To be fair I bragged yesterday that my baby was sleeping through the night, he had been for ages. Last night my baby woke up ...all. night. I'm tired. Even though I had this post written in my head yesterday I now feel like a fraud writing this. Yet, I will go on. I want to pass on things that helped me in the early days. They may not work for you and I can only pass on information I found invaluable.
This is a secret I want to pass on to all ladies with babies under the age of 6 months... Just when you think you have it sorted your baby will prove you wrong. Routine (loosely used term) is fantastic and I highly recommend it but just when it is all sorted ... it will change.
I have read a lot of baby articles sitting in my chair under a feeding baby and looking for answers to my questions. Even though this was my second baby I was by no means an expert. I feel like the second time round I had more questions. I wanted to get this baby rearing thing right (or at least do it better) as I feel I completely flapped about the first time and did not enjoy the early days. Basically, I did not want to go as crazy this time round. The articles that helped me were read in a sleep deprived haze and I cannot remember sources. If you know of any articles I talk about here, please, feel free to drop me the citation. I follow a lot of Mums pages and read quite a few blogs so my information could have come from anywhere. Apologies. My knowledge is now a collaboration between people that I have never met and will never know how they helped me.
The first 6-8 weeks
So lets start in the beginning of a babies life. Firstly as a Mum you have been through pregnancy (awful), you have been through birthing (beyond awful) and now you have a small baby that needs feeding every 2 hours. Some people get lucky, they get 4 hours. This is the period of time with your baby where you need to let everything go. You need to let other people help you if it is available to you and sleep when you can. Do not fight for routine, the baby will do what it wants regardless of your agenda. You will have bad nights - you will have good nights but just remember, and this is so important, This Shall Pass.
An article that resonated with me at this time gave this advice... fill your baby up. Use boob... use bottle...use a combination but do what you need to do to fill your baby up and the sleep will follow. This required me to sit under a baby for 6 weeks. I do not sit well. I said that I would never be a mattress and a dummy for a baby. I did not want to set up a routine of a clingy baby. The funny thing was that I had no choice. I did all the things I said I would not do and it did not end with a baby clinging to me constantly at 6 months old. Babies need far more sleep than you think. At this early stage I found that baby would want to go back to bed/sleep no more than 10 mins after a feed. Keep your baby up past this, miss the tired signs and you are setting yourself up for one cranky baby. Let your baby eat, sleep and change its nappy. That is all. Put your baby down in a cot if at all possible during this time.
The worst thing about babies is how lovely they are when they sleep. You will never feel as much love as you do for your child as when they are sleeping. Often new Mums will rush to pick up a waking baby, eager to hold the freshness and smell the little creature. My advice is to wait to pick up baby if the sleep has only lasted around 20 mins. Let baby settle themselves back to a longer sleep if its possible and the baby is not screaming. I strongly believe it stops the routine of nanna napping and goes a long way to your baby self settling in the future. I found that if my baby woke up goo'ing and ga'ing then that baby was ready to get up. If my baby wakes up screaming it often meant that he had not gotten enough sleep. Sometimes a quick feed, a burp or a nappy change and straight back to bed was the secret.
I did not want to co-sleep with my baby. Personally I think its dangerous especially at this age. However there were a couple of nights in which the baby just wanted to sleep on me. It was awful. I keep drifting to sleep and waking in a panic thinking that I had hurt my baby. I would sleep sitting up or laying him in the crook of my arm to protect the baby. I would worry that my husband would hurt the baby. However it was something that had to be done at the time. I did what worked for me and the baby.
I think a child in a parents bed does a lot to hurt a marriage and your sleep patterns. Even though I let it happen a handful of times I always put the baby in his own bed as often as possible. The cot was right next to my side of the bed which meant he was in arms reach and I could sleep deeper, the baby could sleep better and it felt safer.
6-8 weeks to 4 months old
At this point I needed to get out of my chair and operation 'Lap Regain' was initiated. I started my routine that worked with my first child. Baby wakes up, baby feeds while not tired, play time/awake time and finally baby lays back in cot drowsy but not asleep. This routine means that baby feeds and gets what it needs while not too tired to suck. It also doesn't allow for feeds as a requirement to a sleeping baby.
It took me three days of consistency to get my lap back and some proper sleeping in the cot. I spent a lot of time picking up the baby to resettle and then laying him back down. I never let him 'cry it out' but I also didn't rush in for grumbles. It was a long three days, exhausting, but the pay off was worth it. Within days of our new routing he began sleeping through the night. Baby slept and I slept - it was heaven.
For my second baby I wanted to breast feed till at least six months had passed. I can happily say that we have achieved this. It was hard. There have been lumps, pain, frustration of being trapped under a baby for weeks and moments of just wishing someone else could do a night feed. This also means that I demand feed and if baby wants to feed through the night then I let him. Routine is great but routine also means that things do not happen at the same time each day. Time has little to do with routine and has everything to do with consistency. Do what ever works for you but always be consistent in what you do. Your baby loves it and your sanity will love it. If you know the baby has had enough sleep, if your baby is not hungry or has a mess in its nappy then you can start to sort out other options in your head without second guessing yourself. Don't forget to burp the baby. Tummy pains are awful and best prevented.
This period of time with baby was great. We were getting good day and night sleeps. Feeding was going well and he was always in the same spot you placed him when you put him down. My baby got so good at sleeping it was incredibly hard to get out of the house. Often I had to throw caution to our routine and just leave. It was fine and no serious routine issues occurred if the break wasn't carried on for more than a few days at a time.
At around 4 months you will hit a wonder week. With my first child I didn't know about wonder weeks and I suggest if you don't know then look them up. The first indication is your baby will be really unsettled, begin waking back up in the night and you feel like all the work you have done so far is lost. If you find this happen at any stage with your baby then check it is not a wonder week and know that This Shall Pass.
After this wonder week period I noticed a lot of developmental changes and you understand that your baby was going through some pretty heavy stuff and needed your support at this time. I also found that unlike my girl baby, my boy baby was interested in food. I didn't feed my girl till after 6 months. With the boy I started feeding him at about 4.5 months. He was eager and he was hungry. I feed him and he went back to be a very happy baby. Again - feed them and they will sleep. Although I would never endorse feeding a baby 'food' prior to 4 months old.
Almost spot on 6 months the baby started to get teeth and you will have small grumpy times with imunisations on top of everything else. Yet another period has begun and the changes continue to happen. I know when it comes to toddler behaviors and beyond I got a lot of success out of Super Nanny techniques. I plan to do this again.
I hope that the few things I have outlined in this long rant help someone out in their motherhood journey. It's a tough road but I am pleased on how I am feeling after the first six months. I know this time with baby number one I was not handling it as well. I also marvel at how long the last 6 months of pregnancy were compared to the first six months of a babies life.
At the end of the day we are all doing our very best. I try not to read extremist parenting articles as they do no good for a mother prone to second guessing what they are doing. I wish you all the happy mothering vibes and remember that your worst day is just that ... one day of hardship... and everyday ... completely worth it.