The only preorder I had for my baby was that I got one that slept. That is the only thing I wanted chubby, skinny, tall, short, intelligent, not so intelligent. I didn’t really care I just wanted one that slept because I loooove my sleep. I could have easily slept between 8-9 hours on a week night and longer on the weekend. Boy did I love a sleep in too, those lazy mornings when I woke up around 8:30 and then played with my phone for a while just no where to be or to go. So that was my only request a baby that slept.
Well the baby gods didn’t heed my prayer in fact they thought, life has been too cruisy for you thus far lets us shake it up a little! Now I want to preface this story with the fact that I know things could be much worse, ok. In my quest to help my daughter sleep better I have discovered some absolutely exhausting stories of mothers who’s children sleep no where other than on them until they’re 2,3,4,5,6.
In the first 6 months of my daughter’s life I have never been so completely utterly exhausted. I was so tired it felt like my bones were tired. I’d fall asleep on the couch at 7:30 every night but without fail when the baby was sleeping during the day it would take me 20-30 minutes to fall asleep as well. Of course, Rose was only sleeping 40 minutes on her own if I was lucky, so I would only just get to sleep when she would be awake again. There is nothing quite as painful as only just falling asleep and hearing your charge start to stir. I remember thinking this wasn’t what I had signed up for I wanted all the good parts not bone tired exhaustion. Before you have a baby, when you think about what it will be like to have a baby, you are well rested, even when pregnant all that ‘tired’ is not as bad as when the baby actually arrives.
Rose was also a little baby which meant she needed to feed regularly so I was generally up every 2-3 hours at night. I was coping kind of, but people around me keep suggesting I should go to a sleep school because you know past 6 weeks babies should be sleeping through the night… definitely by 3 months. No, no, no, if this is you, if people are telling you there is something wrong with you baby because they’re up this much at this age… just no. It is completely normal, in fact I believe it’s completely normal for babies to wake up through the night for many nights, weeks and months. We need to stop putting so much pressure on new mothers to conform to these archaic ideas, babies wake for a cuddle because you know they’re vulnerable, more commonly they wake to feed because you know small stomachs! Just roll with it, however if it is affecting your wellbeing then get help. Or try to understand why they’re waking up. Sometimes I found I just needed to give my daughter a minute or two and she would resettle. I wanted her to learn she was safe, but if she needed me to reassure her I was there.
You can probably tell I’m not a ‘cry it out’ mum, personally I believe this is a negative experience for everyone, to have to shut your emotions off from your baby and be ‘tough’ or ‘strong’ just doesn’t sit well with me. I’m also not a fan of sleep training. Human babies are the most vulnerable newborns in the world. They have zero defences and are just sitting ducks for a predator. Hence why babies have an intrinsic want to be with you all the time, you are their protection! It took me a while to come to this conclusion, I tried to settle my child on her own, I patted, rubbed, I left her to cry once… it only took once because I picked her up and she clung to me like she was terrified and sobbed. I never did it again. Being a mum is tough job please don’t feel like I am judging you if you have used these methods, I was totally on board with them too, until I actually had a baby and now I feel like I know a little better. Don’t get me wrong it can be just as exhausting co napping with baby, as you still don’t have time to do anything and sometimes you don’t feel like you get a break at all.
Eventually I just realised I needed to go with it, so until Rose was 5 months I held her for every nap. I watched a lot of TV and read a lot of books, around 5 months I was able to get her settled on the bed next to me, so I could teach her to go to sleep with me there, but not on me. She would wake up see me there and go straight back to sleep. At 5 months Rose was still waking up 3 times a night, this btw is also completely normal! Around 9 months I noticed one day she rolled away from me and did not wake up for 2 hours… It was at that point I decided I would put her in her cot every nap once she was asleep and see. Just like that she slept for 1.5 hours in her cot alone. I. Was. Free!!! But I was so used to sleeping with her I didn’t know what to do!
I had to change my whole perspective on babies, sleep and my ability to get things done. The necessities had to take priority and the things I wanted to do well they got forgotten, this time doesn’t last forever and I am grateful that I took the time to cuddle my baby when she needed it. She’s now 14 months old, and she still wakes up once a night for a bottle and goes back to bed. It sucks but its manageable at the moment, her nap lengths are all over the place but mainly two naps a day for 1-1.5 hours in her cot alone. I like to think I’ve taught her that our bedroom is safe space, she is safe, and I will always come for her, even if her nap is only for 20 minutes.
Society sets us up with all sorts of expectations for babies, there is an old school way of thinking that immediately starts pushing a baby away from their mother. They need to sleep alone, play alone and my favourite ‘crying is good for their lungs’. My baby doesn’t cry much but I can tell you her lungs are perfectly fine. Don’t feel pressured to do any of these things, it will all come with time. You won’t be pinned under that baby forever, and when they don’t want to cuddle with you anymore you will miss their warm snuggly bodies.
Oh blackout blinds and a noise machine helps too! It can be any kind of music I find that it helps her sleep as it cuts out background noise.
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