Shhhh… I have a secret and I think I’d get smacked if I said it with a smug look on my face. It’s not something I take for granted but I definitely take some credit for it. Here it goes…. My daughter sleeps through the night.
Yep. She sleeps through the night and has done for quite a while now. Usually from 6:30pm to 6:30/7:00am. Even worse/better, she naturally did it herself and I didn’t have to go through the exhaustion of sleep training in the night.
Go ahead and mentally punch me in the face, I know I used to think other mother’s deserved it, but hear me out too because sleep was not always a done thing in our house…
Let me take you back to day two of my daughters life on earth… Little 8lb 6oz Mackenzie didn’t sleep at all that night, and neither did I.
Husbands and family were kicked out of the hospital at 8pm and I figured the hospital staff would take care of us. They didn’t.
Mackenzie cried on and off all night and when she started up I’d put her onto my raw nipples, praying there was SOMETHING there for her. There wasn’t.
I was all out of colostrum and my milk wasn’t happening either. This kid was hungry you guys, and I was alone in the dark, still barely able to walk and all round exhausted.
I panicked at 3am and pressed the call button repeatedly until a night nurse came into see me. I sobbed to her “can you please help me? I’m not really coping right now”. She took the baby from the room and I took some deep breaths and pushed away my feelings of dread. Down, down, down I pushed until they were no longer near the surface.
What was I thinking that I could cope with this? And who in their right mind trusted me with a baby?
Thankfully I’d hand expressed some colostrum before giving birth and had the good sense to bring it with me before being induced. The nurses fed it to her from a syringe, got her settled and into her hospital cot. She slept until 7am, only three hours, when she woke again crying in hunger.
I remember wondering for the first time if I’d ever sleep again. Actually, I’ve thought that many times since she arrived.
I wasn’t allowed (DHB rules) to transfer out to a birth centre where your partner can stay with you and there are midwives at beck and call, and the thought of staying at the (short staffed) hospital alone terrified me, so we went home. To be honest, it helped me to chill the f*ck out and I think it helped the baby too. When my milk finally came in on day 5 I almost wept with relief (and pain because holy shit do your boobs and nips hurt!!).
Finally, I could feed her and she’d settle in for cuddles and then have a sleep. It was amazing how she changed once she had a full tummy. She’d feed three hourly in the night and I thanked my lucky stars that she was reasonably easy to settle, and we got into a good groove.
Then her reflux hit and that threw me for six. I’ll blog about that at some point but man… despite motherhood being the best of times it was actually more like the worst of times.
When she hit the four month sleep regression her reflux was mostly under control, she was going down for naps drowsy/awake and I’d done a little sleep training. Despite all that she started waking every 45 to 90 minutes. I reasoned that I could put up with it during the day but it was another story at night.
I went back to feeding her to sleep as it was the only thing that worked, and fast. I was a walking zombie and a freaking mess. Horrified that I was still alive after so little rest and obsessed with how I could get her sleeping longer again. I read every stupid sleep blog and tried so many things, but looking back, nothing was going to work until she got herself through it and got used to rousing and settling back down throughout her sleeps. It actually only took two and a half weeks which is decent compared to some parents experiences but holy WTF I wouldn’t ever wish it on my worst enemy.
She first slept 12 hours solid was when she was nearly 5 months old. She went from sleep regression one week to sleeping for twelve hours. It wasn’t a permanent fixture to our nights, it just happened to coincide with the night before she came down with her first cold. I guess her body was trying hard to fight it off? I woke up with a shock at 3am and almost stampeded down the hall to her room to check she was still alive. She was. I slooooowly crept back to bed and waited for her to wake up.
Unswaddling at 5 months old and attaching her dummy to a sleepy tot was a major game changer. I tell all my mum friends about this magical invention… A soft cuddly toy that baby becomes attached to, associates strongly with sleep and has a dummy velcroed onto its paw so they can find it in the night and settle themselves back to sleep. Such a winning combo, and a big thank you to an experienced mum friend of mine, Tash, for telling me about it!
After that we settled in for a few weeks where she’d do a 4am feed. I was really happy in that phase and in a way, I came to love that early morning feed. There was something about the world being quiet outside, us huddled in her warm room together, feeding and snuggling. I remember one early morning feed when I felt surprisingly refreshed and I noticed the curtain to her room was slightly open. The moonlight was shining in and I could see her soft eyelashes batting away while she fed quietly. She was so beautiful in that light, and all mine, and in the midst of my crazed mum moment she unlatched and looked up at me, smiled, snuggled into my soft (ha!) body, then gave a little sigh before falling asleep. I could’ve died after that moment and my life would’ve been 100% worth it. That was my miracle moment.
Just before she turned six months old she shifted her early morning feed to around 5am and then before I knew it she was sleeping through to 6:30am. I couldn’t tell you what happened, she just naturally did it herself which is the best kind of sleep change… one that I didn’t have to “force” her into, there were no tears, no anxiety, just a natural transition. A mother’s dream.
Now I have to deal with something a lot of other mum’s experience. Guilt, fear and superstition. Feeling guilty when telling other mum’s that you’re getting a full night’s sleep (when you know they aren’t, and you didn’t do anything different or special to deserve it), getting pissed at people (*cough* my mum *cough*) who say “don’t get used to it, she’ll start waking again, soon!”, fearing the time when baby inevitably goes through a leap and starts waking and being superstitious that by saying out loud that your baby sleeps through, it might somehow mean sleep will go down the gurgler.
Well I’m taking the risk that by being honest, perhaps other mum’s of “good” babies will feel a little less guilty. And mum’s of so called “challenging” babies or “aware” babies or “whatever other description we give to babies who don’t sleep through yet” babies will feel better too.
I absolutely do not take for granted that our baby sleeps all night. EVER. I still try to go to bed at 9pm with a twinge of fear that I’ll be up in the night. And I absolutely remember what it feels like to get up and down, up and down, up and bloody down to a wakeful baby. I feeeeel you. I ache for you and your tired bones. I want to give all of you a hug, a coffee, and then another hug and hopefully you’ll be there to hug me when my girl wakes too.
And by the way, if you hadn’t already figured it out, babies aren’t “good” or “bad” or whatever else. They are who they are. They’ll sleep when it’s their time, for however long that they can manage and they’ll do everything else in their own time too. It’s our job as parents to not take it personally, and be there for our babies when they need us.
But I can be a beacon of hope as well! My baby sleeps through the night and yours will too!
And eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ll be lying in bed awake at 6am, wondering if it’ll be ok to wake your baby so you can have cuddles, hear their baby giggles, and see their baby smiles. And then we’ll all have snotty little teenagers who stay up all night, sleep until midday and generally piss us off. And we’ll wonder what’s worse; a baby that doesn’t sleep? or a teen who does nothing BUT sleep? Hmm… for now I’m sure we’d all take the teenager.
What’s your sleeping through the night challenge?