Five things I wish I’d known about… baby sleep

Our current sleep situation isn’t brilliant but it’s doable and a long way from those first couple of very sleepless, exhausting months. Looking back there are a few things I learnt on the way that I think would have been really helpful to know from the start. So, for what they are worth, here are my top five pearls of wisdom about baby sleep.

1. Babies make lots of noise in their sleep…. this doesn’t mean they are necessarily waking up

For the first few months Bub was a really noisy sleeper. Lots of grunts, groans, half-cries and coughs. I had read all about feeding on cue and was keen to give Bub milk as and when he requested it. So for the first week or so I was lifting him out of his crib and sticking a boob in his mouth at the slightest hint of a noise. This meant I got practically no sleep as I was getting him up about once an hour. I think partly this was driven by my inability to sleep (lots of post-labour adrenaline). However I also think I was terrified that he might cry uncontrollably or reveal some other, more serious, cause of waking if I didn’t act ASAP. I wanted to get him fed before things escalated out of my comfort zone. But whatever the reason it was clear I was going to burn out pretty quickly at this rate and fortunately I soon learnt to distinguish between an awake baby and a noisy, but sleeping, baby.

2. Swaddling helps babies sleep longer

I’ve described how for the first week or so I was up every hour at night with Bub. Swaddling probably saved my sanity, quite literally. His moro reflex (which made his arms fly up) was waking him frequently at night. It got to the point where the only way I could get some rest was to sleep with him in our bed and hold his arms when they moved. I did try swaddling with a sheet and failed miserably so wrote it off. Then after about two weeks my sister got me the best gift of my life – a Miracle Blanket. Wow! Like a baby straightjacket there was no way Bub was getting out of this. His sleep times immediately doubled in length. We used the miracle blanket till he was about four months for naps and night time sleep and it was amazing.

3. Lying down to feed is sooo much more comfortable

I can’t believe that I only mastered side lying feeding about a month ago. It’s brilliant! So much more comfortable and restful than feeding sitting up. So much easier to go back to sleep afterwards. The only downside is that I sometimes doze off whilst feeding which hasn’t helped me in my quest to stop breastfeeding Bub to sleep. But to be honest that’s a small price to pay (and one I’ve managed to tackle using an alarm set for twenty minutes into a feed.) I did try side lying feeding when Bub was about three weeks and we struggled so I gave up. And didn’t try it again for several months. I discovered we could do it by accident and there’s been no looking back. There is a useful guide here.

4. Using a variety in methods to help baby to sleep can keep things flexible

At first we didn’t find it too hard to get Bub to sleep. He’d doze off in our arms, laps, buggy, car, sling – you name it. But as he got older it got harder and I tried to create some regularity and routine in our lives to help him know what to expect. This probably did help him get to sleep quicker and easier but it also meant that after a while he could ONLY get to sleep in this way. I used to swaddle him in a darkened room and stand and rock him on my shoulder. All fine, except that often it’d take me over an hour (ouch, my back!) Sometimes I couldn’t get the room particularly dark. And sometimes it would just be nice if someone else could do it. For the last month or so we’ve been using a range of other ways to help him to sleep, including feeding to sleep (double edged sword – another post in itself I think!), using a rocking chair, lying next to him, white noise, car, buggy, etc. Also, in parallel with trying to broaden the range of ways Bub can fall asleep he also falls asleep regularly with his daddy. It’s not easy as feeding to sleep is now his very much preferred method. But at least now I can go out and know that my baby is able to stay, and sleep, in daddy’s care. It also gives me a much needed break on those nights when we just can’t get him to settle no matter what we try.

5. Sleeping isn’t worth, er, losing sleep over!

Something I still struggle to keep in mind at times. I’ve got quite caught up in Bub’s sleep, and trying to improve things, to the point of sometimes making my life a bit of a misery. After reading The Baby Whisperer I spent a couple of weeks driving myself nuts by trying to ‘shhh-pat’ Bub to sleep each night. For over an hour at a time. Arghh! Drove me mad and the shh-ing made me really dizzy. The hours I’ve spent rocking, cuddling, feeding etc were very pleasant compared to that. It can be stressful if you have read something that said your baby should do X, and then they don’t. I’ve learnt to try to ignore all this and only be concerned if it’s upsetting Bub. He seems reasonably happy with his sleep so although it’s not perfect from my point of view I’m trying to keep things in perspective and not get any more stressed than necessary.

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3 Responses to “Five things I wish I’d known about… baby sleep”

  1. Five things I wish I'd known about… baby sleep « Jenmum's … | Says:

    […] from: Five things I wish I'd known about… baby sleep « Jenmum's … […]

  2. Sleeping for babies Says:

    Baby needs a lot of care when she’s awake, and you may feel relieved when she drops off to sleep and looks so contented.

  3. Ten weeks old and feeding to sleep all the time | Don't wake the baby! Says:

    […] Today was day one and it went rather well. Will update on what we did and our progress soon. In the meantime here’s a link to an old post giving five things I wish I’d known first time about baby sleep. […]

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