Friday, 7 August 2009

The Big Sleep (issue)

Kim Hong from Fleishman Hillard sent me a Pampers Golden Sleep Kit recently. It contained:

  • Golden Sleep Guide
  • Fairy fabric conditioner
  • Golden Sleep ‘Taggies’ sleep comforter
  • Golden Sleep CD of lullabies
  • £1 Pampers vouchers

If you want a chance to win a kit of your own, you can fill out a 5-minute survey. There is also an opportunity to go on board the Golden Sleep Train, which you’ll find at:

  • Westfield Shopping Centre, London (this weekend)
  • Trafford Shopping Centre, Manchester (Saturday and Sunday 16-17 August)
  • Silverburn Shopping Centre, Glasgow (Saturday and Sunday 22-23 August).

So… this kit got me thinking about sleep issues and how we will help Eleanor to sleep. The booklet has a bunch of tips, most of which made me nod and say ‘Yes, that’s a good idea.’ and almost none of which we did with Rosemary. The one that got me in particular was:

Babies should be helped to learn how to fall asleep alone. If a baby can do this at at naps and bedtime, it will help them to go back to sleep after waking during the night (self-soothing).

Yeah. We didn’t do that. And, as we had been warned by most people, from health visitors, to grandparents, to friends, we had issues for a long time. Rosemary nursed to sleep almost exclusively. It took a concerted effort on Chris’ part to get her to go to sleep in the evening without mummy milk. Unless she fell asleep in her buggy, she pretty much never went down for a nap without it and gave up her afternoon nap at the same time as she stopped having milk. And she has only just started regularly sleeping through the night and still has some nights where she’ll wake a few times.

I didn’t really mind it for the first year, as I am of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with comforting a baby, however they need it. I dislike people saying you’re spoiling a baby by letting her nap on you or people talking about using your nipples as dummies (ahem, it’s the other way round; the dummies are nipple substitutes). But after a year, it did get a bit annoying and also somewhat constricting – not really possible to go out for a drink with friends, for example, unless it was for about two hours before bedtime (which wasn’t until 10pm in those days).

So, the plan is to try to do better for Eleanor (and me – let’s face it) and help her learn to fall asleep herself, as well as accustoming her to sleeping among lots of noise (well, she’ll have to really, with a little sister as energetic as Rosemary).

But there’s a problem. The closer I get to holding her in my arms, the further removed I get from this plan and the closer I get to my needs and desires to provide comfort in whatever way she needs it, even if that means nursing to sleep. And, well, you know, nursing to sleep has some great benefits, especially in the middle of the night. You produce this great hormone that not only helps the baby go back to sleep, but also helps you get back to sleep. Fantastic. I didn’t really mind being woken up a couple of times a night when I knew I would be able to get back to sleep really easily. It’s really easy to comfort your baby by sticking a boob in her mouth. She was pretty fine with all her jabs, because the second it was over she had a breastfeed, and often went to sleep. Don’t know how she’ll cope with the next lot – chocolate probably. And I’m remembering how lovely it was to have her fall asleep on me, or next to me if we were having a lie-down feed. It was a beautiful feeling to be able to give her the peace of dropping off to sleep.

Hopefully Chris will be able to remind me about all the things I disliked to about nursing to sleep. I’m sure there were plenty.

So… what do you think? Train them up for self-soothing as early as possible? Nurse to sleep as much as possible?


  1. Hello darling - it's me. I'm really here. I'm so sorry I've missed the last few of your posts - I'm going to go back and have a read when I get a mo, but for tonight I'll give you my two pennies worth on this fed Renée myself for 10 months and nursed her to sleep whenever possible. When I didn't I had to rock her endlessley, sing to her, pace around the room with her, lie her down in her cot only for her to wake just as he head hit the mattress so the whole lengthy process had to be started all over again. At the time it was exhausting, but as she was my first child, I was prepared to do anything for her. When Edie came along, I swore I was going to do things differently - and I did. Partly because I needed to be kind to myself and partly because with the second child (or subsequent children) you just don't have the time to faff around with either of the children - you've got double the work to do so you have no choice but to try to make it easy for yourself. I fed Edie for much less time (4 months) probably because I felt I wasn't producing as much as she needed and because of that she had to get herself to sleep rather than being nursed. But also, and this was probably the most helpful thing, she founf her thumb at about 6 weeks. And ever since then she has been an amazing sleeper - she hardly ever wakes up in the night (or if she does I won't know about it because she'll justs tick her thumb straight back in and go back to sleep). So...what a long comment I'm leaving...don't worry about whether you're going to nurse Eleanor to sleep or not - time and practicalities will dictate I think...and even though all children are different, it will be much easier second time round... xxxxxxx

  2. Ah, the finding of the thumb! I remember lots of mums being very excited about that and others waiting and saying 'It'll all be OK, as soon as he finds his thumb.' Rosemary never found hers. Maybe Eleanor will. Or who knows. As you say, it will work out how it works out. I think you're right that it will be different by necessity, just because Rosemary is there, and there won't be time to do the rocking and pacing and non-stop feeding. (I remember the head hitting the mattress and immediately waking up problem very well. I got to the point where I would climb into the cot with her and lie down and gradually move her, bit by bit, onto the mattress and then lie there for 10 minutes until I was confident she was asleep. Only to repeat the process a few hours later!) But if it ends up that she needs nursing to sleep and I need to get to sleep in order to be awake at 6 when Rosemary gets up, I will nurse her to sleep!

  3. I wouldn't stress about what some book (and our culture) says you *should* be doing about your baby's sleep patterns. My rule of thumb is that if it feels right and is working for you, why change it? Until you personally are getting fed up with nursing to sleep or getting up in the night, there is no reason to put yourself into battle with your baby just to appease the masses and what *they* think you should be doing. Are they going to come into your room in the middle of the night and get the baby back to sleep without nursing? Nope! So they don't get an opinion.

    I stressed myself out so much with my first and what I was SUPPOSED to be doing. I later wished I'd just followed my instincts and not listened to those that insisted I had to squash those in order to be a "good mother." Bollocks. Next time around I decided to just go with the flow and not stress about it.

    My son is nearly 11 months and we co-slept for the first 6 and then he went into a cot beside our bed, where he still is. He still wakes up at least once most nights but I don't mind b/c instead of trying to pace around the room with him or getting angry and frustrated because some book said he shouldn't be hungry b/c he'd only been fed a few hours ago, I just give him what he needs to send him back to sleep and then I do the same. No stress, no fuss. He'll get the hang of sleeping on his own in due course. I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect a baby to sleep through for 12 hours without a feed or without needing comfort in the first couple years of life. Do what feels right for you and you'll never go wrong. Just my 2p.

  4. I had very similar issues with monkey and at 15 months she is still not an amazing sleeper althogh far, far better than she was. I would say go with your instincts. We found the 'no-cry sleep solution' really helpful. It has tips for encourgaing sleep in a very gentle way which don't involve crying it out and takes into account different situations (co-sleeping, breastfeeding etc). Also, three in a bed by Deborah Jackson for co-sleeping is really good, although Jackson tends to assume co-sleeping will always mean better sleep for you both - not actually my experience!

    The other thing that helped me with monkey was getting a good carrier (we used a Connecta) which she often fell asleep in. I would definitely use a carrier/sling even more with a second child as there will be less opportunity to take a nap in bed next to them etc. When the new baby is very little they can sleep in it and have the contact they need with you but leaving you hands free to run round after Rosemary.

    But every child is different - you may not have the same issues with a second child.

    Those night-time snuggle feeds are lovely aren't they? I do miss them although a full night's sleep is also amazing!

  5. I had breastfeeding issues with both my little people so sadly don't have much experience of the nurse to sleep scenario.

    Having said that, my eldest would only ever fall asleep in my arms, right up until he was 12 months. I really didn't mind. We both enjoyed the snuggles. He's a great sleeper these days.

    I think sometimes your instincts are far more important than what a book asys you should or shouldn't be doing.


  6. Sigh. All the boks and you should this and you should that. And by this and that month your baby should... blah blah blah. I only wish I'd been as confident as today when little L was born. I was so confused.
    I think it really depends on your baby. Sometimes little L needs to be comforted (i.e. nursed) to go to sleep, sometimes not. She regularly falls asleep in my arms when I nurse her. What am I supposed to do, wake her? How mad would that be??? Also, I enjoy those afternoon feeds that end in a nap for both of us. How blissful! It's only for such a short time anyway.
    My advice to every new mum: Do whatever feels right for you and your baby. And don't be afraid to try different approaches. You will find out very quickly if your baby disapproves...

  7. NS: Totally agree about not stressing about what anyone else says *should* be done. We completely found our own way with Rosemary and were happy too, even if there were sometimes issues. What we were wanting to do is learn from our 'mistakes', but as it gets closer, I'm wondering if they were mistakes... I think we may be finding our own way again with Eleanor, somehow, but at least we'll know a bit more this time and it might come easier! And I also agree with you that it's a bit much to expect them to sleep through before a year. So, the nursing back to sleep comes in really handy in the middle of the night.

    Platespinner: I had some great nights' sleep with Rosemary in our bed; Chris, not so much! And these days, there is no way she can come in our bed to sleep; we are far to distracting and she just wants to talk to us! As you say, every child is different, and we'll just have to see what Eleanor thinks about sleeping. Apparently, I slept through for 12 hours the first night my mum brought me home and continued to do so. And I sleep very well and easily still as an adult, whereas Chris has a lot of sleeping problems. Perhaps Eleanor will inherit my ease with sleeping and all this mulling and pondering will turn out to be irrelevant.

    Insomniac Mummy: I was all for instincts with Rosemary, and will probably carry a lot of that through with Eleanor. But it will probably be a bit more difficult to allow her to give the lead completely, purely because of Rosemary being around. I can't very well completely ignore Rosemary all the time, so things may end up being difficult by default.

    Metropolitan Mum: Your advice is the same as I tend to give. I'll usually say something like 'We wish we'd done this or that. But that doesn't matter. Because you need to and will find your own way. Ask for tips, by all means, but don't let anyone tell you what to do, whether it's a book, a website, your mum or your husband!'

  8. We did a bit of both, although not with b/f after 4m, so it was bottle or rocking. We always put him down awake as part of a bedtime routine, but daytime naps and night wakes were mainly for comforting, and he grew out of needing comfort so much. He's 20m now and can be put down awake for naps (used to be sling only), and needs comfort once every other night, which is sometimes just milk,sometimes just seeing mummy, sometimes 30mins of rocking/cuddles,sometimes a few hours of co-sleeping. All of which is fine with us really! I'm a bit concerned for baby 2 as well, think slings will be my friend again, and co-sleeping!

  9. I think it is good if a baby CAN fall asleep alone (as you say). That doesn't mean it has to every time. I know that is a slippery slope, but I do think that letting them fall asleep on their own at least some of the time, does mean that they won't be 100% dependent on the boob. But you have to keep it going, and that is hard.

  10. I meant to say "I do think that letting them fall asleep on their own at least some of the time IN THE EARLY DAYS, etc.

  11. Allgrownup: I think the important thing to remember (for all of us!) is that, even if it takes two or three years, they will get into good sleep habits and none of what we do or don't do is likely to affect them for years and years to come. So it's mostly about what we can live with. Some people can't cope at all with sleepless nights; others don't mind them one bit. Some people are traumatised by leaving a baby/small child to cry; others can cope with it as a means to an end, as long as it's short-lived. The message I'm getting from all these comments is pretty much to do what feels right to you and your family.

    Iota: Yes, I think that's the kind of balance I'd like to go for, if possible. Provide the ability to fall asleep on her own, but help her when she's having trouble. Thinking about, I believe that I was probably more reluctant to let Rosemary fall asleep on her own, because her first week in this world, that's all she got to do. They don't rock you to sleep in SCBU or breastfeed you to sleep. They don't get you out of the incubator for a cuddle if you're crying. They might use some soothing words or a gentle stroke, but that's about it.

  12. I've had one amazingly brilliant sleeper, and one truely terrible one ( 2 1/2 and still a rarity if he goes through the night). We did the same with them both, so just goes to show you need to find what works for you and Eleanor - and even then it might not be the thing.

    We've had some horrendous battles but at least now Luke will go to sleep on his own... sometimes. (he is 2 1/2, he really is old enough now to do it).

    Good luck, you'll work something out!

  13. I was no good at getting them to sleep. I read all the books, I just couldn't leave them to cry, didn't have it in me.

  14. There is a theory that some babies are naturally much better self soothers than others. I think a "mistake" that some people can make is to nurse and sooth their baby to sleep without ever "testing" to see if the baby can self soothe. I'd read a few books, across the spectrums of theories, and with my daughter I nursed her, swaddled her and put her down (in our room next to me) awake but drowsy from the very beginning, and she would just fall asleep on her own. I never did any kind of sleep training with her. The self soothing was part of her nature, but I feel that I help her continue the habit. (I put mistake in "" because of course if you want to nurse your baby to sleep until he or she is three that is just fine and lovely and no one elses business!)

  15. Susanna: Yes, it's so difficult to leave them to cry when they're babies, isn't it? I used to hear Rosemary crying (in my head) when I was in the shower or washing up, which would cause me to panic and stop what I was doing every two minutes to go and check. Actually hearing crying and not going straight to her? Nope. Couldn't do that. It was Chris who had to do it in the end to get her into a bedtime routine without me. Not that it was easy for him, but just a little bit easier.

    Geekymummy: That's an interesting point that not everyone tries to put them down to fall asleep. And some are just natural self-soothers - I'm hoping Eleanor will be one of them! Rosemary spent her first week being left to fall asleep by herself, in the SCBU, and not getting any rocking, breast-feeding or other comfort. I think we may have over-compensated a tad, because of that, though perhaps it wouldn't have made a difference if she hadn't had to go there.

  16. I always fed S to sleep and in the end it became so stressful, but I still breastfed for a year. Baby B is now nearly 13 mths, I am still feeding and she can fall asleep by herself. Sometimes she likes a cuddle and sometimes she falls asleep on the breast too. It's possible for baby to self soothe too and I'm glad we helped her to do that. Good luck with it all and make sure you do what's right for you x

  17. Clareybabble: That sounds promising that you were able to help Baby B to self-soothe. I am quite happy to breastfeed for a long time, but don't want it to become a necessity again. We shall see what happens, though.

  18. Always a relief to know I'm not the only one out there who's ever struggled with sleep because that's what it feels like. In our house we actually think co-sleeping is the unspoken taboo of middle England. Because let's face it, who doesn't do whatever it takes just to get through the night??
    Am researching an article about sleep tips for those eschewing the CIO school. If you know of any, let me know! (Please.)