First weeks of life are tough for a newborn! After almost 1 year in a 5-star hotel, warm and cosy, with food and everything at your own discretion, you are thrown out into the cold cruel world, filled with noise and light and uncounted images you have never seen before. You find yourself alone. Mummy’s heartbeat doesn’t soothe you anymore. You can no longer feel her warmth and her tempo doesn’t rock you to sleep like it used to. You are left on your own, in a crib, with the expectation to sleep through the night. Alone. Alone! She comes in from time to time to feed you and you are so content! She holds you close and nurses you and there in nothing in the new world you love more! You long for these moments! Then she leaves and you are by yourself again. You start crying, calling her back to hold you close.
Here is where things can go in so many different directions. Your response is everything to this little human being!
Before having children, I studied a few books about sleep training and schedules and I inclined to apply them in my new-mom-life. I thought routines were good and that they would help my baby settle easier. Everybody loves to know what happens next, right?
In all material I read, there was one common advice: Always put the baby down when he/she is drowsy, not fully asleep! Like I mentioned here, this never worked for me. Every time I nursed my baby, he was fast asleep, and every time I put him down, he woke up screaming. He had managed to sleep pretty well, in his own crib, in our bedroom, for nearly 6 months. He never liked it when I put him down, but after less than 2 minutes he was fine. We nursed every 3 hours and after fussing a little, he went right back to sleep. Except after the 2 am feed. This was his limit. So I used to spend my nights from 2 am on with him sleeping on my chest, like an angel, until 6 am. As he got a little older he only wanted to sleep on me and I could not rest at all so I had to do something, for my own sanity. We took out all our baby-sleep-technique books again. I have always known I won’t be able to let my baby cry it out even if I was never going to sleep again. With some pressure, I accepted to try the gentle sleep training approach and the no-tears-sleep-training technique. All of them, with no exception, involved tears! My baby really hated his crib! The second I put him in it, he cried like if it was burning him! I warmed it up with a water bottle, I put in a nice little monkey comforter, pacifier, nice music, … nothing helped. I even let him cry for 3 minutes at a time before picking him up! Listening to your baby scream for 3 full minutes is terrible! Those were the longest 3 minutes of my life! I just sat outside the bedroom door and I cried with him. This whole circus lasted 3 days. I could not watch my child fall asleep sobbing with that stupid monkey in his mouth. The comforter he needed was me!
From this experience, I have learned that a baby can be sleep-trained but you will shut down the cry-when-you-need-mummy mechanism. They will be quiet but will they be content? I don’t believe a baby is capable to self-soothe. (Please, read the linked article.)
I want my baby to know that I am there to fulfil his needs, whatever they are: physical contact, hunger, thirst, affection, belonging and so on.
And I also believe that it is okay to let him cry sometimes and not to answer his every whimper, but our sleeping problem was way too stressful for both of us and at the end of the day we had to do what worked best for us.
If you have children, accepting you are not going to get much sleep is the best sleep-training. Like a wise mum said, “If you want to sleep through the night, have a Gerbil, not a baby!”
So, for almost 2 years now, I’ve been (co-)sleeping like a baby. Meaning, you know, waking up every 2-3 hours, to nurse, to rock, to hold. And the good part is some day I will miss these times!