Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Baby Files: The Big Sleep

We've been trying to figure out for a while what to do about getting E to sleep better. Some nights are brilliant, some nights are horrible, and most nights are just long.

Often, he goes to sleep just before 8pm at the end of a bedtime routine that works for us: change into pyjamas (and a clean nappy), brush teeth, read stories with Daddy, then have a nurse, and fall asleep with Mommy. But usually, just as midnight or 1am rolls around, he's awake and won't put himself back to sleep. This usually means coming into our bed. It takes less time to get him back down that way, which means more net sleep for us. Though lately, E squirms a lot more, so once he's shimmied until he's horizontal and is kicking one of us in the back and headbutting the other in the mouth as he flips onto his front to get comfy, having him in the bed starts to feel much more untenable.

Just getting comfortable.
I know he's always been a touchy-feely person: our second night in hospital after he was born, he refused to sleep unless he was nested in my arms and some pillows in the bed next to me. (The night before he only slept because being born was so tiring for us both!) E's the sort of boy who loves to give hugs and cuddles. For months, when he'd play on the floor, if I sat down to watch him, he'd come over to me every 2 minutes for a quick hug and a giggle, then go happily back to playing. He loves to be held or carried, and unless he thinks that it's a game to run away because you're going to get him, he'll willingly hold hands to walk just about anywhere. This propensity for PDA means that he really needs some form of touch when he's upset or tired: he calms down better if held, he relaxes if you rub his back, he likes to rest his head on your chest (or knee, or stomach...), he'll even squeeze my forearm rhythmically when we read, just as a mindless habit.

So how we're going to swing the whole 'all night in your own bed' thing is still feeling a bit murky to me. I have a few ideas I want to try - bearing in mind that E is teething at the moment (molars...joy) and is generally pretty changeable anyway.

1) Switch up the bedtime routine. I want him to get used to falling asleep without needing to breastfeed right before he closes his eyes. I'd still cuddle him, but eventual weaning will be easier if he doesn't need it to fall asleep.
2) Try not to bring him to bed with us. This one is hard for me because it's SO much easier to just bring him into bed and fall asleep quickly myself.
3) Put him in his crib while he's awake. It's taken us ages to get to this stage. I tried when he was younger, and he'd always just start back up, stand in his crib, and cry until I picked him back up. Now, at least, he's old enough to understand a bit of cause and effect. So last week I spent a night training him: if he stands up, Mummy is out in the hallway; sitting down, I'll stand in the door & sing to him; lying down, I sit by his crib, sing, & rub his back.

Now that he's got the hang of this latest routine, not only will he let me put him in the crib awake, but he prefers lying in bed so he can fall asleep & get comfy. Do I miss having a baby fall asleep in my arms? Sure, but I'm still right there through the whole process, and anyway E's big enough now that holding him until he fell asleep was starting to kill my shoulders. The other bonus? He tends (so far) to have a better time putting himself back to sleep. We've had about 3/6 nights where he slept through in his own room. Yessssssss!!! At least, so far, it feels like we're on the right track.


  1. You are on the right track for sure and he is so adorable!!! Just looking at those photos melts my heart! My friend has a little girl who has a very hard time sleeping as well. So I will make sure to send her your post link, so she can read it. Have a beautiful day, lovely.

  2. Aw, cheers Diana! I hope your friend finds something that works for her little girl. I know it took me ages of trying all sorts of tips I found online to find out what would help E go to sleep more independently than he was. It's one of those times where each child and parent need a very individual approach.