Last night I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning and couldn’t settle, and eventually had to call my mum who came to stroke my back and give me a quick feed to sleep. I’m joking, obviously. For a start I was a formula fed babe and secondly I’m 25. That’s how people can make you feel though – they say little comments about feeding to sleep, the classic ‘rod for your own back’ and you have little pangs of questioning are you ‘doing it right’ when your sweet baby is peacefully snoozing using your boob to nod off and you think lord what if this never ends?! Here’s a secret though; there is no right or wrong. Shh and rock that baby to sleep! Go for it! Bouncing on a yoga ball getting thighs of steel? Wonderful; free workout. Little one only happy to nap on your lap with a feed and ‘using you as a dummy’? Literally; Netflix and chill! The only ‘wrong’ way is the way that’s been suggested to you that doesn’t feel right. I wrote a post on the BMM page when George was 13 months old, saying he had gone from hourly wakes to sleeping 9/10/11 hours straight; letting people know to keep going, it happens eventually, you’re doing fab, George is doing fab, Bravo. Well, karma came along to discredit me as fast as possible and at 16 months he’s now back up hourly from teething. Last Tuesday I nearly put my head through the wall when at 2am he sat up and told me all the words he learnt this week and shouting ‘there’s a car!’ (There wasn’t, FYI!). I’ve slept so little the last 2 weeks I’m convinced at some point I could of died from exhaustion and not even noticed. Do you know what we’ve done differently though? Nothing. Not a thing. I do the exact same thing I have always done since he was born, sitting in my little suede chair in his bedroom while he feeds to sleep and when he’s dropped off, I pop in his dummy and lay him down. At 16 months, lots of parents would of considered sleep training by now if they were me. They would listen to the remarks of “he’s doing it for attention”, “they don’t need feeding at night at this age”, “they just don’t know how to self settle”. However, how I view it is, yes maybe you’re right. He is doing it for attention – he needs my attention for help as he cannot help himself stuck in a cot when he needs something. Yes maybe he doesn’t need feeding all night at 16 months – but then again I always snuffle biscuits before bed and wake up for water at least once a night. And yes, maybe he doesn’t know how to self settle. Do you know why? Because he is barely even a toddler – one who fell asleep having milk and a warm cuddle and when he wakes up it is dark and Mum snuck out to eat a twin pack of Jaffa cakes and drink hot tea. He knows I’m not around for a quick cuddle so he needs to shout for me to come back again. Our prophet and saviour, Sarah Hockwell-Smith, does offer some suggestions to HELP baby sleep better such as a nightlight with low levels of blue, keeping an optimum room temperature, checking humidity levels, even the scent in the room but what’s important to remember is whether your baby is sleeping 1 hour or 12 hours without waking they are a baby. They thrive off that love and security and if you can provide that then you are not doing anything wrong by your child. They WILL learn slowly that going to sleep is okay and staying asleep will be okay too, eventually. For now, carry on bouncing, rocking, boobing and holding that little sweetness. One day they will give you a kiss goodnight and skip up the stairs and maybe you’ll miss that little chunk nap trapping you to the sofa in the afternoons and sitting in the dark rocking them in the evenings.
Hold them tight and love them fiercely, they need you.