It popped up on my timeline again this week-another miracle article promising to solve the non sleeping baby conundrum. New parents are obsessed with their baby sleeping through the night. Indeed, many opening queries into the life of a wee sprog begin with two questions:
“Is she good?”
“Is he sleeping through the night?”
Putting aside the absurdity of that first question(that’s another blog post for another day!) and concentrating on the second one, this is what I’ve learned from being mammy to two smallies. Whether or not a baby sleeps depends entirely on…are you ready with notebook and pen in hand?…..
the baby herself!!
Mini slept through the night from only 8 weeks old. Myself and the Frenchman would listen to friends divulge how tired they were, how they were at their wit’s end because their own little one was waking three, four, five times in the night. We would express sympathy while exchanging sneaky self-congratulatory glances at each other. God, we were bloody brilliant we thought. We had this sleeping lark cracked. We had read up on sleeping patterns for newborns and had Mini on a strict routine-bed at 7, dream feed at 11pm. She slept through until 7 am the next morning, not a peep out of her, except when a tooth was brewing.
So when her sister was born, I fully expected to strike gold a second time. Mini Mini had other plans however. From the start, she established herself as a snacker. Her days would consist of little naps, little sups and some little stretches. Nothing too taxing mind you. I spent hours in bed, establishing breastfeeding. I had only managed 8 weeks with Mini and she had never really latched on properly so I was delighted to get a more successful run with her sister.
So for weeks and months, it was cuddles, feeding, sleeping and snacking. I loved it. Mini Mini loved it. And when she woke in the night, I’d lift her up from her Moses basket( which she hated) and plonk her down next to me in our bed which she loved.One of the midwives at the hospital had shown me an ingenious way to breastfeed while lying down next to baby and that’s what I did and I’d fall asleep with her in the crook of my arm, happily slurping away, making those lovely contented baby feeding noises. It was against everything I’d read in the baby books-where it was stressed I was not under any circumstances to allow baby into bed with me otherwise she would not leave again until she was at least 21 years old. But she slept and I slept and when it came time to transfer her to her own room, she accepted this without too much fuss. But she is far from sleeping through the night. Occasionally she’ll grant us a precious wish of a full night’s sleep and then it’s back to business as usual.
Sometimes she’ll wake looking for a bottle, sometimes for reassurance and to be fair isn’t that what all of us would be looking for in the dead of night?
My girls are two very different individuals with very different needs. Whereas Mini is more than happy as long as there is another human being around who is mildly interested in her, Mini Mini was and continues to be what my mother terms a peatacáin-a pet who just loves to be in the arms. At all times. I have become adept at washing and preparing bottles, chopping vegetables, emptying and reloading the dishwasher and cleaning the counter top all with just one hand free.It’s just the way she is. She’s a bit..high maintenance. When I was pregnant with her, I met a friend for lunch and we ended up being seated next to a friend of hers who was out eating with her little fellah-a gorgeous dumpling of a child who sat in his high chair, delighted with himself, taking breaks from beaming at the waitress to offer silent chuckles of mirth, which would cause his delicious chin rolls to wobble uncontrollably. I was in love with him, this big, fat Buddha baby who seemed completely chilled out and calm.
See I love calm people. They are everything I am not. I am anxious and highly strung and prone to flashes of an ugly temper when things don’t go my way. Calm people just soak up all the negativity of a bad situation and let it pass through them. This quality amazes me and it’s not something that can be learned, try as I might to master this alien skill.
So it is with my youngest daughter. She is not content to just sit there and watch the world go by. She has a temper and she’s not afraid to use it. She also has a list of demands that seem to be never-ending. Her requests are to be held, cuddled, kissed and generally made a fuss over-which I of course always acquiesce to, even if that request for human contact occurs in the middle of the night. Because at the end of the day, she is still very small and is still making sense of this crazy world she has been thrust into. You’ll know pretty soon what kind of baby you have. Whether it’s one who’s straining for independence from the get go or one who wants to spend every waking minute in your arms. You’ll know what works for you as a family. Don’t get me wrong bedtime routines are great-bath, wind down time, cuddles and stories, these all help to get your little one in a sleepy state of mind.
Not even the most conscientious of routines can ensure your little one will sleep through the night. That will only happen when he or she wills it so. Some babies twig the sleeping at night thing from very early on and others, well it takes others that little bit longer to figure out. It’s a big adjustment to go without proper sleep. I know!But you know what, you get through it. And it’s not forever even though at times it may feel like it. Articles advocating the “cry it out” method just spell further hardship for all family members involved. Since I’ve accepted that sleepless nights are just part and parcel of living with tiny humans, my outlook and general mood have improved no end. I’m still wrecked tired, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a kind of fake it til you make it attitude that is getting me through the day, not silly articles promising a one cap fits all solution. Where would be the fun in that? 🙂