Sleep – 0-21months
Only about 15 minutes after being born she was snuggled into my arm and asleep. I did not want to put her down, the sheer joy and amazement of staring at this tiny creature you have created and been waiting to see for 40 weeks meant I spent most of the first night just watching her and contemplating how life was about to be turned upside down. I hadn’t had a full night sleep since the third trimester and that still stands 21 months after birth. I am not sure I even know how to sleep solidly anymore.
She woke up twice that first night to feed and this was the pattern until her 1st vaccination (napping three times a day which in the beginning I often joined her on) Due to my own pain, I was unable to get up easily to put her into her swing crib so she ended up sleeping with me a lot of the time – it soon transpired she did not like her swing crib (probably because she spent most of the time on me from the start) our hopes of her sleeping in her own bed seemed to be slipping away; there are obviously many risks associated with co-sleeping but our HV was very supportive but advised that dads do not tend to have the same intuition as mums so my husband started sleeping on the floor so that the baby and I had more space, and she also was never under the duvet, only perforated blankets. Many cultures actually recommend co-sleeping as a way of keeping the child safe (but not in the UK).
So that I knew where she was we often slept belly to belly or with her on my chest (being belly down also seemed to help any colic or reflux pain that she would otherwise cry about) when she got bigger this progressed to her laying with her head on my arm.
Over the first year we tried on various occasions to get her into her own bed and made good progress until we got ill and reverted back to co-sleeping and again, when we had the cot side down and up against the bed: this way I could roll her into her bed and cuddle her easily if she woke, this method fell apart when she started rolling as she would roll out onto my head at night. I had to put the side up and this visual barrier made her feel trapped (I assume) and we reverted back again.
Her sleeping pattern was good when she was born however as I said earlier, that all changed with her 1st vaccination. Each time she was vaccinated she woke an additional time at night, meaning that after her 3rd injection she woke 5 times per night. It was exhausting and continued after she had dropped a day nap. With teething and a gassy tummy she would wake anywhere between 3-8 times per night.
At Christmas 2015, my husband spent 2 nights with her trying to break that cycle of comfort feeding; night 1 was ok (but no-one slept) she woke a few times and eventually went back to sleep after being rocked (she would not accept a bottle of any kind) but was not too happy to find herself in her cot. Day 2 did not go well and she cried instantly as she knew what to expect – she spent the whole night screaming and refusing to sleep unless he cradled her. She still cries if she wakes up and the first face she sees is daddy’s (assume she thinks it means mummy has gone). Despite how it sounds, I do consider those days with my husband a success in that it empowered me to refuse to feed her until after 6 hours had past (I considered this a reasonable time where she might generally get hungry or thirsty). We managed to get her waking up at night back down to 2-3 times. When we got sick again it started to creep up to 3 times and after her 13 months vaccination it was back to 4-6 times but she did not get fed all these times.
The 1st chunk of sleep was always the best – waking at 1:30-2:30 regardless of when she went to sleep but after that she would wake every 1-2 hours until morning.
At nearly 14 months she started to fall asleep in her bed but with me there, it took between 30-45 min for her to fall asleep after reading a story. I had dropped the cot side so there was a slight edge to stop her rolling out but so that she did not feel caged in. She would wake between 2:30-4am and if earlier I tried to cuddle and put her back into her bed, she would then wake every 20-40min until fed, then she would normally stay with me for convenience or because I would fall asleep.
At 16 months she started crying when being taken into the bedroom as she knew she had to go to sleep and she would try to avoid me and cling to daddy to stay awake eventually shouting ‘help me’ or ‘mummy coming’ at the same time.
By 17 months she had gone to sleep in her own bed, without me present in the room (on 4 occasions) sometimes she still wants to hold hands especially after she got poorly again (she now persistently wants to hold hands)
At 18 months we stopped breastfeeding and this set her sleeping back a bit (she had been sleeping in her own bed for 2 months but suddenly started climbing out to lay on me for comfort. A few weeks after stopping breastfeeding she had her 1st full night sleep (I did not – I still woke every few hours to make sure she was still alive) up to and including now (21 months) she will go to sleep in her own bed and has slept through the night a few more times but more often than not, she gets out about 4 am and lays cuddling me until daddy’s alarm goes off – at which point she gives me a kiss, says ‘lub you’ or ‘thank you mummy’ (for letting her get out of bed I think) and off she goes.
The nicest thing is that she knows the routine; 2 stories of her choice and then she climbs into her bed on her own to go to sleep. I also like that it was her decision to get into her bed to go to sleep back when we started at 14 months, I don’t have to lift her in, she wants to get in to cuddle her toys (she always used to take her 4 kitties to bed, then this progressed to who ever was her favourite on that day, now the bed is just full of them).
Whilst co-sleeping has worked for us, I struggled to fall asleep without her as I had gotten used to being with her and when she was in her own bed, I spent much of the night checking she was ok and breathing, whereas when she was in my arms I could feel it. I always recommend people should get their baby into his or her own bed from day one and if they fall asleep when you’re holding them put them down asap as otherwise you end up putting a lot more strain on your self.