It’s taken a while to muster the balls to write this post, but I feel I owe it to my readers (all two of you - ha! Just kidding, there’s at least three). I’ve been totally honest while blogging about my whole pregnancy and the past year of Motherhood, and yet my most recent parenting decision makes me want to hide under a rock. My hypocritical, guilt ridden, “desperate times call for desperate measures” rock. Why? Because Oscar now sleeps through the night.
Did we get there naturally? Did he wean himself off the breast? Did I gradually and gently cut out breastfeeding in the night? No. Do I feel good about how we got to this stage? Not enough to shout it from the rooftops, but if anyone reading this was feeling how I felt this time last month, I feel I owe it to you to tell you how I got here.
Night times had got to THE worst they had ever been. Oscar would eat his dinner around 5:30/6:00, have a bath and we would put his pyjamas on. It was at this point I had no idea if he would be asleep within ten minutes or an hour and a half. I didn’t know what time or how long it would be until I was able to eat my dinner, or start my evening. Or if it would end up being one of those evenings where he’s back downstairs after a failed attempt and playing in the lounge at 8pm while I eat and restore my energy to try again.
Oscar was boob OBSESSED. He could not fall asleep and stay asleep without feeding. Every time I tried to unlatch him, if it had been less than 5/10/15 minutes after he had fallen asleep on me, taking him off the boob would wake him up. This meant that the timer went back to 0. I never knew if it would take him 5 minutes before he wouldn’t notice me unlatch or 20 minutes. Thank God I had my iPhone to entertain me while I sat and waited for him to be in a deep sleep. Once he was in a deep sleep and I was able to unlatch, I then had to figure out how to stand up with him and place him in his crib and let go all while keeping him asleep. This could take up to 6 attempts before he could be placed in his crib and I could sneak away. Every time he would wake up it was so frustrating to have just wasted all that time feeding him, rocking him, gently placing him in, slowly taking my hands away and carefully putting a blanket over him, only to have to start again because he’s awake. My Mum suggested getting into the crib which I ironically said “I don’t want to start something I’ll have to do every night” which was CRAZY because I was already in this ridiculous routine of getting Oscar slowly into his crib without moving a muscle that was taking me all evening, only for him to wake 45 minutes later and me have to go up and feed him again, accept defeat and go to bed myself, and do the same every hour until I truly gave up at 2am and he slept in my bed with all access buffet to the boob. We then all woke up to Luke’s 6am alarm after yet another shitty night and started our day.
And so, I started climbing into the crib. I would put Oscar in, climb in myself, lie down next to him, let him feed until he fell asleep, unlatched and then crept out. One night I actually fell asleep in there for half an hour. IM 24 AND I FELL ASLEEP IN A CRIB! What the hell am I doing with my life. Everyone I was meeting up with that had babies were all sleeping through after letting them cry and I just couldn’t do that. I had read too many articles about how bad it was and couldn't come to terms with how they were letting their babies cry. But how else was he supposed to sleep better?
The reason Oscar was waking so much was clear, every time he would come to the end of a natural sleep cycle and come to, he would be alone in his bed, when the last thing he remembered was falling asleep in my arms, so would stir and instead of waking and going back to sleep he was waking and FREAKING out.
After a horrendous week of sleeping in the crib, snapping at Luke because I was stressed, crying because I felt like my baby was broken and not sleeping when everyone else’s was, being fed up of having someone attached to my boob so much, being puked all over constantly because Oscar was over filling himself with unnecessary milk, changing bedding at 11pm from the puke, the list goes on… I decided to try it. The worst that could happen was it was absolutely horrendous and he cried his eyes out (I had decided I wouldn’t let him cry longer than half an hour, no way could I see myself waiting an hour for it to work, I didn’t have it in me, and if he was getting HYSTERICAL that I knew it wasn’t for me)
The times I have tried getting him to fall asleep in his bed by himself before I would put him in and sit the other sides of the bars stroking his head, shh-ing him, singing, humming, lying him down over and over, which never lasted more than a few minutes simply because I couldn’t bare seeing him, hearing him and feeling so so awful and helpless… but I read while researching my POA that this was ten times worse for him as I was there but refusing to hold him, effectively teasing him, he wouldn’t give in because I was right there and would think to scream louder so that I would pick him up. So I tried the Ferber method, going in the room at 2,5,10,15 minute intervals until he was asleep. I had loads of Christmas wrapping to do next door and Luke was working late so I didn’t have anything to lose. I gave him his last feed, put him in his sleeping bag, turned on the white noise, closed the door and walked out.
He cried hard for the first 2 minutes, started coughing as he normally does, and threw up over the side of the crib onto the floor, at this point I had geared myself up so much to do it that I just went in, cleaned the sick up, gave him some water, wiped his nose and face, stroked his head and walked out. I couldn’t believe before how I had read “If your child cries until they are sick just go in change the sheets and walk back out” I thought that was the worst thing I’d ever heard of and how cruel for the child, but Oscar had been sick SO many times over the past month simply because he has had too much milk in his belly, that it didn’t phase he or I, it was just milk and he was no more upset after than before he was sick, so I carried on.
He cried after the 2 minutes hard for another five, and his cries began to get quieter and less frequent. I read that intermittent crying is temper and non stop crying is pain. I went in at the 5 and stroked his head and led him back down. He stood back up again (I was watching him on the video monitor) and continued to cry. He then slowed down, and sat down in his bed still holding onto the bars with one hand. He was whimpering but looking around. He then stopped, and fell asleep, sat up holding the side of the crib! It took 22 minutes in total from me first leaving the room for him to fall asleep, including me going in twice and 5-8 minutes of hard crying. To my surprise, I actually wasn’t as phased by the crying as I thought I would be, at a year old I know his cries. He has cried harder in his car seat, when he has hit his head, when he has fallen over or wanted a feed really badly and I couldn’t get my shirt down fast enough. This was a different cry, it was still an upset cry but not hysterical. It took him 7 minutes for him to eventually flop forward and be lying on his front. I couldn’t believe it. I had hoped this was the start of our new lives.
He slept for three hours which I could not believe. He then woke up and I waited the 2 minutes to go in, after going in the first time his cries immediately settled. It was as though (and I like to think so) that he knew I was there, knew he wasn’t being abandoned but that it was just bed time, I wasn’t there to cry to and he was tired so off to sleep he went. He woke a few times in the night for thirty seconds and I would watch from my bed on the monitor, he would sit up, look around and go straight back to sleep. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! Just that sense of waking up where he remembered going back to sleep, allowed him to go back to sleep himself. To think I was feeding him a dozen times a night and he went the entire 12 hours without milk and a few sips of water that I offered at 10:30 was unreal to me.
The next night our bedtime routine was a little later and he had had a busy day so was really tired. I was expecting a battle as we continued with the new way of going to sleep but it took THIRTY SECONDS for him to go to sleep. THIRTY SECONDS. He still woke a few times in the night but again, took no longer than a minute to go back to sleep.
I could not believe it had taken me this long to try this method, thinking it wouldn’t work and it would be unbearable. Having said that I feel like i needed to reach the stage of desperation, I needed to know Oscar was having 3 meals a day and a feed before bed to fill his tummy enough to last all night without milk, I needed to know the difference in his cries and that he was strong enough and capable enough to manoeuvre his way around the crib. Had I tried this when he was 9 months old he would have been really unsteady on his feet and been bashing his head everytime he tried to get himself down and I would’ve had to intervene. At 11 months and 3 weeks old we were both ready, I just needed to let my guard down a bit and trust that he was able to go to sleep by himself and that the routine we were in was just bad habits I was allowing us to keep. It wasn’t Oscar’s fault and my baby wasn’t broken and the Mums who let their babies cry weren’t monsters. I am far too swayed by things I read on the Internet and needed to realise that sleeping is sometimes more important and you have to do what you have to do to get to that point. Oscar used to wake up yawning and nap sometimes an hour later, the broken sleep wasn’t doing he or I any favours.
It has now been two weeks (well, thirteen days) since the first night and Oscar has never taken more than 5 minutes to go to sleep. He still wakes around 1am and 5am but will go back to sleep within a few minutes. Depending on his cry sometimes I have gone in and fed him and put him back in his bed awake and he’s gone straight to sleep and sometimes I have offered water. At the end of the day, even adults get hungry/thirsty in their sleep and sometimes I just like to go in anyway to let him know I’m still there.
The first night he slept through I was desperate to get him and cuddle him as it was the longest I had ever gone without holding him and as soon as he woke at 6:30 I rushed in to get him. My boobs were still making mega milk so I did express twice in the night the first night about 6oz total but by the second night they didn’t produce as much. If they are still sore these days in the night I will go in and feed him, I like to think I’ve taken a gentle approach to it and still feeding him if he or I needs it is me bending the rules because I want it to work around us.
So, I apologise to all those I have judged and HARD about letting their babies cry, I still don’t agree with this method for a young baby and feel like Oscar was mentally and physically able to sleep through the night.
The video that convinced me was by Emily Norris who is a YouTuber I love and she even said, she is the softest Mum in the world and hates to hear her baby cry in any circumstance but something HAD to be done! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOqKw11AEEs
So for the Mummies reading this who still don’t think they could do it, that’s fine. Do whatever works for you, but if you’re reading this and have been tempted or are at your wits end and don’t know where to turn, then by all means do your research and try this method because I honestly feel like my relationship, my health (mental and physical) and my perspective of Motherhood has changed so much. I feel like I can breathe again and having a baby isn't all that bad. I feel like a good Mum again, despite it being a mixture of emotions and feeling like the worst Mum to get here, I feel like we reached a milestone together.