Lottie is 8 weeks and 1 day old. The reason I’m being so specific about her age is because, apparently, the first 6 to 8 weeks are the hardest weeks in the first three months of a baby’s life. I don’t know how reliable this advice is; I don’t know if this is the case for most parents, all parents or just some parents who happen to notice their child turning into a monster during this two week period and go on the internet to seek help; in fact, let’s face it, I don’t know much at all because everything to do with babies seems to be a grey area. That is why we rely on very grey advice and just do our best.
Those who have been following this blog so far will know that I’ve been trying to sleep train my daughter so she can go to sleep independently without my help. The good news is, I’m still having success with this training at night; Lottie has been having a dream feed and one other feed (which started off at 2am, creeped up to 3am, then 4am and last night was 5am) and has been thankfully settling herself to sleep so I can go straight back to sleep myself. Admittedly, I’m basically feeding-her-to-drowsy for these night feeds and I’m really lucky that Lottie has always recognised that night-time is not playtime so she’s been self-settling from a ‘sleepy-awake’ state at night. However, over the last two weeks, from 6 weeks to the day, to 8 weeks to the day, Lottie’s daytime behaviour has no longer been a happy-go-lucky eat-play-sleep routine. It has been chaos.
It is possibly worth pointing out that since Lottie was born two and a half weeks early, her first ‘Wonder Week’ occurred during this period, as Wonder Weeks are based on gestational age (her due date instead of birthday). So the first ‘4.5 to 5.5’ week ‘developmental leap’ fell in the 6 to 8 week crazy period, a leap which apparently results in lots of crying for no reason, wanting much more physical contact and lots more feeding. I don’t know if Wonder Weeks really exist or not, but if they do, Lottie definitely had one! Apparently there is a major growth spurt at around 6 weeks so I find it very confusing to know whether Lottie’s developmental behaviours are based on her gestational age or actual age, or a mixture of both. Either way, everything really went nuts in the last two weeks.
You might recall that I was having issues with finding I had to often rely on motion to get Lottie to sleep while the sun is up. During her first 6 weeks, sometimes Lottie would self-settle in her cot (which is my ideal when I’m at home), and sometimes she would protest in her cot for so long that I’d give in and give her the motion-like-in-the-womb she needed to fall asleep. I like to think of sleep training as similar to teaching your child to ride a bike; you take the training wheels off, with these training wheels being parent intervention such as rocking, patting, motion of any kind, carrying, co-sleeping etc., and see if the child can wobble their way to riding (putting themselves to sleep) without training wheels. If they don’t make it and fall off their bike (if the protesting goes on and on and on and doesn’t result in sleep), you put the training wheels back on and try again another day. That’s basically what I have been doing with Lottie for day sleeps at home; setting a limit of approximately 20 – 30 minutes of protest crying before we give in to motion. To complicate this situation, Lottie has a peculiar habit of failing to go to sleep after protesting for a while, but not letting me know she’s awake; that is she doesn’t always cry if I leave her in her cot to self-settle. Sometimes she lies awake so when I go into the nursery to check she’s asleep, hoping like crazy that she is in fact asleep, she very often isn’t and looks up at me with wide eyes as if to say ‘can I have a cuddle now please?’. It’s exasperatingly disappointing when this happens.
Even though the regular fall-back on motion seemed like a really big problem when I wrote about it, I’ve learned that bigger problems can always appear and make your other problems look like no problem at all. This is definitely the most frustrating part of motherhood so far. Basically during the last two weeks, shit got real. Lottie no longer just wanted motion to fall asleep; she wanted me. All the time. We went from some day sleeps being manufactured in the pram, the car, the carrier, her car capsule being rocked and a couple of times nursed to sleep in my arms, to long stretches of all of these methods failing and eventually giving in to jigging Lottie to sleep in my arms. Often while attached to my boob. All day. It was like Lottie’s eyes were glued open, flittering around, looking everywhere except at the back of her eyelids as her eyelids literally wouldn’t close, no matter what I would do. I did consider glue.
I had to laugh so I wouldn’t cry last week when I found myself sitting with her on my boob in the nursery with a dark blanket over both of us, like a creepy home-made tent, blocking out the light, humming lullabies and manically jigging her in my arms, trying to fool Lottie into thinking it was night time. Or perhaps making her think she was back in the womb. (This eventually put her to sleep if you’re desperate for soothing strategies. I recommend bringing your iPhone so you’ve got something to distract your mind from going mad with the ridiculousness of the eyelids still being open after an hour of jigging). Because of the long time it took getting Lottie to sleep during these eyelids-won’t-close periods, she was getting overtired every day – sometimes it took me 2, 3, 4 and even 5 hours to get her to sleep; way too long for her to be awake.
As the two weeks wore on, I started to realise that part of the problem was that Lottie was cluster feeding and therefore wouldn’t go to sleep as she kept asking for the boob. It’s funny to look back at this time with a new clarity; there were feeding and sleeping issues going on which were obviously both related. But as I’ve noted previously, I have been so obsessed with sleep, I think I took my eye off the feeding ball, assuming I had all of this sorted, when really the cluster feeding was possibly partly to blame for the crazy-long-awake times, along with the overstimulation that caused overtiredness, making it hard for Lottie to sleep even though she desperately wanted to. Cluster feeding could well be caused by the aforementioned growth spurt.
Things got increasingly desperate when my old guaranteed-to-get-Lottie-to-sleep fall-back methods stopped working; the car, otherwise previously known as the sleep machine, failed miserably, even after a 90 minute drive to the beach without stopping. The carrier stopped working at one stage, including when my husband took Lottie for a walk, which used to work wonders. I even bought a second hand motorised swing on Gumtree, convinced this was a better option than rocking her by hand in the capsule. But even this didn’t work; Lottie just cried and wanted to be picked up. The minute I took her out of the swing, she stopped crying immediately, like a switch being turned off. This is perfect evidence that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with her; she wasn’t sick, hungry, upset by a dirty nappy or gassy. She just wanted a cuddle. For two weeks. So there was lots of sleeping in my arms, making me not just confined to the house, but confined to the nursing chair or sofa; which drove me up the wall. I also recommend not getting stuck in this position without a phone charger nearby or the remote control out of reach. A few times I did manage the arms-to-cot transfer, but even then usually Lottie woke crying out for a cuddle or another feed after not even a 45 minute sleep cycle. It was enough to bring me to tears numerous times!
But the good news is, while I type this, on the day after Lottie’s 8 week birthday (which may just be a massive coincidence and she possibly won’t sleep for the rest of the day and night just to prove that you never can tell what’s around the corner), Lottie is asleep in her cot. She self-settled herself there after a short sleep in the pram this morning. So she can go to sleep without me during the day after all! HOORAY!
I’m hoping, praying, wishing, asking-gods-I-don’t-believe-in-for-mercy that the 6-8 week phase really is a thing and Lottie really is past it. The only recommendation I have to anyone reading this who thinks their baby is also behaving strangely at around the same age is to hang in there and know that it will eventually pass.
Even though I was determined to keep sleep training through this crazy period, it does appear that through these fussy phases, you have to do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep. However, I would recommend doing your best to keep the self-settling training going, and just giving in when it fails and putting the training wheels back on. If I hadn’t persevered, and had assumed Lottie needed my help to sleep during the day forever, I wouldn’t have put her in her cot this morning to see if she would self-settle, and I wouldn’t have discovered that blessedly, she is back in her cot during the day. In the back of my head was also the fear that Lottie would want help getting to sleep at night if I always went straight to training wheels during the day, as she would come to rely on motion rather than riding the bike in the dark of night. But thankfully this didn’t happen. I can’t imagine how hard the last two weeks would have been if I wasn’t getting a good night’s sleep as well. And of course I’m not naïve enough to think the great nights will continue forever. In the meantime, I am grateful for every hour of sleep I get and I guess if Lottie does become a cluster-feeding-night-time-playing-middle-of-the-night monster, I will try to cope the best I can and that’s all I can hope for.