Recent topic in the shocked baby household has been about whether we are making things harder for ourselves when it comes to sleep.
We have been hit hard with a nasty cocktail of teething and volcanic heat, which has resulted in a hangover of sleepless nights and tears.
Ozzy used to sleep for about 8 hours through the night, which was a lovely surprise as we were all geared up for no sleep. Then it crept down to 6 hours, then 4, then before we knew it he was struggling to go to sleep, waking every 2 hours and struggling to be settled back again. We moved him into his own room which fixed it, for a week. Then we bought a sleepyhead for his cot which fixed it again – for a week. And now we are back in a muddle of crying, Calpol and co-sleeping. When he sleeps in bed with us, whether in his sleepyhead or on one of our chests, he can sleep for a good 4 or 5 hours. He stirs and whimpers for a feed, which I can do lying down half asleep rather than having to sit in the nursery on the floor, and then he is back off again until the morning. There have been a few occasions where even in bed with us he wakes screaming, but Calpol and a little cuddle often solve this. I’m hoping when this first tooth finally finishes coming through he won’t be in so much discomfort.
We have tried most things to get him to sleep for a longer stretch, and for it to be in his room. Routine, a proper bedtime schedule, a bath before bed, a story, less layers, more layers. An earlier start, a later start, more naps, less naps, Calpol, Nurofen, white noise, a fan, a dark room, a lighter room, tshirts that smell of us. Probably more but I’m too tired to recall the rest of the list.
We even tried controlled crying (this involves going in to settle him when he cries, and leaving again once he is calm, then repeat 850 times and lose the will to live). We gave up after one day because he would get too worked up to the point where cuddling him wouldn’t even help, and he would just cling to me like a tiny koala as if he knew I was going to put him back down again. We reached out to everyone for advice, we tried it all, yet here we are still with dark circles and an unhealthy reliance on caffeine.
Then someone gave us the following advice: there is no magical fix. Babies sleep through in their own time, and he might just want to be near you.
Upon checking our Wonder Weeks app, (of which I live in fear of since bastarding leap 4) I can see that we are in the grey ‘separation anxiety’ area, where baby is learning that mummy and daddy can leave them, and they don’t like it. We’ve found that in the evenings often Ozzy just wants me, and we tried to fight it for a while. Being a stay at home parent is relentless at the best of times, but when he has cried out at me to be in my arms all day, sometimes in the evenings you need a break. Nope, at the moment Ozzy wants to be in his mummy’s arms (but he needs to be able to see daddy at the same time). We have decided we won’t let this break us. We are going to stop looking for a way to fix it and instead take the view that nothing is broken.
He wants a cuddle, and he wants to sleep in bed with us. Sometimes he is hot, sometimes his teeth hurt, sometimes he is hungry and sometimes he just wants company. He’s only 7 months old, and if he isn’t able to get himself back to sleep in the night, then fair enough.
He can’t talk or walk or play the piano, and we don’t tear our hair out or get upset with him over that. This is just something else that will take time. So instead of berating ourselves for not having an effective routine, we are just accepting that our son wants our company at night as well as during the day, and if our bed is the place where he can sleep most comfortably then it is. At least he is sleeping! If I was in pain, or bored, or lonely, I’d want to lay in bed with Tom rather than on my own, so I get it.
We worried that we were ‘creating a rod for our own backs’ as I’m sure all parents have been told time and time again. Maybe we are – maybe one day we will struggle to reintroduce him to sleeping alone in his room. But that is future Ellie and Tom’s problem, and for now what feels most natural is doing what works.
So we are saying fuck it to the routine, to sleep training and exasperated rocking in the nursery at 4am. Instead we are falling asleep with a calm and snuggly baby inbetween us* and atleast we know that if he wakes up, it’s for reasons beyond our control. He will learn skills like self settling eventually, but for now aslong as he still smiles and laughs during the day – he can sleep wherever he needs to at night.
*yes he is in between us, in what we feel is a safe cosleeping environment for a 7 month old – we’ve done our research folks, do not fear.
Bonus photos for you below because he is super scrummy when he sleeps.