Sleep. Obsession. Google. The need for answers. For hope. For something that would work. That was pretty much how it was for me with my first. I had heard things got easier at six weeks. I had heard it wrong.
When he was a couple of months old the night feeds became regular with a 7pm, 1am, 3am and 5am pattern. Surely the hardest bit was done now? Without realising I started singing “Things can only get better” in the shower. Then the half hourly wake ups kicked in at 6 months. No evening time anymore either. I know there are far worse things in the world but it hit hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. No time out is hard.
The methods detailed on the internet (and in the books I had panicked bought) all promised success….if you could just see things through. The friends with babies that ‘slept through’ proved it could and should be done. The idea that I had failed as I had fed him to sleep so he would never ever be able to do it alone* was at the front of mind.
*Well at least not until he was 40 anyway.
So I dabbled with sleep training, sort of….basically the crying would start on the monitor, my husband and I incorporated a shared eye roll and sigh into our briefest of pauses, and one of us would run upstairs. I often think it lucky that me and my husband always seem to have opposite highs and lows. It was certainly lucky for numero uno as one of us was always prepared to run up and soothe him.
If anything, our baby’s upset escalated. He self settled even more rarely. But we didn’t leave him for any real length of time so who knows. The methods – controlled crying, crying it out, pick up, put down, keep moving* (*I’ve made that bit up) – overwhelmed me. It never felt like what we wanted to do. I never had that conviction that I would be doing the right thing for him or for me. Nothing seemed to fit as a method that was right for him.
The epiphany came at around six and a half or seven months.
He just wants to hold my arm.
He didn’t even want milk. He just wanted to hold my arm. I could let him hold my arm. I could let him sleep all night holding my arm with the covers kept well clear of him (I think I used to wear an extra layer instead of using a duvet). I could sleep. With just me and him on the spare double bed I could be as safe a co-sleeper as possible. I didn’t drink, smoke or have any sort of fun (😂). I reasoned that there were a lot of things I was doing unsafely as I was so tired; I figured I was probably safer and my baby was probably safer if I got some sleep.
So that was it, the co-sleeping (that I was so terrified of) started. Number two arrived and the theme continued. The eldest co-sleeping with his Dad and still often holding an arm while the youngest slept with me. Who knows what would have happened if number 2 had been number 1. If the tone hadn’t been set by those half hourly wake ups which number 2 never bothered with!
I don’t dream about sleep how it used to be anymore; I know that it will return one day. I do dream about a bed big enough for us all to slumber in, as well as having space for our’s and our children’s bedrooms. But that’s quite a dream at the moment. Myself and my husband tend to get most evenings and the early part of the night together and then we get the most sleep we can.
I never imagined I’d be happy with this….what can I say; sleep training really works. I’m just not the trainer.
So that is how we found something that generally works for us and I’ve since decided sleeping (and indeed all parenting) is about finding something that works for you and your family. Its not something that you can fail at; it is a journey and everyone’s journey will be different (oh how pukey, but it needed saying).
The safety of bed sharing and the warnings drilled in by health visitors still ring around my ears. I would never advise or advocate it because of this but I would recommend reading around it. There is some great information out there on safe bed-sharing. For me it was a case of being so tired I was sometimes co-sleeping without a plan; I felt safer when I planned it properly.
Given the chance I’d tell my former self not to worry if that right way was taking a while to find; that I would get there. And also not to feel embarrassed or like I had failed as it involved a change of plan, a compromise and ultimately co-sleeping (which are feelings I still sometimes have to shake off).
On the other side of the coin, if it’s a sleep training style that works for you (and I have good friends and a sister whose children took to this style remarkably quickly) then sleep easy too! If you’re happy, content and confident then I believe your children will be too, whichever route you take.
Sleep well everyone!