A long post about sleep

The first question, predictably, that most parents are asked seems to be “how’s she sleeping?” I’m not sure when it’s reasonable to expect her to sleep through the night but E seems to have settled into a night time pattern of only waking once (anytime between 2.30 and 3.30) and then early in the morning. We have had a bedtime routine for a few weeks now which starts around 6.30. As long as she’s had enough to eat she’s happy to settle herself – but the feeding can take 1 1/2 hours.

To be honest, I’m not bothered by the night time sleep pattern but I have realised we have absolutely no daytime routine. When she was first born we brought the moses basket downstairs each day and she slept in it happily after feeds. So far so good. Then I started to go out during the day and the basket stayed upstairs. She slept – in the car, sometimes in her pram, or on my lap and I started to wonder about a routine and asked advice. “Oh it’s too early for that, ” said some. “Your baby will settle into her own routine,” said others.

I did start to note down her sleep and feed patterns for a week (then we were away for a weekend and I forgot…) There was a pattern establishing.

The last few days have been different and today especially, quite hard. So when she fell asleep on my shoulder yesterday my sister asked if I was going to put her down in her moses basket. “Yes I was going to ask you about daytime routines,” I said. “What should I do?”

“You should really have a routine for naps going by…” she stopped and made a face. It was clear she wanted to say something that I might find offensive or interfering so I prompted her anyway. “By 8 weeks,” she finished. “How old is she?”

10 weeks. No routine. With the days rushing by I’d lost track of time and I realised that those who said it was too early to establish a routine said so several weeks ago now.

Is it that important? I think so. She gets grizzly which leads to hard crying when she’s tired and it’s difficult to soothe her. And I’ve
never been good at not doing anything so the last couple of weeks I’ve started to get frustrated at not doing much (this coincides with starting to go out to my usual reading/ writing/ website meetings again). The thing with being someone who likes creative writing and who is currently breastfeeding is that you find yourself coming up with all sorts of ideas while she feeds but with no way of recording them. A childless friend asked me what I did all day and I had to reply “I don’t really know.” But the days go by so fast and before I know it, I’m cramming everything I want to do into a couple of hours each evening after she’s fed (including knitting, writing, blogging, expressing milk, spending time with S, baking, painting my nails, catching up with emails etc etc) I know, perhaps I should do less. But I’d like to engage my brain a little during the day too and spread stuff out a little.

I look for advice. My sister suggests that to start with, once E is asleep during the day, putting her in her basket so that she associates it with waking and soon she will associate it with sleep too. I have done this a couple of times – half an hour is the most she’s managed. This morning, 10 minutes. Other advice involves all kinds of sleep aids – dummies (which she doesn’t like) rocking her in the basket, music and so on. Some people say the room should be dark, others say you should try and get her used to daytime being light and night time being dark so not to lower the blind. The phrase “controlled crying” comes up a lot – leaving her for anything up to 10-15 minutes (a new study has found that this increases baby’s stress levels, even after they’ve calmed.)

I talk to S and say that we ought to get her used to settling herself like she does at night. He doesn’t agree and says she doesn’t look tired so we should let her dictate what she wants. I feed and change her and put her down, coming out of the shower to find her bawling in the basket, and him standing over her as if staring hard might help settle her. We have an argument. This is dreadful. (Neither of us are good at arguing – we don’t do it often and I hate it and feel upset.) But I think she needs to learn to sleep during the day, she needs to be in her cot and we need the freedom to have some time off from her. I understand it might take time to establish. So I need to find what works for her.

I consult more advice. Much of it focuses on night time sleeping and bedtime routines. Daytime naps are rarely mentioned and, when they are, it’s in a general nap-when-your-baby-does passing reference. “You know what’s best for your baby,” say many websites, without offering any hints on how to achieve what I deem to be best for her. Eventually, I find the best hints come in the old issues of the parenting mag my mum sends me.

Breastfeeding has suddenly taken longer and longer, with her coming back for more maybe half an hour after she’s fed. So that routine has changed. I can see the two – feeding and sleeping – are linked. And they talk about gradual retreat. We have the beginnings of a plan and start tomorrow.

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