Getting my babies to sleep through the night

30 Aug
I’m not sure how, or why, but it feels like getting a newborn baby to sleep through the night has become a parental badge of honour. Good sleeper = good parenting. Bad sleeper = well, I guess you can put 2 and 2 together. Now, with the benefit of actually having had two babies, I’ve decided that’s bollocks. Well, I have to say that don’t I because both of my girls (now aged 2.5 and 8 months)were pretty terrible sleepers for the first six months of their lives. When I say ‘pretty terrible’, I mean that I was getting up to feed them between 2-4 times a night at six months of age. And our bedroom is upstairs – so that’s potentially 8 sets of stairs per night for six straight months. 180 nights. Yes – it was good for my figure. But it was very very bad for my mental well-being.

 At about the 6-7months of age mark, I started to get a little desperate. I knew they were eating more than enough solids and weren’t waking out of hunger any more. It was just habit. A bad habit. I was starting to think I would never have an uninterrupted night’s sleep ever again. It was time for an intervention. So, I consulted my ‘baby bible’ (Baby Love by Robyn Barker). I have no pecuniary interest in promoting this book, I just genuinely think it offers practical and useful information about health, feeding, behavioural and developmental issues. And she addresses the topic of sleeping in some detail. I won’t go into the details but essentially her ‘teaching to sleep’ method involves getting rid of all the baby’s sleep associations (dummy, feeding, bottles, wraps, music, white noise, cuddling) and allowing the baby to self settle – in other words – offering minimal settling (a pat on the cheek, a bit of shushing) at set intervals of 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes – until the baby falls back to sleep on their own. It’s not easy. Inevitably there is crying involved. I know some people say they could never leave a baby to cry. I understand that. It’s hard. But ongoing sleep deprivation, in the long run, is even harder. However, I accept this method isn’t for everyone.  Listening to your baby cry ranks up there with fingernails on a blackboard as being among the worst sounds in the world. Fortunately, our babies did not cry for too long, and they never became hysterical. I made a deal with myself that if the crying sounded like a pained or distressed cry, I would step in and offer a feed. It never reached that point. Both girls cried a protest cry, off and on, for an hour or so on the first night, less on the second night, and very little on the third night. Within a week, they were able to sleep through the night, with a little grizzle here or there. It was a pretty incredible turn around. Some people would call this controlled crying. Other people would call it ‘teaching to sleep’. It’s neither. There’s nothing really ‘controlled’ about it, and at that age, babies are a little too young for ‘teach’ in the formal sense. I guess I would call it ‘figuring out how to self settle’. Because for my babies, that’s what it was all about, figuring out how to get themselves back to sleep without feeding. So, now that my babies are ‘good’ sleepers, do I get to enter the ‘good’ parent’s club? Not at all. My babies are the ones who did the hard yards. All my husband and I did was to give them the chance to work it out.   



2 Responses to “Getting my babies to sleep through the night”

  1. Anonymous September 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    next step is to teach them to change their own nappies, get their own food, drive the car and do the shopping, and do some jobs around the house…and then you possibly enter the good parents club.

  2. Anonymous September 8, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    I have one baby that is a 'good' sleeper – slept though from 3 months of age and my other baby is still not sleeping through and she is one year old – I don't think it has anything to do with being a good mother – I think it is the way the baby is…

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