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THE BIG SLEEP LIE

1
We were blessed with a super relaxed, downright lazy newborn. She slept for weeks – morning, noon and night, rousing for a gentle feed and then sleeping again. My husband and I didn’t tell anyone for fear of looking smug, but in truth, we were smug. We believed our own hype – we must be amazingly laid back parents, the kind we’d always heard people talking about wistfully as if they were the best. We had a few bad nights of feeding frenzies but generally the first few months passed without incident. We had that highly prized commodity – a GOOD
SelfishMother.com
2
SLEEPER.

Then I met a sleep expert. She was disguised as a nanny so I didn’t see it coming. I was at a baby group breastfeeding my daughter under a vast swaddle until she snoozed when the nanny I was sat next to asked, “Do you always feed her to sleep?” to which I guilelessly replied, “Oh yeh, it’s amazing – totally works. She’s a GOOD SLEEPER.” That was then the nanny revealed her other job, an expert in infant sleep habits. And apparently feeding a baby to sleep wasn’t one of the things she touted to her clients, it was a terrible

SelfishMother.com
3
habit which I would curse down the line. I gulped and muttered some vague attempts at excuses – “breastfeeding is good”, “she likes it”, “she sleeps through the night”, etc. – and looked down at my nipple sitting on the lower lip of an open cherubic mouth. What could possibly be wrong with this?

I read up and discovered a LOT according to the majority. The Baby Whisperer and Gina Ford were mocking me in my head. “A good sleeper? PAH! Your baby already has a major crutch, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE HER CRACK!!” I discussed it with my

SelfishMother.com
4
husband and we decided to start putting Emie down while she was still awake. It was the hellish ordeal I’m sure many of you are familiar with, and I turned to umpteen books and even to Twitter to find a way we could teach her to sleep without a boob or any screaming, which was unbearable to us both. Nothing worked, she cried a fair amount, she stopped napping, she stopped sleeping altogether. I kept reading about babies’ cortisol levels rising through sleep training until they’d made an irreparable impact. We went back to the boob, she was a GOOD
SelfishMother.com
5
SLEEPER again and peace was restored. We told ourselves she might be the exception to the rule, and also that she was probably hungrier than other babies and that she needed a fuller stomach to sleep. Because that sounds viable, right? I pushed thoughts of breastfeeding a 10 year old out of my mind.

Flash forward to my daughter’s 9th month and you’ll find me pale and wan, eyes mere pissholes in the snow, teeth clenched, hair lank. Emie wasn’t sleeping night or day and everytime she woke I was feeding her, desperately trying to get her to drop

SelfishMother.com
6
off. It wasn’t working. I was sore and sleep-deprived and kicking myself. I was crawling out of her room on all fours, holding onto the door frame and swinging out to avoid the creaking boards, all so that she wouldn’t wake up and whittle my nipple away with her burgeoning teeth. I was placing her in her cot while she was still clamped to my breast, so that I spent many an hour hanging over the cot sides, feet flapping in the air, trying to gently and imperceptibly remove my nipple from her mouth. Then I started getting into her cot. Somehow I
SelfishMother.com
7
thought – in my delirious state – this was better than having her in bed with us, which would surely become another destructive habit.

I found people to make what I was doing feel ok, of course. The Wait-It-Out method advocates doing whatever’s necessary to coax your child into good sleep habits – breastfeeding, patting, soothing – until they reach an independent, ‘self-soothing’ state themselves. The tide is turning towards breastfeeding as a GOOD method in fact, thinking it nurtures a more confident, secure child. But what if you

SelfishMother.com
8
don’t breastfeed?! What if you’re not there one evening? What if you’re ill (as has happened to me before)?

And call me selfish, call me cold but I just can’t do all these crazy soothing routines night after night, one hand twisted into the cot through the minute gap between bars, head balanced on a stack of books on the floor, bum hovering just above the squeaky floorboard. I can’t get up four or five times in the night and not be a crap mum during the day because I’m so knackered. At one point I actually thought I was going insane,

SelfishMother.com
9
shouting at my husband that there was a monkey on my bedside table nibbling on my lamp, seeing non-existent spiders dangling over his head in bed, being convinced he had stuffed our baby under the duvet to keep her quiet. Mad.

Eventually, the very nanny-cum-sleep-expert I had met months before showed me a new way. I tried the Gradual Retreat Method. I put Emie down awake, sat next to the cot until she stopped shuffling around, moved to the chair at the end of her cot, then less than a minute later, told her I was going into my room next door and I’d

SelfishMother.com
10
see her in the morning. After some confusion at the start Emie totally got it (possibly because she was old enough to understand, possibly because she didn’t actually need all the patting, singing and cajoling anyway) and now we have that retreat down to about 45 seconds in total.

But don’t think for one moment that’s IT. We still have the odd night when she wakes up and won’t settle, or won’t go down without a fight. And of the 10 or so mums I know who have a GOOD SLEEPER, they too have those nights, or the surprise 5am wake-ups, the

SelfishMother.com
11
toddler starfished in their bed, the total refusal to nap. Teething, developmental changes, separation anxiety, sleep regression, we’ve had it all and never take a full night’s sleep for granted. But what we have learnt is consistency is everything.

I met a midwife the other day who was telling me she felt that rather than reading Gina Ford et al, we should all just learn to read our babies. I agreed in theory but said that I felt powerless and completely stupid when it came to sleep, and I wish I’d read one of those methods to nail it in the

SelfishMother.com
12
early days. She shrugged and replied, “Being a parent is hard, you sleep less – that’s it. I wish more people knew that from the get-go.”

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

SelfishMother.com
Grace Timothy

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- 14 Dec 14

We were blessed with a super relaxed, downright lazy newborn. She slept for weeks – morning, noon and night, rousing for a gentle feed and then sleeping again. My husband and I didn’t tell anyone for fear of looking smug, but in truth, we were smug. We believed our own hype – we must be amazingly laid back parents, the kind we’d always heard people talking about wistfully as if they were the best. We had a few bad nights of feeding frenzies but generally the first few months passed without incident. We had that highly prized commodity – a GOOD SLEEPER.

Then I met a sleep expert. She was disguised as a nanny so I didn’t see it coming. I was at a baby group breastfeeding my daughter under a vast swaddle until she snoozed when the nanny I was sat next to asked, “Do you always feed her to sleep?” to which I guilelessly replied, “Oh yeh, it’s amazing – totally works. She’s a GOOD SLEEPER.” That was then the nanny revealed her other job, an expert in infant sleep habits. And apparently feeding a baby to sleep wasn’t one of the things she touted to her clients, it was a terrible habit which I would curse down the line. I gulped and muttered some vague attempts at excuses – “breastfeeding is good”, “she likes it”, “she sleeps through the night”, etc. – and looked down at my nipple sitting on the lower lip of an open cherubic mouth. What could possibly be wrong with this?

I read up and discovered a LOT according to the majority. The Baby Whisperer and Gina Ford were mocking me in my head. “A good sleeper? PAH! Your baby already has a major crutch, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE HER CRACK!!” I discussed it with my husband and we decided to start putting Emie down while she was still awake. It was the hellish ordeal I’m sure many of you are familiar with, and I turned to umpteen books and even to Twitter to find a way we could teach her to sleep without a boob or any screaming, which was unbearable to us both. Nothing worked, she cried a fair amount, she stopped napping, she stopped sleeping altogether. I kept reading about babies’ cortisol levels rising through sleep training until they’d made an irreparable impact. We went back to the boob, she was a GOOD SLEEPER again and peace was restored. We told ourselves she might be the exception to the rule, and also that she was probably hungrier than other babies and that she needed a fuller stomach to sleep. Because that sounds viable, right? I pushed thoughts of breastfeeding a 10 year old out of my mind.

Flash forward to my daughter’s 9th month and you’ll find me pale and wan, eyes mere pissholes in the snow, teeth clenched, hair lank. Emie wasn’t sleeping night or day and everytime she woke I was feeding her, desperately trying to get her to drop off. It wasn’t working. I was sore and sleep-deprived and kicking myself. I was crawling out of her room on all fours, holding onto the door frame and swinging out to avoid the creaking boards, all so that she wouldn’t wake up and whittle my nipple away with her burgeoning teeth. I was placing her in her cot while she was still clamped to my breast, so that I spent many an hour hanging over the cot sides, feet flapping in the air, trying to gently and imperceptibly remove my nipple from her mouth. Then I started getting into her cot. Somehow I thought – in my delirious state – this was better than having her in bed with us, which would surely become another destructive habit.

I found people to make what I was doing feel ok, of course. The Wait-It-Out method advocates doing whatever’s necessary to coax your child into good sleep habits – breastfeeding, patting, soothing – until they reach an independent, ‘self-soothing’ state themselves. The tide is turning towards breastfeeding as a GOOD method in fact, thinking it nurtures a more confident, secure child. But what if you don’t breastfeed?! What if you’re not there one evening? What if you’re ill (as has happened to me before)?

And call me selfish, call me cold but I just can’t do all these crazy soothing routines night after night, one hand twisted into the cot through the minute gap between bars, head balanced on a stack of books on the floor, bum hovering just above the squeaky floorboard. I can’t get up four or five times in the night and not be a crap mum during the day because I’m so knackered. At one point I actually thought I was going insane, shouting at my husband that there was a monkey on my bedside table nibbling on my lamp, seeing non-existent spiders dangling over his head in bed, being convinced he had stuffed our baby under the duvet to keep her quiet. Mad.

Eventually, the very nanny-cum-sleep-expert I had met months before showed me a new way. I tried the Gradual Retreat Method. I put Emie down awake, sat next to the cot until she stopped shuffling around, moved to the chair at the end of her cot, then less than a minute later, told her I was going into my room next door and I’d see her in the morning. After some confusion at the start Emie totally got it (possibly because she was old enough to understand, possibly because she didn’t actually need all the patting, singing and cajoling anyway) and now we have that retreat down to about 45 seconds in total.

But don’t think for one moment that’s IT. We still have the odd night when she wakes up and won’t settle, or won’t go down without a fight. And of the 10 or so mums I know who have a GOOD SLEEPER, they too have those nights, or the surprise 5am wake-ups, the toddler starfished in their bed, the total refusal to nap. Teething, developmental changes, separation anxiety, sleep regression, we’ve had it all and never take a full night’s sleep for granted. But what we have learnt is consistency is everything.

I met a midwife the other day who was telling me she felt that rather than reading Gina Ford et al, we should all just learn to read our babies. I agreed in theory but said that I felt powerless and completely stupid when it came to sleep, and I wish I’d read one of those methods to nail it in the early days. She shrugged and replied, “Being a parent is hard, you sleep less – that’s it. I wish more people knew that from the get-go.”

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

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