Sleep. It’s a hot topic in the mama world.
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you will know that as your first bump protrudes it’s only a matter of time before you start hearing, on repeat ‘Enjoy your sleep now because you won’t be getting any at all soon!’ Replace bump for baby, and it’s ‘Oh how are they getting on at night?’ from almost every other person you speak to. Firstly, it’s annoying. Who wants to talk about their baby’s sleeping habits, especially when they’re not getting any! But I have to admit, now that Malala is sleeping at night, I’ve been reminded of how bloody glorious sleep is. No wonder people are interested in talking about it, it’s amazing and it makes you feel great.
We have been pretty lucky with Malala, she has never been a terrible sleeper and has always settled easily. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that babies need to be fed in the night, around every 3 hours at the start. So, no matter what your baby’s temperament, you can wave goodbye to an uninterrupted night time sleep. And if like me, you’re used to being half asleep before your head even hits the pillow, it’s bit of a shock to the system. In our first few months, we found that co-sleeping plus breastfeeding was a good formula for sleep. I didn’t have to get out of bed and could just roll over and lift up my pyjama top whilst dozing. Initially, It worked really well, but with a 6ft2 boyfriend, an oversized whippet and a growing baby all in the bed, my side seemed to gradually be diminishing, leaving me with less sleep each night.
I needed advice on transitioning from co-sleeping to cot bed. I had heard about sleep training or ‘controlled crying’, as it’s sometimes called, but the idea of standing by and leaving my baby to cry for help didn’t sit well with me. I went in search of answers to an OLA Mama event at the beautiful Olive Loves Alfie shop in E20. The shop welcomed a bunch of sleep-seeking mamas and their babies and the guest was sleep consultant, Kerry Secker from Kerry Cares Parenting.
The thing that I loved most about Kerry, was that she didn’t dish out a generic, rigid routine, promising it was the answer for a full nights sleep. Instead, she listened to each and every woman, giving us individual and honest advice that fitted with her overall caring and flexible approach. In fact, the key thing that I took away from the morning wasn’t a piece of her brilliant advice, but a new found confidence to listen to my instincts and do what feels right.
Here are some of Kerry’s top tips that have really stuck with me:
- Don’t worry too much about where or how you get your baby off to sleep, whether it be feeding, rocking, self-settling. If it’s working for you – it’s working! (Anybody who mentions the ‘rod’ that you’re making for your back, can go stick it elsewhere.)
- A likely cause of babies waking in the night, is over-tiredness. When your baby is over-tired, a stress hormone called cortisol is released by the body. With higher levels of cortisol, your baby switches into high-alert mode to prevent them from danger. This means your baby wakes, even though they are tired.
- The best way to prevent over-tiredness at night is by getting on top of daytime naps. Rather than having scheduled nap times, it is best to work around when your baby wakes up. For example, if your little one has woken up earlier than usual, their nap times will need to be earlier than normal too. Kerry gave each of us timeframes for day time naps, having this to follow was by far the best and most useful thing that I learnt! The timings and number of naps needed are dependant on your baby’s age so it’s best to contact Kerry directly if you’re interested in finding out nap timings for your baby.
- Try not to let your baby nap after 3pm (from 6 months).
- Listen to your instincts. Nobody knows your baby better than you, you know when they are asking for help and when it might be okay to leave them for a few minutes. Show them love, care it out! If you are relaxed then they can be too.
I have been following Kerry’s advice since the day of the OLA Mama event and from that very evening, Malala has slept in her own room! We have now reached a point where Malala is sleeping soundly from 7pm until around 7.30am, uninterrupted! Our typical evening routine goes something like this:
5.45pm Dinner time (and hope the dog cleans up for me whilst we go upstairs to wash.)
6.30pm Bath time (no longer than 15 minutes.)
6.40pm Into the nursery, night light on, dummy out, Ewan singing, pyjamas and sleep bag on.
7.10pm Sneak out (and normally trip up or drop something on the way out)
7am Wake up!
I hope that in writing this, I can give other sleep-seekers hope for a good nights sleep. For me, it was just comforting to hear that you can get there without standing outside your baby’s room whilst they cry themselves to sleep, something which seemed so unnatural to me. Some of the things that I’ve learnt to do instead are: keep the baby in her room, rock her using my hand on her chest or picking her up and popping a dummy into her mouth (surely I’m not the only one who swore I wouldn’t use one and gave in by week 3?!)
If you’d like to find out more about the biology of sleep or you have specific questions about your little ones sleeping habits, I cannot recommend contacting Kerry enough. She really is a magical!
Thank you Kerry for the gift of sleep! Now to try and get the dog out of the bed…