Sleep… it’s right up there with water as being essential for survival. Sleep deprivation is the absolute pits and I’ve (I’d say we, but let’s face it, that’s just not true) been suffering from it for, oh, nine and a half months. Bo has never been a great sleeper. But you guys know that already, because I’ve gone on and on and on about it. Here, here and here, and probably here too – just to name a few.
So, after my last post on Bo’s shocking sleep regression that has lasted about 10 weeks I got some awesome feedback from you guys. I got so many beautiful comments and even more private emails from mamas who get it. You get it. So, thank you. I also got lots of emails from mamas and friends and families and readers who told me that really, I just needed to let her cry it out. That at some point every mama has to do it and as much as it sucks, it’s just the way of life. I truly do appreciate the advice. Even if I don’t agree with it. I know it comes out of love and concern.
But we do not cry it out. That’s my choice as Bo’s parent. That’s not how I want to do this and yes perhaps that would be the miracle *cure* to her sleep problems. But it’s not the fix I’m looking for.
But, thanks all the same.
So after I got this huge influx of love and advice and love and lovely love-love I got to thinking. What is it that I’m in need of? What is it that Bo needs? Obviously something isn’t right so how am I going to fix it? Sleep. We both needed more sleep. Not sleep at particular times. Not set hours. Not in particular cots or rooms or sleep after tears (hers and/or mine)… just sleep. That’s really all we needed. So I threw away all of the books that had been recommended to me (figuratively of course because I never bought them anyway) and I sat down with Bo and we *talked it out* – she slapped and giggled and tried to tear my eyes from my sockets and I basically thought out loud.
And then I took action. I decided on a few things that I have always known but that I have always fought with due to cultural, familial, whatever expectations.
1. I don’t need Bo to be in her own room. She doesn’t need to be in her own room. She will move to her own room when she is good and ready and when we as a family have a home that can facilitate that.
2.I don’t need Bo to sleep in her cot. I’m very happy for her to be in our bed. It’s always been that way and extended co-sleeping is not only a valid choice but it is one that I have come to after extensive research and real life experience. Extended co-sleeping is NOT an excuse nor is it an “easy way out” (have you ever had a nine month old sleeping on your head?)
3. The word routine sounds regimented and strict whereas the word pattern makes more sense. Use that instead.
4. Our lifestyle is one that is flexible. We don’t have our own house we are often camping out in someone elses living room/spare room and it is important TO me and important FOR Bo that she is comfortable to sleep anywhere and everywhere that she feels safe.
Once I’d decided these things I took action. I removed the bed base from our room and put the mattress on the floor. The cot is still in the room so that we can try to transition her into there eventually (or not) when it feels right. I threw out everything that had been haunting me about sleep times and routines and how many hours a baby should sleep for and sleep cycles and cry it out and patting and shhhhh’ing and OMG every tip and trick and argggghhhhh that I have heard over the past ten months. I scrunched them up into little balls and threw them in the bin. Then I felt much better.
I decided to get rid of the bedtime routine that we have been using since she was born as it was pretty hit and miss anyway obviously. And go with a patter, a pattern that is flexible and can be done no matter where we are, no matter who/what is around us and no matter the time of day. It’s one particular book that is also a song. Then a cuddle and a breastfeed. Sometimes she needs to be fed to sleep. Sometimes shes happy to roll over and fall asleep next to me without it. Sometimes she rolls over and a rub her back gently until she falls asleep. But one way or another. She does sleep. Either way, this is progress.
That’s it. That’s the magic solution to a problem that wasn’t Bo’s but mine. A problem that came from me doubting myself and trying to wrestle with what my gut was telling me and what so many other people were telling me. When I let go… truly let go… we found *solutions* (and a lot less stress).
In the past two weeks Bo has had at least two naps every day of varying lengths. She has had at least eight hours, sometimes up to twelve hours of broken sleep a night. She’s had successful naps and sleeps on one sisters lounge room floor, in our bedroom and in my other sisters spare room. And I’m getting more sleep (and even a few solo showers!) too. Progress is good!
She is sleeping like a baby. She still wakes, not because she’s being manipulative or needy or pushing the boundaries. She wakes because she needs something. Her wants are her needs right now and I’m A-OK with that. Sometimes her nap times are a bit all over the shop and it means a later bed time. I don’t keep her awake if she’s visibly tired for fear she wont be in bed and a sleep at 7pm on the dot. I don’t restrict when she can or cannot feed. Sometimes she needs more to help calm her, other times she needs little to no help at all. But she’s sleeping. She’s happy. I’m happy.
You don’t have to cry it out. You don’t have to teach a baby this young to put themselves to sleep. You can if you want to. But it’s not the only way. There are options. If something doesn’t feel right to you, the parent, don’t do it. You have choices even if your parents or friends don’t know what they are. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain if that’s what your instinct tells you to do. We are all just stumbling around in the dark… and each and every one of us are grateful for the little wins.
Because in this world of babies and sleeping and love and exhaustion and confusion and figuring-it-out-as-we-go it’s the little wins that feel HUGE.
Thank you all for your support.