Do you remember those new born weeks when you spent hours awake in the middle of the night? Feeding, changing nappies, rocking and shushing, and trying to do it all in the dark and almost silence to avoid waking your non-sleeping tiny person even more?
Yeah me neither. I mean, I know they happened. I have flashes of clarity for moments in those first days and weeks but mostly biology’s prime directive to continue procreating has erased them.
The months that followed aren’t much clearer. We progressed from fully nocturnal tiny babies to bigger, squidgy, squishy ones who still woke several times a night for a feed, but they were eager to be soothed and patted back to sleep.
While clearing out a cupboard this week I found an old notebook from when large boy was 6 months old. He had no routine (or so I thought) and was waking for a feed two or three times a night. I was exhausted and had 6 weeks before returning to full time work. Having poured out my woes to a friend and to a health visitor, I was advised to keep a diary of when he slept and fed. I don’t remember the reason, maybe to show me there was routine? Or maybe to review and try to plan a routine? My friend recommended Gina Ford – I never read the book, but did look at the routines at the end. Horrified at the strictness, I grasped the general sequence and closed the book back up.
The notebook I found contained the diaries we kept. This one of the good nights.
I can’t believe I was convinced to be so careful in monitoring everything he did. There’s 6 weeks of these, each with a list of everything he ate and how long his feeds were for every day.
I guess I was desperate and scared of going back to work feeling so tired. I had bought into the myth that all babies sleep through, if not by 3 months then soon afterwards. I was a first time mum and naive, a little isolated in a small village – back then I didn’t have WhatsApp or Facebook groups or messenger to keep connected.
Large boy gradually moved to one nightly feed and then at 11 months, he slept through. I was lucky, I know that now, he slept through and that was it. We never looked back.
Then along came small boy 3 and a half years later. He taught us that large boy was an excellent sleeper. At 5 months we were up every 90 minutes from midnight onwards. When I went back to work when he was 8 months old, he was waking 3 times a night. My first overnight trip away at about 11 months, he guzzled 10 oz milk at 10pm and slept til morning.
He’d been a big baby (9lb 10oz) and was waking with genuine hunger, there was no way I had over half a pint of milk in my boobs in the night. We switched to just breastfeeding at bedtime and then he only woke once. But still he needed that top up until 22 months! Then, on holiday, he started playing in the garden for half an hour after tea – fresh air exhaustion “fixed” him.
They’re all different. I know friends with babies who slept 7 hours at 6 weeks but who now wake nightly at almost 5. Others who have still never settled like ours eventually did. And some who slept through at 6 months and lie in til 9 am now. Some had routines as babies and some didn’t, similarly now they’re older. They’re all completely normal, as are our boys.
No matter what we were lead to believe when they were tiny.
What we all have in common, as parents, is that we’ve all despaired at some point, cried and raged in the middle of the night, been short tempered and distracted in the day from sleep deprivation.
Or in my case, wrote off my car at 5 miles an hour by driving it into a lamppost having missed the exit of a mini roundabout – of which I have no memory.
I’m keeping that notebook to show the boys when they have children – to show them that, when they’re despairing of ever getting sleep again, its completely normal and they all come out of it eventually.