Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Sleeping Through the Night

When Little One was very young, we asked many people for ideas on how to get Little One to sleep through the night. I totally didn't anticipate how tired we would feel having to get up numerous times each night. As I was so exhausted in the first few weeks after Little One was born, details of that time are now a bit of a blur to me, and my husband recalls the time quite well so I have asked him to write a post for me....

Sleeping through the night...from Daddy’s perspective.

Ahh, that first night when your little one makes it through the night without waking up. You wake up with a start and realise it’s 6am. You panic. Are they OK? Are they still where you left them? Are they still breathing? Something must have gone wrong for them not to have woken during the night.
This is probably what runs through every parent’s mind that first time, unless of course you are still waking up at 2 hour intervals to check they’re OK. Either way, it feels like you’ve made it, The Holy Grail, that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Finally you can catch up on what feels like years of broken sleep and stupid o’clock feeds, you can dream again, 3am will return to its rightful place as a time which should never be seen sober.

Now, if you’re reading this at 3:37am having just completed yet another night time routine, you might have already thrown your phone at the wall, if you haven’t already fallen asleep with it in your hand and then re-awoken to find you’ve dribbled on your ipad again. Please don’t despair, as with everything, your little one will get there and you will look back at this time with rose tinted glasses, thinking it wasn’t so bad and it wasn’t for that long.

This is the point where every self-help book will tell you that they have the answer and the perfect method of getting any baby to sleep soundly through the night in a matter of weeks
………….They don’t, and neither do I. I just have our story.

Whatever stage you are at in parenthood, you have probably already worked out that text book babies don’t exist and there is never a ‘one size fits all’ solution to any given problem. I don’t want to dish out ‘advice’, as what may have worked for our Little One may not work for 98% of other babies on the planet. I feel it’s much more helpful for me to tell our story and people can take whatever bits they find useful or interesting.

So here it goes:
From week 1 to about week 4 of Little One’s life we pretty much rolled with the punches as far as routine went and didn’t try to impose anything too rigid on him. By week 4 and after reading lots and lots of ‘advice’ we had settled into a fairly consistent routine of feeds every couple of hours, followed by a nap, then a play, then another feed.
We had been following an adaptation of the “EASY” routine (from Baby Whisperer: Sleep by Tracy Hogg). The EASY stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep & You and the idea is that it fits into whatever time scales you work to and ensure you plan in some time for yourself, whether it be sleep, food or just a sit down!
Our only issue with this plan was that after every feed, Little One was usually a bit sick and suffered from trapped wind so playing wasn’t really his cup of tea straight after a feed. So we were following more of a “Eat, Sleep, You, Activity” routine.

Our “holy grail” moment came at 5/6 weeks when we were on holiday.
We had been feeding at 3 hour intervals through 24 hours so over night looked like this:
9pm – Smaller feed followed by a nap
11pm – usually woke up, had a bit of a play and a change etc
Midnight – Bigger Feed followed by a nap. This feed usually got him through to 3am for his next feed before he woke up or was woken up.
3am – Smaller feed, he would usually go down for another sleep after this and wake around 5.30am-6am and then the daily cycle would start again.
Now, in hindsight, the bit we thought worked best for us was that we woke him at his feed times regardless of whether he woke himself or not. This completely goes against the “never wake a sleeping baby” theory, but I refer you to my earlier point about ‘one size fits all’. This seemed to work for our baby, but may not for others. He didn’t stress out too much when he woke as before he knew it, he had food in his belly. It also gave us some form of predictable routine as well.

 As the days went on we decided that the best way for us to get a decent stretch of kip was to try and extend the midnight to 3am section of his sleep. So the first step was to add an extra hour to his wake up time, we tried this for a couple of days, setting our own 4am alarm to (just in case he didn’t wake). This worked with varied success and then we proceeded to bring his midnight feed in to 11pm, the aim being to give us a 5 hour stretch of sleep.
During the first couple of weeks of this new routine he was waking up by himself prior to his feeds, so we stopped setting alarms to wake ourselves up, knowing that he was perfectly capable of fulfilling this role himself.

It was probably a combination of a lot of travelling, some fresh sea air and a relaxed mummy and daddy, but it was on the second night of our trip to Norfolk, when LO was about 6 ½ weeks old that we had the moment. It was 6am and enough daylight was coming through the blinds that we seemed to wake up at the same time. We acknowledged one another and then did a double take, kind of like in Home Alone when the parents are on the plane and realised they left Kevin behind.
We couldn’t believe that Little One, who was still sleeping soundly in his Moses basket, had slept from 11pm til 6am without waking once! We felt so refreshed after having had 7 hours of unbroken sleep. It’s what we really needed and we felt so proud of him.

It’s worth noting at this point that, by many accounts, we have been extremely lucky with Little One as far as sleeping goes and this version of events, although accurate, is probably a bit rose tinted with time and was much harder at the time than it sounds in retrospect.

So, the next night, wanting to capitalise on the success of the previous 24 hours, his 11pm feed was increased to as much as we felt was physically possible without him bursting and the night-time routine continued as follows:
9pm – Small feed – followed by a short nap, little play and a change.
11pm – Very Big feed
6am – Big feed and back into the 3 hour feeding cycle through the day.

As time went on and we got home and back into our normal routine, his day time feeds started to spread out a little and we kept trying to push his 11pm feed earlier and earlier. This step proved more difficult and probably took another month or so before we shaved an hour off to feed him at 10pm.
His 9pm and 10pm feed then combined to make 1 big feed at 9pm which got him through to 6am the next morning.

At this point we started to understand that the less Little One slept during the day the better he slept at night so we went through a couple of months where he would hardly sleep during the day at all and then crash at 8pm for a big sleep. Again the “one size does not fit all” caveat must apply here because general opinion is that babies will generally sleep for considerable amounts during both the day and night.

As you might expect, this didn’t last long and at around 6 months, the more active he became, Little One soon needed to sleep a more during the day to recover from his lengthy sessions of rolling and blowing raspberries, so, fairly flexible morning and afternoon naps were established. Again, these continued (and still continue) to have varying success but he is getting much better at giving us the warning signs in advance of nap time.

The night time routine started to include bath time at around 6 months and has been fairly settled ever since. It currently looks like this:

7.30am – Wakes up, usually by himself, but sometimes with assistance
8am – breakfast
10am – Milk feed followed by a nap of varying length
12noon – Lunch
1.30pm – Afternoon nap, (sometimes omitted if morning nap has been over indulgent!)
3pm – Snack time
5.30pm – Dinner
7pm – Bath time, followed by evening milk, story and bed by around 7.45pm

As I mentioned before, this is just how it worked for us and we have been quite lucky that Little One really likes his sleep. Judging when and how long to let him nap during the day is the current challenge, but we figure that he will sleep for as long as he needs to.

Hopefully, with minor tweaks, he will stick with this routine for a while.

If you have any top tips or different experiences, please feel free to share in the comments section below.

On our holiday to Norfolk when he first slept through. Hallelujah. 


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