Baby Sleep And Parenting - From The BubClub's Co-founder
Sleep. The hot topic surrounding you the minute you mention your pregnancy. ‘Ah you can kiss your sleep goodbye’… ‘Get ready for the sleepless nights’…‘Best you get as much rest as possible now before he/she arrives’… ‘You’re going to be absolutely exhausted for the next 18 years’…. ‘You’re going to DIE with such little sleep’… The list goes on. Forewarning mums to be, as if they’d never see sleep again and best they prepare themselves for an unimaginable level of exhaustion that was coming their way.
Yes its true… you are tired. You are needed 24/7 and are responsible for another beings survival, so yes, you are stretched and your mum role doesn’t start and end at a certain time everyday. You can’t just ‘clock off’ for the day and deal with the responsibility tomorrow. Its ongoing, never ending, a forever commitment. BUT let me tell you, you are also filled with an immeasurable amount of love, purpose and joy. You will feel complete with the fullest heart and a sense of eutopia too. You may think you know what love is, but there is no love like the love you will feel/have once your little one arrives. So why don’t we rather focus on the fact that the new little being is going to be the most wonderful and joyous forever commitment, rather than focusing on the amount of sleep we have lost or sacrificed to have them? A small trade off in my opinion!
So a bit about me… anyone that knows me, knows that I unapologetically LOVE my sleep. I hit the pillow and I AM OUT, literally dead to the world. A minimum of 8 hours a night and no early rise here unless I reaaaally have to! So you can imagine with becoming a parent the thought of having to do away with this was really something I was not looking forward to. Me with no sleep = not a combination I’d recommend! Having heard all the stories from mum friends, I braced myself for the fact that my uninterrupted, deep sleeping days were coming to an end and that was that.
Would I cope? Would I be a good mum with the lack of sleep? Could I be the best mum possible for my little guy if I was constantly feeling tired? Would I have resentment for the little bit of downtime and sleep I’d now have compared to what I was so used to?
Whats remarkable is how your body already prepares you for this change during your pregnancy. I started with insomnia about 5 months into my pregnancy. I’d lie awake for hours on end… a lot of time was spent on Amazon at 3am and being pleasantly surprised the next day when orders arrived that I had completely forgotten about! You’re also not very comfortable with the recommendation being to sleep on your left. I never knew I was a back sleeper until I fell pregnant… I can confirm, I’m a back sleeper! That was tough, I don’t miss those restless nights towards the end of the pregnancy but I totally appreciate that its all to prepare you for your little humans arrival.
So here I am now with my 8 month old little boy, Harvey. I don’t get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. I also don’t really know exactly how the nights are going to go but I have survived and learnt to operate at my best with less sleep than before.
Having said that, I can also say that we have been blessed with a sleeper (so far). When Harvey was born (at 36 weeks), he was the tiniest tot at 2.2kgs. He slept A LOT. We had to set reminders to wake up every 3 hours to feed him as he was just a tiny sleepy little bub. Fast forward a few weeks on and we realised we were blessed with a relatively good sleeper. He woke up maybe once or twice a night and went back down really easily and effortlessly after a feed and change. Daytime naps were like clock work and he would go down really well too.
At 9 weeks, I found myself awake during the night simply because I could hear him tossing and turning in his sleep and not because he was awake and keeping me up. (Also a side note: No one tells you how noisy babies are in their sleep!!! The grunting, moaning little sounds they make during the night and all the flapping around they do in their sleepsuits… like little seals!!!) So at this point, we decided to move him to his own room across the passage where we’d be able to hear him easily if he needed us but also be far enough to not hear every movement he made. So all in all, the first 4 months were ok, not too shabby. A few wakes during the night here and there, quick feeds and down he went again! I truly believe God blesses you with what you need, and he knew I needed some version of a decent nights rest to operate!
Then the 4 month regression hit… and boy did it hit. 10-12 wake ups a night, long feeds and what felt like hours to get him settled to only start the process all over again. The routine we had always had was still EXACTLY the same. We hadn’t changed anything so WHY was it so different and so intense? Regression and developments… that’s why. Without knowing how long it would last, we simply took each day as it came and kept reminding ourselves that the only constant is change. Just like how it changed to the worst sleep ever, it could mean it would change back to good sleep any day too. The regression lasted 2 weeks and then one day, it simply ended. We stuck to the same routine, same bedtime structure as we always had, and just like that, he slept through the night with just one wake up again. We had the same just after he turned 7 months and it lasted the same amount of time too.
In terms of routine, I’ve never been set on exact times for his sleep except for the night time routine. My focus was more on his ‘awake windows’. Therefore each day was different and would depend on what time he woke up that day. I followed Parent Sense App which I highly recommend but essentially you know roughly how long your baby should be awake for at each stage of its life and you don’t push them past that window. (I have mistakenly done that a few times and have paid the price!!!)
At the early stages of life, Harvey had awake windows of only 1- 1h30mins. Therefore every time he went down for a nap, once he woke he would be awake for max 1h30mins before going down again. As he grew the awake windows stretched to 2- 2h30mins and currently we are on 2h30-3 hour windows. This usually means he will have a nap in the morning (2 hours after he wakes up) and then have a lunch time nap (this tends to be the longest nap of the day for us – usually about 1h30-2hours long) and depending on what time he wakes from that nap, we may fit in an afternoon nap too (super short - usually 30 minutes which then sees him through to the night). One thing we don’t compromise on is the night time routine. Whether we are at home or at a friends … he will have dinner at around 5/5:30pm, bath time after, wind down and story time and then give him his milk and off to bed by 6:30pm. He tends to drink his milk on his own and falls asleep right after. Other times we hear him talking to himself for a bit but then doses off. Our approach has always been to have him self soothe. There have been tough nights where we have had to do the ‘timing the cry’ method where we leave him for a few mins, go in to settle him and then leave him for longer stretches until he eventually self soothes. This method has worked very well for us and he now has learnt to settle himself quite well where we can simply put him in his cot, give him his bottle, kiss him goodnight (day or night naps) with an ‘I love you’ whisper and he knows it’s time for sleep! Although the timing method was hard at the time, it is the best thing we could have done for us all.
I still have a lot to go through and learn with my little guy but so far, this has been the sleeping path and journey we have been walking. It may work for some and not for others, but it has worked for us and we feel that through the future regressions that will undoubtedly hit us, we will continue to keep the routine as consistent as possible and be hopeful that it will get better again once its over.
So whatever your sleeping journey looks like… you got this! Do what feels right for you and your little human, trust that you know whats best for your family!
Written by Nicole van der Net, Co founder of The BubClub.
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