Baby sleep: what's working for us

baby sleep
baby sleep 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided life had to change. There was no way I could go on with the level of sleep-deprivation I was experiencing. I kept on getting ill, and I knew the bad nights weren't good for my baby.

Jasmin hasn't really slept well since she was four months old and hit the classic sleep regression phase. A series of bad coughs and a bad bout of swine flu also interrupted her night and day sleeps. We then had builders in the house for two months and getting into a good routine of daytime naps felt impossible. What suffered, of course, was our nights.

We moved Jasmin into her own room just before she was seven months, and that's when things got really bad. For weeks, she was up every 40 minutes for long stretches through the night. She would never sleep for more than an hour and a half. I've been exhausted. So has she.

I always thought controlled crying, or crying it out, wasn't for me - or for us. However, with Jasmin, I honestly couldn't see any other way of making things change.

I had already established a night-time routine with Jasmin. I had tried as hard as I could to put her down awake but sleepy during the day at around the same time each day. Nothing was working. Exhausted each night, I'd do the easiest and quickest thing to get her back to sleep when she woke every hour - give her a little milk.

My decision to try a more drastic approach at night coincided with a visit that Milin and I paid to a reflexologist. I wasn't really there for Jasmin, but the practitioner spend a little time on her feet. I talked to her about our nights.

"There is nothing wrong with Jasmin, it's you," she said. "You're telling her that she can't sleep at night unless you rock her or feed her to sleep." They were harsh words, but I knew they were true.

That night I decided things would change. When Jasmin woke, I wouldn't pick her up.

Except, for the first time in her life, Jasmin slept for 11 straight hours.

Advertisement

I don't know if it was the reflexology or the fact that she sensed that I was going to do something dramatic - but Jasmin proved to me that night that she could sleep all night. She didn't need milk feeds or rocking. She could do it.

The next night, I fed Jasmin at 7pm and 11pm and then she woke again at 1am. I went in immediately, shushed her a little, said "good night, I love you", and left the room. She cried. After three minutes I went in and did the same thing again. She cried when I left. After five more minutes of crying, I did the same again. And then, Jasmin stopped crying and went to sleep. She slept for eight hours.

I couldn't believe it.

Since then, Jasmin has been regularly sleeping for about six to eight hours at night. She still has her feed at 7pm and then she often has another one somewhere around 11pm - but then she doesn't expect another until morning.

Sometimes she wakes in the night and puts herself back to sleep after a few minutes of crying. Sometimes I need to shush her, but she hasn't cried for more than a few minutes since that first night.

I had been terrified of sleep training. I didn't think I would stand her being distressed and I was worried the process would take weeks. I'm not sure I would have gone through with it if Jasmin hadn't showed me herself she could sleep all night - but now I'm so glad she did.

Jasmin is a happy little girl - probably because she is feeling more rested these days.

I'm still not getting great sleep at night, but I'm hoping that will come. Maybe, as I get used to her sleeping better, I'll get out of the habit of waking every hour and worrying about why she hasn't woken me yet. Or maybe that's just something mums do forever.

I wish I hadn't had to leave Jasmin to cry that first night - but I really felt like I had no choice. In the end, I don't believe it has done her any harm. Rather, it has resulted in everyone feeling more rested.