So I took a poll on Twitter to see what people would be most interested to read about and sleep was the outright winner.
It’s a huge concern for most parents, and it’s been a funny one for us, as it’s been somewhat confused by the cruel baby condition that affects 25%: reflux. (I’ll come back to that in a minute though).
Most importantly for me with sleep, was to read everything the Lullaby Trust advises for safe sleep. Sleeping on their back, without any toys in the bed, and with a breathable sheet positioned below the arms – or usually for us, using a sleeping bag so we know she can’t pull a blanket over her face. I’d definitely advise reading their guidance on safe sleep.
I also can’t praise enough the Angel care monitor. (This is not an ad, just my personal experience after buying it!)
I researched baby monitors with sound and video plus motion sensor, before she was born. And after looking at the options, this one suited our needs best, and had the best reviews – we got it on offer at Amazon. It gives us total peace of mind that it is monitoring her movements, and has an alarm built in. So for someone who’s a worrier like me, it’s one of the best baby purchases I’ve made!
Okay, so first thing’s first, because of reflux, in the early days she struggled to get to sleep at all during the day – we couldn’t lie her down in her Moses basket and even being put on her changing mat or in a car seat, hours after a feed was painful.
We didn’t know why and some people thought she was doing it for attention or to be picked up. But she was too young at that stage to be that aware and the cry was a painful one so we trusted our instincts and took her to the doctor, and then eventually the hospital, where it was diagnosed.
I’ll post separately on this at some point, but basically she was diagnosed with bad reflux. Some babies get this and just throw up a bit of milk, but she would throw up large amounts and couldn’t be put down because it gave her horrendous pain as the milk would come back up with stomach acid.
How Reflux still affects sleep:
So because of this being an ongoing issue (that she’ll hopefully grow out of by the time she’s 1) we still have to keep her upright for at least 30 mins after a feed now at nearly 7 months old, to give the milk a bit of time to go down. Which obviously complicates things with sleep!
The difficulty with this is that she quite often falls asleep straight after a bottle. So she is then upright on us for 30 mins asleep, then the moment we pop her down she wakes up.
So I do find myself just letting her have her sleep out on me after at least a couple of feeds as I’d rather that than an overtired, distressed babba. Plus it means extra cuddies! Housework can wait as i won’t get this precious time back. And the other times she usually gets herself to sleep anyway.
Signs that baby’s ready to nap:
We’ve been led by her mostly with her daytime naps, we look out for those tell tale signs: rubbing her eyes/ yawning, and we try to catch her while she’s in this window and before she goes overtired.
Our nap routine (winging it, within parameters!):
We don’t have a strict timing routine on naps, but I know she’s happy when she’s had at least 2 decent naps of at least an hour usually in morning and afternoon, followed by shorter naps after other feeds. She never normally naps before her bed feed though. But every baby is different.
She’s always struggled a bit with day naps, which stems from reflux. So we tried to establish early on when she’s not on us because she’s just been fed, that she goes into her Moses basket (in the early days) or now her cot or play pen to get herself off to sleepyville.
For bedtime, she roughly has her bedtime feed between 8-8.30pm and wakes up next morning between 7-7.30am. We didn’t do anything to cultivate this though – it’s just her own little routine she put herself in! And I appreciate how lucky we are, though at first I was worried but she takes all her recommended food spread out across the day time so she gets what she needs.
Setting the scene so it’s cosier than Macca Pacca’s cave!:
We have the curtains drawn in the daytime so it’s dimly lit and put some lullabies on usually so she associates it with sleepy time. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t! But she’s pretty good at it nowadays. Her medicine has helped a lot with her comfort at being laid down now.
If not though, I’ll pop her down on her play mat or somewhere instead of picking her up and holding her if it’s clear she’s not going to go asleep, or if I do hold her I’ll read her a book or something so she knows I’m not going to just pick her up and rock her to sleep every time.
Desperate times = throwing out the rule book:
There are always times when I resort to rocking her though – although it’s regarded as bad mum practice! My view on this is you know your own baby best, and I know when she’s genuinely not herself and needs her mum to cuddle her closer that day, and rock her to sleep if need be. These times have only been few: only with teething, or after immunisations usually.
So there you are…!
I don’t claim to be an expert at all, these are just the experiences we’ve had. She woke up every 3 hours in the first few months through the night, then just miraculously went to bed one night at 3 months old and slept through! It was amazing!
But we’ve been very lucky with night time sleep (up to now anyway, but one thing with babies is it never stays the same!)
The best advice I’ve read/ been given though is as follows (but may not work for everyone!):
- If your baby wakes crying in the night, try to soothe them in the cot first before picking them up (stroking their hair/ rubbing their belly etc)
- If they wake for food in the night, try to avoid changing their clothes if possible, as the cold will wake them fully (obviously this can’t be avoided if they’ve done a huge poo though!)
- Invest in a sensor night light for your hall way, and turn all other lights off at bed time and keep TVs off etc while giving them their bedtime feed to create a quiet, dark setting so your baby knows it’s bed time. (We have one lamp on for the bedtime feed as you can see below!)
- Black out blinds or curtains in your room/ their nursery are also a winner, especially for summer months
- A bath before bed is a great way of winding them down for bed too
- Try to use quieter voices/ not get them excited with vigorous play/ have TV on or bright lights and noise at least twenty minutes before bed. Reading a book/ singing lullabies/ stroking your baby’s hair will help to relax them before bed
- We tried her with a dummy multiple times but she wouldn’t have it, but likes a comfort blanket to snuggle with. However, if she’s not in the same room, I wait until she’s dropped off then remove it straightaway. This prevents any work about her pulling it over her face.
I hope this has made some sort of sense, and just explains a little bit what we’ve encountered with sleep. Just like us, babies need their sleep to be healthy and happy and it’s so frustrating for them when they can’t snatch it. But you know your baby best, and if in doubt ask a health visitor or your GP if you’re worried.
But sometimes it’s just trial and error, and when you do get them to drift off and they’re snuggled in your arms, it’s the best feeling in the world. Especially when they wake with happy smiles after!
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and experiences – feel free to leave your comments below!