Oh my god I think we’ve made it. I Think. I’m a bit scared to write this post to be honest – I feel like the parenting sleep gods are going to read this and say ‘ha, you think you’ve made it out the other side lady? You just wait’. But it’s been going on for too long to just be a fluke. One night is a fluke. Two nights, still a fluke. But nearly a month? Nearly a month is for sure a new phase in our sleeping journey.
Oh sorry – what am I blabbering on about? Well, you know how everyone tells you ‘yes it is hard, but it will get better’. And you thank them for their advice, but after yet another run of bloody rough nights you’re lying there thinking, ‘Really? It gets better? Please enlighten me as to when the fuck it is ever going to get better!?’
I think it’s got better. I hope . . .
For the past month or so our nights have been amazing. I feel so well rested. I’m not a bleary eyed stumbling mess heading for the coffee the moment I wake up – in fact, as I write this, it’s 9am, Ziggy and AJ are still in bed asleep – and I haven’t even put the jug on! I know, right – what magic is this?
That magic, is a month of wonderful, restful nights. Ziggy’s sleep patterns have gone through a rather big change recently. He wakes less, and he sleeps longer. On an average night he wakes for a couple of quick feeds and then goes straight back to sleep. Without my nipple in his mouth. Oh it’s glorious. And even with the wake ups – his first sleep of the evening is often a four or five hour long stretch. Okay, so then he usually wakes every one or two hours until morning, but that’s okay – do you know how amazing a straight four or five hour sleep feels?
There are still the odd times where he wakes often – last night for example I think he woke closer to six times. But, it’s the first night his dad has been back after four days away and I wonder if that had something to do with it. He has even managed to cut 4 molars without us realising that’s happened. I was hanging him upside down one day (as you do) and I looked in his mouth and went – hey, hold on a minute, you have a mouthful of teeth! Bloody hell, I’m not sure how he sneaked those past us, but there they are. This does coincide with the new amber teething necklace we were given from Amber Rooms in the UK – it’s unpolished Baltic amber and very funky. But in order to test this theory I’d need to take the necklace off him for at least a week, and I don’t want to do that in case it is what’s helping with this teething. Okay, sorry, I got sidetracked, let’s get back to the sleeping.
Another change that has happened recently, is having only one daytime nap. And some of them are on the couch! Not on me, or in the car, or in the carrier, but on the couch! Yes, he is either fed to sleep or transferred from the carrier, but still, this is a huge change to our days. Ziggy’s naps have always been Ziggy-led, with little consistency to them. Some days he would have two naps, other days three naps – especially if we went somewhere in the car. Some days he tried his best to have no naps at all. But recently, of his own accord, he is down to one decent long nap in the middle of the day. It is a bit of an adjustment for him and we’re finding that by 6pm or so he is quite tired. But if he goes down at 6pm, he’s awake again at 8pm and he stays awake until midnight (yep, learnt that the hard way). So we try to keep him busy and distract him for another couple of hours until bedtime. He crashes after a very quick feed to sleep. Most nights. Some nights it takes an hour of boobing and book reading and more boobing and more book reading . . but we get there eventually. And we get there without any tears or grizzling.
We’ve been bed-sharing now full time for 11 months. Yes, ‘still’. Although for us it’s not a ‘still’ but it seems to be for a lot of people that ask. He is ‘still in your bed?’ ‘Are you ‘still’ bed-sharing?’. And no, this wasn’t the plan when I fell pregnant (we bought a cot remember), it’s just how things have evolved. We started bed-sharing at 4 months old out of sheer desperation to try and get more sleep. Holy shit were those some rough months. But now, well now we’re used to it. Our bed is where Ziggy sleeps and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
We’ve even sold the cot. I know! That was a massive step. Selling it was such a moment of freedom. Even if it was a financial loss, dammit. It’s been sitting in the ‘nursery’ (which we also re-purposed), and being used as nothing more than a place to store junk. So we sold it. And we got rid of the junk. We had a massive (and well overdue) clean out. It took three days. We now have a bedroom, a study/library and an empty room that has a lamp and a single foam mattress. Like a legit spare room, instead of our friends having to sleep on the lounge floor. So we are on the hunt for a single bed for said room, we’re sick of our friends and family having to sleep on a foam mattress on the floor when they come to visit . . and they probably are too. Wow – I just went totally of topic again! Sorry, it’s just really exciting having a clean and orderly house now, instead of rooms so full of things I shut the door and try to pretend they aren’t there.
I love where we are at this moment. I love going to sleep with our little guy knowing there’ll be no struggle for him to fall to sleep. The nights where he used to cry and cry and cry are so far behind us I have almost forgotten what that felt like. I love that he curls into me when he’s sleeping, and when he stirs, reaches for me, throws his arms around my neck and drifts back off to sleep. I love hearing him talk as he’s sleeping. He murmurs away, and then busts out big grin and we look at him and wonder what he’s dreaming about. And I love it in the morning when he wakes, and before his eyes even open he’s making his sign for ‘milk’ and then he feeds himself awake, unlatches and beams at me. It’s just amazing.
Getting here has not been an easy road. As every parent finds out, there are very different options regarding how you approach sleep when you become a parent. There is the loud voice of sleep experts and sleep trainers and sleep consultants who believe babies sleep is something to be fixed. They would tell us we’re spoiling him. That he needs to learn to go to sleep by himself. That he will never learn if we continue to feed him to sleep, and sleep with him, and let him call the shots. These were the voices that I started thinking about when the nights were the hardest. When I was up awake for the millionth time, exhausted. When he refused to sleep without my nipple in his mouth. When he woke every hour and I would kick my feet and huff and puff and swear and cry in frustration. When I wondered if they were right and we were doing everything wrong.
And then there were those that said everything we were doing was normal. Often those not paid for the advice they give (funny that). Who say it is biologically normal for our baby to sleep close to us, and we needed to be responsive to him, no matter how hard that was. Alongside these voices were all the parents in my online villages who are right here with us. Who have been where I am, or are right in the middle of it now. Who promised me it will get easier. Who promised me he wouldn’t always wake every hour. That he would learn to sleep without my boob in his mouth. That one day I would wake up and I would realise I felt great. And they assured me over and over that this was what Ziggy needed.
But for the most of it, AJ and I listened to the voices in our own heads. The instinct that kicked in when he was only hours old, sleeping next to us in the bassinet at the birth centre, making his gurgling noises. Oh my god he was so noisy we called the on-call midwife to make sure everything was okay. The overwhelming need to make sure he was always under our care, and within view, within earshot, as close to us as he could be. AJ has been the staunch one here. When I’ve had my moments of doubt. When I’ve wanted to give up or give in. When I’ve been crying with exhaustion wondering if things will ever get better – AJ has been my rock. He’s been the one to tell me that it’s okay, it’s not forever and I’m a great mum doing a great job. Babe you’re amazing.
Apparently, just as things are looking wonderful, there is an 18 month sleep regression on the horizon. Bring it. Come at me sleep regression, I am so ready to waste you. There is NOTHING you can throw at me that I’ve not already been through. (Oh shit, did you hear that challenge I just laid down to the parenting sleep gods). But, you know what I think about the term ‘sleep regression’. I think it’s a crock used to explain to tired parents why no one has any idea why their babies are still waking. It’s a term used in place of ‘biologically normal’. Because heaven help us if we start describing baby’s sleep and all that comes with it as ‘normal’. Hell no, we can’t normalise frequent night waking, bed-sharing, co-sleeping, feeding to sleep and sleeping in carriers or cars. No way. Because then it’s going to cost those who like making money off tired and vulnerable parent lots of said money. And we just can’t have that can we?
Although, while I’m not the biggest fan of the term ‘sleep regression’, it does have it’s place. It can be helpful when used to explain things for mums who have gone from ‘all through the night’ sleepers, to ‘waking every few hours’ sleepers. It is a gentle way to introduce the reality of conscious changes that happen at certain times as our babies grow. But for mums who have had ‘wake every few hours’ sleepers since the day they were born, we laugh at ‘sleep regression’. And we yawn and call it ‘reality’.
So bring it on ’18 month change of sleep patterns’. I’m ready. Because I know that no matter what comes next – we will get through it. This too will pass.
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