‘I am lucky, my 6 month-old baby is already sleeping through the night, waking up only once for a feed’.
Well, if this is you, then good for you. You are the envy of many mums around the world – and this article is probably not for you.
I’ve been considering whether or not to share this story with everyone, mainly because it doesn’t actually fit with where I wanted this blog to go. But I hope that this article can give you all tired mama out there the consolation that you are not alone.
Right off the bat, Little Miss, now 3 years of age, only started sleeping through the night when she was a little over 2 years. Yup that’s right. Segmented, interrupted sleep for 2 years. That was also the time when she weaned off night feed. So I was night feeding up until less than a year ago.
When Little Miss was born, she was waking up every 2-3 hours for a feed. I was struggling big time. Breastfeeding was harder than I thought. A lot harder. Combined with waking up every 2-3 hours around the clock, I was always on the verge of tears, cranky and, worst of all, I wasn’t enjoying my baby.
I have to say, a lot got better when I finally got breastfeeding right (thank God!). When we hit the 3 months mark, after eating lots of lactation cookies, my supply substantially increased. I even managed to exclusively breastfeed Little Miss until she reached 12 months and we actually continued until she weaned herself off recently – she was 2 years 8 months. Another story for another time.
But the sleep part didn’t really get better.
Little Miss couldn’t self settle. During the day, she needed to either be breastfed or be carried around to sleep – every. single. nap time. If you try and put her down on the bed/cot, she would wake up. So I would end up carrying her during her nap.
Every single nap time, I would carry her using a sling or a baby carrier.
At night she was waking up every 3 hours, wanting breast in order to go back to sleep – at this stage, we were co-sleeping. I would just pull my pyjama up and let her breastfeed until both of us go back to slumber.
Googling answers were even worst. You see lots of information on how to get your baby to sleep longer. I’ve got so many books and e-books on how to ‘cry it out’ or how to gradually let your baby self-settle. None worked for Little Miss and I think I wasn’t tough enough to let her cry. I tried white noise, before bed routine, massage, bath with essential oils, songs, you name it. They didn’t work.
One day I stopped searching for answers on the internet. I accepted that every baby is different and they have to be treated differently. I decided to ‘wait it out’.
This continued past her first birthday….and her second. For her nap during the day, I would either breastfeed or take her around the block in the pram until she fell asleep. During the night, she would wake up (several times, I’ve lost count) in search for breast. She would even pull up my pyjama and attach herself without bothering me too much. I managed all this while working part-time and then full-time. (Trying to get her to nap in childcare was another story altogether.)
When she got too heavy to be carried, I walked her around the block in her pram.
Now come the big question – when did she finally start sleeping through the night?
1 or 2 months after she turned 2 years old, her vocabulary has increased significantly. She understood that sun comes up in the morning and when it’s dark, it’s time to sleep. One night, I put her to bed (breastfed) and of course, a few hours later, she woke up wanting breast. I explained to her that it was dark and everyone was still asleep. She should be sleeping and that she can have ‘milk’ in the morning when the sun comes up. Miraculously, she just whined a bit and went back to sleep! The following morning she woke up when it was bright and asked for breast (which I gave as promised). This happened for a few nights. Every time she woke up, I would give the same explanation and it worked!
After 2 weeks, she started sleeping through the night. Yes, she was still breastfeed to sleep but she would sleep through the night and no breast until the sun is out. To be honest, when she started sleeping through the night it wasn’t really a ‘wow’ moment for me. It was so natural and gradual, that when it finally happened, it was a one of those things that felt just right. It felt peaceful and it was meant to happen. No cries, no tears.
Conclusion. Was it hard to ‘wait it out’? Yes. Was it worth it to ‘wait it out’? Yes. My hats off to all the mamas who managed to sleep train their baby. I wish I could, but Little Miss was quite uncooperative, and obviously I couldn’t stand her cries.
Lots of cuddles in our house!
And If you have a very good sleeper – good on you. I am so happy for you because you don’t have to either ‘cry it out’ or ‘wait it out’.
In the meantime, to all the mamas who are reading this on their smartphone, in the middle of the night, trying to find solution. It doesn’t matter if you decide to cry it out or wait it out. It’s your baby, it’s your home and it’s your unique family situation. You decide what is best for you and your baby. For you considering to wait it out – it will be tough. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will happen one day. Trust me. It happened to me.