We’ve all made it to the first big milestone… first birthday!
It’s been beautiful, messy and consuming in all the usual ways. But Louise especially has survived a year under the most relentless and punishing deprivation of sleep and rest which would be far beyond anything permitted to be inflicted deliberately by international law or Geneva Conventions.
But we can now say that, just before her first birthday, our little one nailed a full night’s sleep.
But that counts, right?
During the months and months of near-constant night time discomfort causing her to wake, we tried plying the little monkey with countless remedies for colic, digestion, reflux… probably gout at some point.
We tried dairy-free diets. And soya free (which is much harder, since it turns out almost everything has soya or soya flour in it – though the upside was it became an excuse to justify the somewhat pricey (but tasty) local craft bakery loaves).
We used white noise, singing, rocking, extreme black-outs, toy association, co-sleeping. The only thing we hadn’t done was ‘controlled crying’ – leaving them to learn to sooth themselves by learning that you aren’t going to keep coming to get them. This works for some, but not all, and there’s pretty mixed advice about the possible impact on the child. We didn’t fancy it. And our health visitor said it wasn’t recommended until after a year anyway, so that was a good excuse.
But until 11 months she was still waking at least (yes, least) 10 times a night. Every night.
The friendly chat from other mums about how theirs were ‘still’ only doing 3 or 4 hours at a stretch was pretty wearing.
“3 hours would be amazing”, Louise would say, privately.
I did my stints with the sling for the wee hours, which became mostly the only time she would get any sleep in the night. But it hardly added up to enough.
So, what changed?
Like all the other advice, solicited or otherwise, one thing happened to come from a friend.
The strappingly 80’s Tracy Hogg and her Baby Whisperer book.
A very long tome, laden with victim-blaming shame stuff. Basically if your baby isn’t sleeping then it’s all your fault, you’ve done it all wrong, and it will take far more effort to recover from than if you hadn’t screwed this all up in the first place by being far too sentimental, soft, indulgent, and weak, you idiot.
Yeah. Thanks, Tracy.
So, we skipped most of the book, but the main method was one we’d never heard anyone mention before:
You hold/rock/pat/whatever the baby until they are calm, but not asleep. Then lay them down in their cot. Pat or just rest a hand to reassure them you’re still there, and sing a lullaby. Let them grumble, but once they get upset, you pick them up and do it again.
The book warns that it can take hundreds of pick-ups at first.
It gets them to learn how to get off to sleep lying down in bed, but without the dimension of teaching that you’ve gone and won’t comfort them.
We were amazed. Within 20 minutes we had a baby falling asleep, in her cot, for the first time ever. After three or so nights she got right through the night.
It’s been a little more patchy for day-time naps, with some taking half an hour, and occasional hour-long nonsense sessions.
But mostly she’ll now settle within a few put-downs.
Of course every child is different, and this won’t be the thing that works for everyone. But we kind of wonder whether it might have done the trick earlier on if we’d known to try.
(This re-picking up of the blog was going to be a quick recap of what’s happened in the year… but the sleep seems to have taken over. Stay tuned for more on rats, bikes and so on.)