From the moment Renley came home from the hospital, I just knew that me and my comfy, warm bed were on a break.
For the first 6 months I was breastfeeding, so being up every 1.5 – 2hrs night and day became normal. After all, I had made the choice to feed on demand and knew that this would keep my supply going. Looking back, I remember being sat up in bed, wriggling my toes in the attempt to stay awake whilst Renley was feeding, but this all seemed natural to me. For the first 4 months (pre-postpartum depression), I actually enjoyed having this time with my boy, just me and him, it felt special.
During the days I tried to sleep when he slept, just like everyone kept telling me. But every time I finally settled my mind and began drifting off to sleep, another feed was due.
Being sleep-deprived definitely has an effect on your mental health. You become teary, irritable and impatient and unfortunately, this was just one of the factors that led to my postpartum depression.
At 9 months, Renley was solely drinking formula and was now on a full diet of solid food. He went to bed at around 7.30pm every night, woke at 11pm and 1am and 4am and then 7am… without fail, every single night. Nap times became a chore and he would usually end up in bed with me, just so that I could get some sleep. Looking back, we really didn’t have much of a routine and this probably contributed to his sleeping patterns.
At 14 months, Renley FINALLY slept through the entire night! I had even referred for sleep counselling by my Health Visitor, but by the time my appointment arrived, he’d already managed one full nights sleep (typical!). I finally began getting back into a routine and getting some rest. At 16 months, my medication was changed to Mirtazapine, which also acts as a sedative, so I was actually knocked out every night from 9pm to 8am, which meant Daddy having to get up instead. Luckily for him, Renley now slept 12hrs through, waking only when he was teething or the weather was too hot.
I see a lot of parents struggling with sleep deprivation and from the bottom of my heart, I know how hard it is. How it feels like it’s never going to end. How you feel totally alone.
So, here’s my advice!
It might not work for you – I really do feel that in order to get your baby to sleep well, you need to look at your individual situation.
For me, it wasn’t until I had reached breaking point just before Renley turned 14 months, that one night when I put him to bed, I left him to cry. He cried for 15 minutes and I thought he’d never go to sleep. I went and cuddled him, I cried because I felt so bad for letting him cry and then I put him back down. I left him for 20 minutes, before going back up and soothing him again (this time, without picking him up – I just rubbed his back). This went on for a good 2 hours before he finally got himself to sleep.
I stuck at it and 3 days later of using this method at both bed times and nap times, he went down in his cot and didn’t cry. He went to sleep. He slept all night. I wished I had done this sooner.
To note: We had tried various methods suggested by our health visitor and many parenting websites by this point, including the “pick up, put down” method to try to allow him to self soothe, putting a muslin/cuddly toy that smelt of Mummy in the cot, putting Mummy’s clothing on the end of the cot, we co-slept for the first 9 months, cradling him to sleep each night, we had the bedtime routine from day 1… nothing else seemed to work for us!
I‘ve always tried to stick to a bedtime routine. But Renley never had set nap times because we were always doing something different from one day to the next.
Here’s our current daily routine which now works perfectly for us:
* Up at 8am, bottle and TV time, followed by breakfast, getting dressed and play time.
* 10am is nap time. By this time, he’s already getting irritable and rubbing his eyes, so I give him his dummy, tell him it’s time for bed and he toddles off to find his bedroom.
* 12.30-1pm, he wakes. We have lunch and then play time or go out, depending on what we’re up to on the day. He’ll usually have another nap at 2.30pm until 4.30pm.
* 4.30pm is dinner time, followed by play and then bath time/getting ready for bed starts at 5.30pm. By 6pm, he’ll be settled on the sofa drinking his milk and watching CBeebies+
* 6.30pm is bed time. I take him upstairs to brush his teeth and put him straight into his cot, rubbing his back for a few seconds before saying “night night” and walking out. He now goes straight to sleep.
+ Many sources say not to allow TV close to bed time, because it keeps children awake for longer and they struggle to settle. Again, I feel this is down to the individual. We never had the TV on before bed until Renley actually became interested in watching the Twirlywoos on CBeebies at 16 months old. Now I allow him to watch half an hour whilst he’s drinking his milk at 6pm, as he actually sits still and it allows him to wind down! He’s such an active little boy that if I don’t do this, then he just runs about the house getting more and more wound up before bed time.
What I wanted to gage from this blog post, is that you are not alone. I am not telling you how you should/shouldn’t parent, I am simply sharing what worked for us. I 100% believe that different methods work for different families and there is no right/wrong answer when it comes to babies and sleep!
But what I want you to remember, is that this won’t last forever and you’re doing a fantastic job right now.