about a bed big enough for us all to slumber in, as well as having space for our’s and our children’s bedrooms. Quite a dream.n Me and my husband tend to get most evenings and the early part of the night together and then we get the most sleep we can. I never imagined I’d be happy with this, what can I say, sleep training really works. I’m just not the trainer.
That’s probably enough about how we found something that sort of works for us. I guess the main point I want to make is find something that works for you. Given the chance I’d tell my former self not to worry if your right way takes a while to find. And please don’t feel embarrassed or like you’ve failed if it involves compromise and co-sleeping (which are feelings I still sometimes have to shake off). Equally don’t feel bad if it’s a sleep training style that works for you; I have good friends and a sister whose children took to this style remarkably quickly. And other friends who had children that took to it after a couple of weeks in a way that the parents were happy with. Do I think their children will be forever scarred by it? Probably not. Do I think your children can tell if you’re happy and confident in whatever method you choose? Yes. Is this important? I think so.
In the early days when I was forever reading books, trawling the internet and going to weekly weigh-ins (baby ones!) to gleam answers from baby gurus and health visitors, my mum suggested that I just do what I thought was right. She even seemed to query whether people should try and tell you what to do with your own child. Outrageous. I didn’t have time to listen as I was too busy googling green poo, whether I should use a dummy and how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Essentially I didn’t have my own ‘right’; I was clueless and overwhelmed. Now I do have a right for me and for our family. And the fact that it’s not everyone else’s right makes perfect sense in a world where we are all different.