“Is she sleeping through yet?” That oft uttered question. So innocent, friendly and interested but at the same time it gives mums such expectation and pressure. My friend’s baby slept through at a few weeks old. When I joined my new mums group when Penny was two months old she had slept through for the first time the night before. Proudly I announced it to my fellow mums. Presuming this would now be the norm. Now, at nearly six months, she has only slept through twice more. At three months we got into a routine. ‘In the Night Garden’ then bedtime at 7pm with a bottle. She would fall asleep fairly quickly and, barring the odd dummy replacement, would wake once for a bottle sometime between 2 and 4am then wake up smiley and happy shortly after 7am.
I got into the swing of this and didn’t mind this routine as I’m an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ type of person. But at four months it all went wrong. Penny suddenly had a night-time appetite bigger than a baby owl (have you seen those wildlife programmes where the bigger owlet eats the little one?). Two or three overnight bottles became the norm and I started struggling with sleep deprivation. This turned out to be her four month growth spurt. But then she had a cold which made her snuffly and unhappy at night. Now she’s going through a bad teething phase, but still not a tooth in sight. And so I now consider it a luxury to get more than an hour or so of sleep at a time with all the feeds, cuddles and dummy replacements. To top it off, the approaching spring means she thinks it is morning earlier and earlier. I make it through the days thanks to caffeine, daylight and keeping busy, but at nights it is hard. Sometimes I find it difficult to keep my eyes open and worry about falling asleep and dropping her, at other times the tears start flowing. Something has to change.
I am really, really not a fan of the crying it out method. I know people who have used it and their children seems perfectly normal and untraumatised but I know it’s just not the way for me. I never want to leave Penny upset when I know that I can stop her being upset with a mother’s cuddle. So this week I reached from my bookshelf ‘The no-cry sleep solution’ by Elizabeth Pantly.
The first thing I learnt was to change my expectations. Peoples’ definition of ‘sleeping through’ can be very different. For me it means sleeping from when I put her to bed at 7pm to when we get up in the morning at 7am. But for others, particularly those who regularly go to bed a lot later than me, it means midnight to about 5am. The fact is, apparently, that babies that sleep for ten to twelve hours straight are the exception; “Most babies awaken two to three times a night up to six months, and once or twice a night up to one year”, Pantly writes. The medical definition of sleeping through the night she states is sleeping for five hours straight. So that’s something I just have to accept. But the hourly disturbances are something that can be addressed.
Pantly advocates routine, both at night and in daytime naps, combined with using sleep cues and associations to help baby settle his/herself. But first I need to create a log of what is happening at the moment. When she wakes, when she falls asleep and how she falls back to sleep, both overnight and at daytime naps. We are moving Penny into her own room this weekend so it seems a good time to try this out. Pantly claims that “by day sixty, 92 percent [of her test group] were sleeping through the night” (according to the medical definition). Following a strict routine and changing habits is going to be tough at times, especially with naps as baby classes always seem to fall at the wrong time and Penny doesn’t always seem tired at the same time each day. But getting solid five hour chunks of sleep each night certainly makes it worth a try. Watch out for follow up posts to see if I have success.