Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Battle of Sleepy Corner III By Kate

More than eight months have passed since I last had an unbroken night's sleep. Actually, that's inaccurate. Given my bladder's propensity to require emptying at some point overnight (especially during pregnancy) I can't actually remember the last time I had an unbroken night's sleep. No, a total of around seven hours (with a minimum 4-hour stretch included) is the elusive - but vaguely realistic - dream I've been chasing. So is there dark at the end of the tunnel?

The answer is a cautious "possibly". After several months of Rosie managing little more than two hours of sleep before waking up and calling for me, something had to give. Her wakefulness (and therefore mine) was getting worse and her ability to resettle without part of my anatomy clamped between her lips (specifically, a nipple) was non-existent.

I decided she would have to learn to nod off without my assistance. So I tried the gentle ways of encouraging sleep sans breast: patting her tummy gently and saying "shh..."; picking her up to soothe her then putting her down again (and repeat ad infinitum); gently unlatching her after she had finished feeding but before she had fallen entirely asleep and putting her down.... and it all made her worse. Angry and distressed to the point of hysterical. Of course, the moment I put her to the breast, she would calm down. But then we were back to Square One.

So I took a deep breath and put Rosie down to sleep after her bedtime feed, kissed her goodnight and left her to it. I listened outside the bedroom door as she wailed in protest, poised to go in the moment her cries sounded like they were becoming truly distressed instead of frankly frustrated. They didn't. Instead, they became increasingly intermittent and after 25 minutes, she was asleep. She woke again a few hours later and again I waited to hear if she would get seriously upset. She didn't and once again, fell back to sleep. The third time she awoke, she didn't make any noise, just fidgeted a little, then fell asleep again. The fourth time she fidgeted for a long time, then fell asleep. By the fifth time it was almost 6am and my milk-engorged breasts felt like a pair of rocks strapped to my chest. This time I fed her and at the end of the feed she allowed me to put her back down for more sleep without protest. This was progress indeed!

The next night followed a similar pattern.

On the third night, I put her down to sleep at bedtime and left the room. Ten minutes later I asked Theo if he could hear anything. He replied in the negative, confirming my suspicions. She had fallen asleep without a murmur.

Three weeks later, it's rare Rosie makes any kind of a protest at bedtime. Even if she's wide awake, she's generally able to get herself off to sleep without Mummy (or specifically, Mummy's breasts) being involved. And it's had a huge impact on her overnight wakings. In general, twice a night now, instead of a minimum of five.

Not only that, but Rosie has now been moved into a cot (after co-sleeping with us since birth) - a change she took with equanimity - and then into her own room, so Theo and I would no longer disturb her with our fidgeting/snoring during the night. Rosie's sleep pattern has remained the same - not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than it was. As for me, I can't sleep because I'm finding it strange not to be able to hear and feel my baby sleeping (or not) beside me. But even that's improving.

So why have her naps gone to pot? Half an hour is the most she can manage in a static situation.

In answer, we've had to resort to The Magical Sleepy Pavement. It seems the only way Rosie will stay asleep for longer than thirty minutes at a time is if the wheels of her pram are thrumming the ribbed paving of our barrio. So now Theo and I take turns to slowly walk the streets while our offspring takes her siesta.
On the plus side, the weather is still good here and it's a fine way to get out of the flat and have a little gentle exercise. I just don't want to think about the onset of winter.

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