Tonight I'm stressed. I'm sitting at the end of my dining room table with my phone to one side of me sending complaining messages to Ian at work. On the other side sits a big cup of tea and a block of turkish delight chocolate. In the not so distant vicinity is Oli wailing. Moments ago he was having a lengthy babbling conversation with the stickers on his wall above his cot. This babbling has now turned into whingey ala-mama-where-the-hell-are-you?! The time is 8.29pm and Oli's bedtime is 7-7.30. The problem tonight was the magical boob didn't put him to sleep like it usually would have. To be honest its my fault. I got too cocky, I thought ha! I know I'll let him stay up playing a little longer before his bath so I can peruse youtube as he chase/crawls after his balloon. PURE genius! He will be more tired and I will have him down and dusted so I can watch an episode of Chicago Fire! Well my little friend had other plans, boy did he have other plans. It started with the twitching, the closed eyes but back arching. I can handle this I thought...I'll sit on the foot stool and rock back and forth like I do every night. No luck, the back arching continues but he started trying to sit up! Ok rock and walk to his room, the door is closed. Amateur mistake! I open his door and as I do it mades an almighty squeak and he just about jumps out of my arms with eyes as wide as saucers. He starts to protest as if to say 'you are NOT putting me in that cot woman!'
Ok, an update! Its now 8.44pm and Oli is sleeping soundly. I didn't really know where I was going with this post so instead of complaining, I will share how we went from this situation every day to a nearly perfect sleeper! When Oli came home from hospital he was in a perfect 3 hourly routine like clockwork. In his hospital cot he slept and slept. I would feed him, connect up his NG, pop him into his cot and walk away, he was instantly asleep! When we got home I did the same thing minus the NG feed, and of course he was hungry! Therefore the cycle of shitty sleep begun. Up until four or five months of age Oli slept in our arms or in the carrier, sometimes in his pram. It was a living nightmare, we were so sleep deprived, I didn't have a second to myself during the day. I literally couldn't do a thing because he was always on me! The evenings were the worst, one of us would put him in the carrier and start the constant walking until he was asleep, hoping to be able to transfer him into his cot for the night. It rarely worked. The breaking point for me was when we were leaving the house for a walk at 8.30pm, Oli screaming in the carrier on Ian, our cups of tea in hand and my pockets stuffed with easter eggs. Although this situation was funny at the time, kind of in the 'we are so lame these days' sort of way, I knew it had to stop. Enough was enough, we were exhausted. I needed time to myself and Ian had become far too friendly with the local possums - thats how many late night walks he was doing. I started researching, reading up on options. I looked at Ngala, it was so expensive and I didn't like some of the things I had heard about it being controlled crying. I came across Caroline's Angels and I must say...the name is true! From the day Caroline stepped into our front door my life changed! We received a plan and a few visits and Oli didn't need to sleep in our arms anymore! I wont go into every detail but I will list some of the mistakes we were making. (I'll emphasise right now - Oli still wakes up in the night, comes into our bed, has his shitty days and nights. We are definitly a work in progress with the sleep but had massive improvements since the early days. I'm not boasting here, I just want to share these tips that may help you too!!)
He wakes up as soon as I put him in his cot
This was our main issue. We would just get Oli off to sleep, slip him into his cot like a ninja and suddenly he would be awake again! And so the cycle begins. My tip here is to settle him IN the cot. I don't mean self settling, cry it out, dummy in bye bye. I mean hands on, right there with him, providing comfort. We were taught to make sure he was fed, clean nappy, and not overtired. Pop him into the cot, dummy in, hands around his body and gently rock back and forth. If he was protesting - which he did and still does at times, a continuous Shh, Shh, Shh helps to settle. I'm going to be honest, you have to persevere. Oli kicked up a fuss and cried heaps but once he just started to settle its within seconds he's asleep. I couldn't believe my eyes the first time! If I had been rocking him and trying to settle him in my arms he would have cried more! Please try this! It's amazing! Another question Caroline asked us was how soon do we pick Ol up from his cot when he's crying? I would pick him up instantly! She told me to put it in his perspective...his mum puts him in the cot, he starts crying and is picked up instantly. He starts to believe his cot isn't a safe place! Why would his mummy pick him up straight away and be so stressed if it was a safe, nice place? This was an Aha moment for me!
He just wont settle to sleep in our arms in the evenings
Picture this...a full day with Oli. The only time apart has been to do a quick toilet trip. I have hardly eaten because I can't prepare anything with him in my arms. Ian's been at work all day. Oli's kicked off from 4pm with the intense crying of the witching hours. It's above 30 degrees, it's too hot to go outside. My mum and mum in law live in the country. I'm so desserted! The evening rolls around and Ian and I start taking it in turns to rock Oli off to sleep. Keeping in mind my day, you can imagine the tense vibes I'm giving off. I'm stressing Ian, he's stressing me and guess what! Oli is so stressed from the two most wired people that he refuses to sleep at all! My shoulders are up around my ears, I'm jiggling him up and down and Shhing like my life depends on it. It was so clear that he wouldn't settle with a crazy person like me but I thought my only option was that or to have him cry it out! Getting him in that cot and rocking him meant that he wasn't picking up our intense crazy vibes! In our arms all of our anxiety, stress and exhaustion were passing onto him and it was a vicious cycle. I just didn't want him on me anymore! Of course, theres nothing wrong with settling bub in your arms but if it isn't working maybe look at how your feeling ask yourself this could be the root cause. This is why it's so great to have someone else there to settle bub! An independent third party who really isn't phased by the screaming as they think of their nice bed at home..someone who has been put off kids for life and has been known to scream "I don't give a fuck what the neighbours think about the crying!!!!" I'm looking at your Aunty Meg.
He goes back to sleep in the night time easily after a feed but not the day
This is clear to me now. During the night Oli would wake for a feed and then be asleep before I got back into my bedroom! He would go back to sleep in his cot or bassinet easily without even waking! Why couldnt he do this during the day? This was because during the day I was missing his tired cues, I would play, play, play and stimulate him to the point of no return! He was too wired so when I eventually did try and get him to sleep it just wasn't happening. I did begin to notice when he woke around 7-730 he would always be tired about 930. I then started to put him down around 1.5-2 hours after he last woke.This caught him in that little window and it was easy to get him to sleep. I would watch for him rubbing his eyes, pulling his ears, avoiding my face etc. I'll never forget what my child health nurse told me about babies and stimulation - she said if you watched a babies brain on an scan it lights up light a christmas tree when they see a face. It's so overwhelming for them at the best of times but when they are tired they look away! Here I was thinking I had the most intelligent infant whos playing peekaboo already...well no proud mama, he's just tired!! Read up on baby cues, learn about your baby! Make a rough plan for the day or just try and think hey when did he wake up last? When he get's to crying and worked up then its going to be a mission to get him to sleep.
Some nights he is up till 11pm and some nights down at 8pm
Looking back now I just don't know how I got through these days of sleep deprivation! My evenings are my time now. I blog, do crafty stuff, fold clothes, spend time with Ian or just it on facebook and insta for about 4 hours straight! Back in the days when Oli was difficult to settle I just had no time to myself. Some nights he settled at 8,9,10,11pm. The key for us was, I know so cliche....getting in a routine. This little phrase drove me mad back then! I cried so many tears about people saying I should be in a routine when I wasn't! In the early days I don't think you can really get into a routine! Well I know we couldn't, the time for us was when Oli started solids. It was so easy to follow then; boob, breakfast, sleep,boob,lunch,sleep,boob,dinner,bath,boob,sleep! I forgot the play, there was some playing in there I'm not one for regimented routines hehe. Under 4 or so months it's hard because they are so little they just want to breastfeed all the time! I really don't think I can give advice on that because my life was an absolute mess then! Routine, hahaha! Nowadays I think that's why Oli is so much better to settle in the evenings. He knows the routine - after his bath we say goodnight to all the rooms ,dim the lights, then he gets into his pjs and has a drink and goes to sleep! It's just so easy, it's reassuring and it works! You will find your own little routine and what works for you. Structure helped us. Just do what you need to survive in the early days before the set meal times are there to guide you.
There's a few little tips! I found getting Oli out of my arms, falling asleep in his cot and getting into a evening routine helped us immensely. I would so highly recommend getting a sleep consultant out to your house to help if you are in the same situation. We were beyond tired, stressed and completely frazzled! Yes, its expensive but its COMPLETELY worth it! I began to feel normal when I started getting snippits of time to myself during the day and in the evenings. I wouldn't have started this blog if I didn't have Oli sleeping! Sleep deprivation is soul destroying, it was a huge factor in my declining mental health back in those early days. Ask for help, you will not regret it!! Something I often thought was 'maybe I shouldn't cuddle him so much and have him sleeping on me in the early days' No! That time is so precious, I could have gone on cuddling him to sleep all the time but it just wasn't working for me. I was suffering and in turn Oli was suffering. Happy mama = happy baby!