It’s a new year and time to get back into guest blogging! In 2012 we learned about cloth diapering & fun ways to celebrate your anniversary. Today I’m over at Elske Newman’s blog, ‘Being Mummy,’ sharing our 15 month journey on sleep (or lack thereof) with Avery. In return, Elske is sharing her sleep struggles with us….
Hi, my name is Elske, software developer by day and freelance writer by night, but in reality I spend most of my time being mummy to Elisabeth, 22 months. Just like my good blogging friend Meghan, we have had our share of sleeping problems. In short we spent the first 18 months of her life seriously sleep deprived, but after more sleepless nights than we care to remember, Elisabeth seems to have gotten the hang of it now. This is how we got to where we are now:
Elisabeth has never been a good sleeper, within weeks of her being born I realized that all the book and websites that told me that babies sleep most of the time were lying! She didn’t sleep at night and she didn’t nap. I’m not even sure which is more exhausting, being up all night or not having a minute to have a quiet cup of tea on the sofa during the day. Well, obviously being up all night is worse, but not having a break during the day can be harder than you think!
There was a period, when she was 3 months old that wasn’t too bad because she only woke once or twice every night to feed and would go back to sleep quite easily. I even enjoyed the nighttime feeds because everything was quiet, Elisabeth was happily drinking and I could just sit there and enjoy the cuddle knowing that I would be back in bed in half an hour. They were precious times which I will remember forever. But it didn’t last.
The problems started when she was about 5 months old and no longer fell asleep whilst nursing. I had obviously read all the advice about putting babies to bed awake but my sleep deprived bra thought that surely it was wrong to wake a sleeping baby just to put them in bed and trying to get them to sleep again. Yes, tiredness does really mess with your brain.
As with any baby related problem, lots of people gave me advice. I very much appreciated all the advice we were given by friends: start solid food, give her a bottle instead of nursing, get her really tired during the day, these were all things that would guarantee a good night sleep, only they didn’t. She didn’t sleep. Against all advice, because it was the only thing that worked, I let her fall asleep on my shoulder, wait 10 minutes and carefully put her in bed. This worked for a few months, it was exhausting, but it worked. For a while.
I was lucky enough to have 10 months maternity leave (although on a hugely reduced salary), so at least I didn’t have to go to work after only 2 or 3 hours sleep. I think if I did have to go back to work earlier, things would probably have been even harder.
After 8 and a half months I stopped nursing Elisabeth and she moved to formula. We were very hopeful that this would help with her sleeping. It didn’t. A month or so before I had to go back to work we knew we had to do something. Plenty of people, including health visitors, recommended that we would train Elisabeth to fall asleep on her own, but this included us walking out on her whilst she was crying. This was something that neither me or my husband agreed with, not because we didn’t think it would work, but it just didn’t feel right to abandon our little one when she needed us. So we had a look on the internet and found a method where you put your baby to bed awake, put a chair next to their cot and sit there until they fall asleep.
Sounds easy enough? It’s not. It wasn’t too bad when we put Elisabeth to bed as she was sleepy from her bottle, but when she woke during the night I had to sit next to her cot whilst she cried/screamed for over an hour without picking her up, only soothing her with my voice and patting her hand. That was really hard. I picked her up a couple of times as she was getting so worked up I thought she would vomit, but I stuck with it and after two and a half hours she was asleep. It was horrible, but I felt better for being in the room with her so I could make sure she was ok. After a few weeks she started sleeping through. She was also napping more consistently, only not as long as she really needed, but better than nothing.
We had a few weeks of lovely sleep and then the problems started all over again. Because she was going to nursery she was getting one cold after another, and also an ear infection which meant she would only sleep on my shoulder again. We camped out in the living room for about a week with me taking the first half of the night shift and him taking the second half. We really struggled to decide when she was well enough to start her sleep training all over again and this meant that we left it for probably longer than we should have.
It is hard to explain the feeling of desperation that comes with sleep deprivation, and the lengths you go to to get them to sleep. We have taken her for walks in the middle of the night, we’ve stayed up and let her play until she was so tired she would collapse, I have driven her around for hours on end at 3 in the morning just to get her to sleep. To say it was hard would be the understatement of the century. There were short periods where we would get some sleep, but they never lasted long. We were constantly told that we should use control crying because it worked for everyone else and it doesn’t do the child any harm. However, I am still not convinced about that. I know people do what they need to, but no matter how tired I got, I still didn’t want to let her cry it out, it just seemed wrong.
Our real low point was when Elisabeth was 17 months old and we went on holiday with my mum, sister, my sister’s boyfriend and their little boy Valentijn. The first night Elisabeth slept through, but the rest of the holiday we were up most nights for hours and hours trying to get her to sleep. The more tired she got, the harder she found it to go to sleep. This holiday resulted in us cancelling plans to go see my dad and attend other family occasions as we just couldn’t cope with it anymore.
But then, three months later, just as we got to our breaking point, Elisabeth stepped up to the plate and she slept! And slept! And slept! And slept! To this day we don’t know what made her sleep, but I am convinced that the way we supported her through her sleeping problems is the main reason that she now sleeps so well during the night and also naps for up to two hours every day. I think it also helped that we bought her a duvet, before that she was sleeping under a baby blanket which wasn’t very cosy, she seems to really enjoy snuggling up under her duvet.
Sleep deprivation is really hard to deal with, and the best advice I can give any parent is to do what feels right for you. Listen to your gut! You are the parent, you know best!
Now all there is left to say is a big thank you to Meghan for letting me tell you lovely readers our sleep story. I hope it will bring a little bit of hope to the desperate mummies and daddies out there who are worried that they will never sleep again, don’t despair, you will sleep again. I wish you all days full of fun and nights of blissful sleep.
Thank you and good night!