Our Sleep Story
Ugh infant sleep. Some parents are blessed with unicorns who sleep through from coming home from hospital. Other parents are blessed with party-goers. Some parents are blessed with bed sharers, independent sleepers, boob monster sleepers – the list goes on. Henry has dappled in many of these ‘types’ in his short life from a newborn through to being an almost 2-year-old. This blog recounts every step of our journey, from the moment of ‘wow we are flipping terrific parents and how much does our routine RULE!’ through to me googling if one can die from lack of sleep.
When we brought Henry home, he actually was a pretty good little sleeper! He went down for the night around 9pm after hours of cluster feeding, and only woke once per night between 0-6 weeks. Don’t hate me but I actually didn’t feel sleep deprived during this time. He would feed and go straight back to sleep either beside me or in his bassinet. When he was fresh born, he needed to be beside me, but as the weeks went on, he grew to like his bassinet and would do the entire night in it with that 2am feed in the middle.
At 6 weeks he went through a bit more of a wakeful phase, waking at 1am and 4am instead of the 2am time. I was a bit shocked and that’s when I started feeling a bit more tired. By Christmas though, he was 10 weeks old, and was sleeping through 830-630. Insert cockiness here.
This, of course, didn’t last long, however I have to say, between 3-5 months, he would be generally waking up 2-3 times to feed. Mostly only 2 across a 7-7 night (once around midnight and then again at that 3/4am time). The nights where he would wake at midnight and then 2am and then at 4am is where I really felt it and became fed up. Usually, I would just bring him to bed with us and he would feed in there while I lied down and slept, and we would both go back to sleep soundly. It was never terrible, but he had his moments where the feeding was constant. Again, luckily for us, he generally went back to sleep with a feed. And would require zero settling after that. Thank you BOOBS!
The first time he slept through 7-7 a whole night was 5 months old. And I have a photo to prove it because I was so proud of him. I remember so clearly thinking – yep cool, milestone reached. He will do this forever now. I think I treated it like crawling or walking, once it was reached there was no going back.
There was going back. Gurl there was a lot of going back.
He did have a period of good sleep from then on though. For 3 months, he either slept through or would wake at 4amish. In this case I would just bring him back to our bed and side boob him and we’d both drift off until 7am. It was more than manageable. I still felt like we had a perfectly B grade sleeper.
Then we arrive at months 8-11. I feel like in hindsight these were the hardest months we faced sleep wise for a number of reasons. There is a sneaky regression in there somewhere (pulling up – Henry self-settled before this but as soon as this was on the cards he had no interest in self settling anymore), Henry gained 6 teeth out of nowhere, he got a double ear infection, and we also threw an overseas trip to Canada in there too. There were tears. There was pain. There was JETLAG. There was being out his normal routine. There was plane travel. There were bleeding gums. There was so much time there where he just needed his anchor of his parents more than he needed to self-settle. There was a period of his life he felt like crap day in and day out, and the only comfort he experienced was being sandwiched between Josh and I. Thinking back, I’m so glad we bedshared and navigated this patch with love first. We were so glad we took time to rock, feed to sleep and cuddle and didn’t get caught up in rules. We were so glad we were able to interpret what our baby needed in amongst those months. It wasn’t easy but we helped him overcome a tricky patch and were there for him through it all.
And like everything, the phase passed. The teeth came down, the antibiotics worked, and the jet lag eventually did settle down and wear off. I think the jet lag was the hardest thing to overcome as he was just so awake at the wrong times. Henry hadn’t been a party boy before this, but jet lag brought out his inner wild child. I called Tresillian and they gave me some tips, but they basically said to keep doing what we were already doing, we just needed to be patient.
That oddly gave me a confidence boost. We weren’t doing anything wrong, we just needed to wait this period out. Every phase or season has an end point. The leaves will change, and with this, we change. I believe this is so true for infant sleep. Babies and toddlers are changing so much, every day. I always needed to remind myself that the phase will pass, the seasons will change. We just don’t have much permanent control of when that will happen.
When Henry started walking at 13 months, his sleep became a lot more consistent and predictable. He napped more consistently, and we generally could predict the night. Of course, through teething he would always sleep a bit worse, and when he had a language explosion between 18-20 months he was a bit more wakeful but his normal pattern was he would go down around 7/730pm, wake somewhere between 12-5am where we would bring him in with us and bed share for the other part of the night. Even now, this is his baseline.
I’ve not accepted this as our normal, but more so we have really embraced this season as a family. Once he comes in to our room, we all sleep soundly until 630 (in the last couple of weeks it’s been a bit earlier in account of daylight savings!) and we are all getting such great sleep. He is a perfect bed sharer. He doesn’t toss and turn. He find his comfy spot and sticks to it.
The season will end. When we have another baby, I’m sure the arrangement will shuffle. Or maybe it won’t and we will be a family of bed-sharers, who can really pick it?! But I’m fairly sure he will get to an age where he prefers the safety of his own bed.
I know I said this wasn’t going to be a how to blog, but I have two tips of managing the ever changing winds of infant sleep. Ones lovey-dovey tip, and one is a practical tip. If you don’t want advice or don’t trust any bed sharer giving out sleep advice, now is a good time to sign off! But if you’re interested in how we manage things practically read on:
Lovey-Dovey tip: do what keeps you sane and rested. If you feel like sleep training will help your sanity, do it. Find a program that suits you. If you like sleeping with your baby or toddler, do it. If you feel you need to set boundaries around how much of the night you share with your child, do it. Just do what is going to work for your child, you, and your family.
Practical tip: if nothing else, having a bed time routine will help YOU. I’m not saying routines make your kid sleep through. We are living proof that that theory isn’t always fail safe. BUT it will give your night some predictability. For example, we have been doing dinner, bath, boob/bottle, and bed since Henry was around 2 months old. We have always done it in the same window of time (between 5-7pm, depending on awake times), have just tweaked it accordingly to his age (we sit at his door as he goes to sleep now instead of breastfeeding for him to sleep in the arm chair) and we know that after 7/730pm, the night is ours to unwind. Henry’s best quality chunk of sleep will be the first 4-5 hours, so unless he is sick or having a bad dream, he probably won’t stir or wake up during that chunk. I always knew I was going to get my shower, have a nice sit down dinner with just Josh and I, maybe watch a movie, read my book or have a bath. The routine was more for us than him in a lot of ways. Again, when we have more children, this may change, but for us with Henry, this has really worked. It has helped our mental health, and has given us time to put into our marriage.
Infant sleep is tumultuous, rapidly changing, unpredictable and subject to change when we least expect it. Doing what works for you and your family is key, even if others have different expectations or opinions.