Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Battle of Sleepy Corner II By Kate

It seems it's a culturally specific thing to expect (and need) an unbroken sleep overnight totalling around eight hours. And that infants are expected to sleep unbroken for around 12 hours (or more) - often alone in their own rooms. Societies without these kind of expectations don't tend to report as many "baby sleep problems" as a result. Such problems, it seems, are more related to parental expectations. Which is all kind of reassuring, although it doesn't make me feel less knackered after yet another night of Rosie's multiple awakenings.

On the plus side, Rosie isn't a big cryer on the whole (fusser, yes) and whimpers rather than shouts when she wakes up. More often than not, she goes back to sleep fairly quickly once she's had a feed (or a comfort suck, or a modest libation, or a quick thirst-quencher). She mainly sleeps from around 7pm (give or take half an hour) until 0700 (ditto) - waking up at intervals that vary from up to 5 hours in the first part of the night (very rare, it's usually 3 or so) followed by every 45 mins - 2 hours, usually diminishing as the night moves into morning. She also fidgets a lot, which tends to indicate that she's either a) about to wake up or b) isn't getting back to sleep as easily as she (I) would like. On these occasions, combinations of dummy-tapping and tummy-patting usually help her relax, but it can take a while. I would love to learn how to do those things while still asleep - but it takes skill that I don't possess. Mind you, I have fallen asleep with my hand resting on Rosie's tummy once or twice. It's not that comfortable, even though she sleeps beside me in her baby nest. The blood has a tendency to drain down my arm, which is inconvenient.

So the negative side is that Rosie wakes up a minimum of 5 times a night and she is generally a lot faster at getting back to sleep than I am, so 5 hours of fragmented sleep (having retired by 9pm) is usually the most I can hope for.

Actually, I've discovered it's perfectly possible to function on that kind of sleep. After ten days of insomnia when I was getting perhaps 2 hours of broken sleep, I now consider 5 hours to be a fairly decent amount.

So what's to be done? Rosie has a bed-time routine and she naps okay during the day generally. She's breast-fed on demand and even when it's not a feed she particularly needs when she wakes up, it's still generally the fastest way to get her nodding off again. Experiments of not offering her milk and fobbing her off with a dummy have proved disastrous, so I'm inclined to go with the line of least resistance for now.

When will it change? Who knows. Some babies obligingly sleep through the night when they're only a few weeks old. Others do so to start with, then throw a curve ball at their pleased (smug) parents by ditching that habit in favour of waking up loads when they get a bit older. One theory is that babies tend to sleep through when they hit a certain weight (11lb, 13lb and 14lb have all been quoted to me) another is that they do so when they get to a certain age (6 months), yet another is when they start on solid food. All of these (apart from 11lb) are milestones Rosie has yet to reach. However, call me pessimistic, but I suspect Rosie will sleep for longer stretches in her own good time and I would be (very pleasantly) surprised if it's anytime soon.

Meantime, I've been ignoring the advice to sleep when Rosie sleeps during the day. Mostly I can't do it anyway and lay there feeling more stressed about the issue than I otherwise would. Instead I try and do something vaguely useful - some writing, or a bit of housework (the few bits Theo hasn't done). I actually feel better if I've achieved something for myself than if I'd managed a power nap. And I tell myself that when Rosie's bigger I will look back at this sleepless period and wonder at how quickly it passed. And finally, I remind myself that my sleep deprivation is not only shared by countless other parents, but it's also culturally specific. So that's okay, then.

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