Many regular readers will know that I come from the perspective of our unique niche in the world and when asked for advice on any parenting I will ask the ‘how is this working out for you?’ question. This is a typical way to give permission if you like to carefully consider all the advice from our own parents, our friends, and really reflect on if it is generally making life happier, more purposeful.
Sleep and lack of it comes up regularly when talking with parents, not just as babies and toddlers but even later when the ‘shoulds’ of teenage years kick in.
A brilliant sleep pattern was something that we never quite managed with our daughter. In all fairness, this began largely because I was hospitalised after lifesaving surgery when she was just ten days old and anyone who has tried to sleep in hospital will know the challenges. So even having read the child care books that mentioned the importance of routine, none of those books had a chapter on ‘how to help your baby sleep when your own life is on the cards’! We just had to respond to the environment we found ourselves in and that, retrospectively set the scene for quite a dance in terms of our approach to sleep.
Our daughter was probably about four years old before she truly had a full night’s sleep! We tried all the tricks in the book, but our baby was very canny, sussing out that we were trying alternate nights for waking in the night. The idea was that I would get some rest on the night that hubby was on duty. She slept through mostly on those nights! So then we would try to fool her and swap, with hubby doing two nights on and me doing the third, she slept for two nights and was wakeful on the third! And so it went on. The self-blame, “I must be doing something wrong”, the myriad of advice from others adding to the notion that I was simply not a good enough mum. In those days I had not heard of mindful meditation and ACT but it would have been good to just have someone ask the question as we tried the umpteenth suggestion from others “and how is that working out for you?”
Eventually, (and three more surgeries later) out of desperation I naturally asked myself that question; all the advice in the world did not seem to be working for us. Reflecting on our circumstances, our unique situation we found a solution. Ours was to stop fretting about everything including our own ‘need for sleep’ and just accept what was. Not unsurprisingly now, for a meditation teacher to think back on, this somehow worked. Yes it was chaotic, random, not how others were doing it, but in its own way it worked for us.
So, I add a section from one of the websites with caution. Please read the advice, it is good sound advice based on research and the notion of learning your and your own baby’s unique response to the world. But read with all your senses – does it feel right for your situation?
- Make daytime feeds social and lively, and night-time feeds quiet and calm. This will help your baby to set her body clock and learn the difference between day and night.
- Give your baby the chance to fall asleep on her own. You can start this as early as six weeks as your baby’s natural circadian rhythms, or the ‘sleep-wake cycle’, which helps regulate her sleep, start to develop. Put her down on her back when she’s sleepy, but still awake. If you rock or feed your baby to sleep she may start to depend on it, rather than be used to settling herself.
- Set a short and simple bedtime routine from about three months. It helps to encourage some quiet time half an hour before you start your routine. Turning off the television and winding down activities will set the scene and help your baby to relax.
- Start with a bath and then pop your baby into her pyjamas. Follow with a story or lullaby. You could also try giving your baby a calming massage. A consistent bedtime routine will gradually let your baby know that it’s time to go to sleep. Finish the bedtime ritual in the room where your baby sleeps….
- Wait to see if your baby settles by herself, if she is four months or five months old. By this age she’s likely to need fewer night feeds and may be able to sleep for longer……
The website page goes on to offer training for sleep patterns so do take a look. Finally, give yourself plenty of TLC – there is no magic formula, it is a journey you will explore with plenty of ups and downs, take a nap when baby naps, say yes to practical help from family and friends to give you time for yourself, but most importantly frequently ask the question – “and how is this working out for us?”.