Sleep Swings and Roundabouts

LottieBoobNappingLottie is six weeks old on Friday. One thing I am quickly learning about babies and sleep is that you should never ever say ‘well that’s sorted!’ because nothing is ever sorted for long. The good news is, I’m finding that when things are bad, they’re not bad for long either. So you take the good with the bad and eventually muddle your way through.

An example of the bad is when on Saturday night, while I was in a beach house full of people trying to sleep, Lottie decided 2am was a good time to be awake. Wide awake. It was play time! This has only happened a few times so I know I should thank my lucky stars that Lottie usually goes straight down to sleep after night feeds so easily. But when she flips out and decides she’s awake at night, I must admit my coping mechanisms at that hour are delicate. Especially when I’m trying not to wake the house! So yes, Lottie ended up sleeping the rest of the night in her pram, which by the way she fell asleep in the moment I put her down, before I even started with the motion. Go figure.

Similarly to the problem that I’ve had with the morning sleeps, where Lottie doesn’t want to go in her cot, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when babies decide that their sleeping habits are going to change. But I have tentative good news on this front. The last two mornings, including right now, Lottie slept in her cot. Hooray to typing with two hands without a sleeping baby in a carrier on my front! It may just be luck, but I will share with you anyway the different tactics I used to possibly influence this outcome in case they are useful for you.

Interestingly, what I have found when I have been looking for tips in books and on the internet about how to get my baby to sleep is that pretty much everyone is talking about the evening. However, so far, Lottie’s not had a problem going to sleep at 7pm bedtime. Apart from a few overnight party-time awake periods, night time sleeps after she wakes for a feed also haven’t been a problem. It’s the daytime sleeps that I struggle with, particularly in the morning at home in the cot. The reason I persist with getting Lottie as much sleep as possible during the day is because I know if she becomes overtired, the evening sleep will be a disaster too. Which makes it even stranger that the sleep advice you find in books and on the internet is so lacking for day time sleeps. Anyway, here is the daytime sleep routine I have found some very short-term success with so far based on the advice of family and friends, and also a phone call with a CAFS midwife who was able to offer some useful tips.

When I’m feeding Lottie during the day, she is often very sleepy on the boob. It was often taking me up to an hour to feed, after which she would be drowsy-milk-drunk and so I would put her down to sleep, skipping play-time. But an hour on the boob, apparently, is way too long and must have been including many short naps which meant when the feed was finished, Lottie didn’t feel like having more sleep. She was basically snacking and napping during feeding. Since I thought she was sleepy and was putting her straight down, she was missing the stimulation of playtime. But when I put her down in her cot, she was crying because she wasn’t ready to go to sleep and didn’t want to self-settle. Once I was given some advice about this and saw what I was doing wrong, I have since tried to keep her awake during feeds and low and behold the feeds have got much shorter. Each time she looks to be dosing off, I burp her to wake her up, swap sides, bounce her up and down and sometimes change her nappy. Then after the feed, even when she looks really tired, I try to keep her up for 90 minutes after she last woke, including some playtime. It’s amazing how quickly she goes from wide awake and fascinated with playtime activities, to whingy and glazed eyes, properly ready for a sleep. Once I spot these tired cues (which oddly enough often include hiccups), I swaddle her and sit quietly in the nursery, soothing her and making sure all the burps are out before I put her down. This generally takes about five minutes. Once she is quiet and drowsy (her eyes are starting to close), I put her in her cot and she has managed to miraculously self-settle herself to sleep including about 5 – 10 minutes of protesting.

I should also note that I’ve now instigated a 7am waking time (as well as continuing with the 7pm bedtime), as long as her last waking time was before 6:30am. This may have no influence on the successful day time sleeps, but I just thought I’d mention it.

I hope this method will continue to work, and that I will get better at spotting the tired cues so that I know the right time to put Lottie down before overtiredness strikes. It’s been lovely to have more playtime too, and I’m enjoying watching Lottie get more alert and interactive every day. When we are out of the house for day sleeps, I’m still very reliant on motion to get Lottie to sleep in the pram, the car and more recently the carrier. But once I have day sleeps in the cot more consistently manageable, I hope to be able to train Lottie to self-settle in a portacot too, so that we can take that to friends’ houses for day time sleeps and she can self-settle without me providing motion. But as I said, everything seems to change so quickly; tomorrow I might find this doesn’t work at all!

On the subject of things not working out the way you hoped, this video is brilliant, and something I’m sure all new mums and dads can relate to.

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