Since having Raffaela, I have been obsessed with her sleep.
Is she sleeping enough? When should she sleep? Where should she sleep? Is she tired? Oh my god, is she overtired? (Please not overtired! It’s the worst. Red eyebrows are a dead giveaway. Every mom I know is obsessed with avoiding those things.)
My journey of sleep and Raffaela has not been an easy one.
She’s a happy baby. She’s happy at 8am with me for morning cuddles. Happy at 3pm with complete strangers in the grocery store. Happy at 10pm at a wedding, being passed around.
When is she not happy, you ask?
When I’m trying to get her to sleep. When it’s 9.30 at night and all I want is to sit on the couch staring at the TV screen with a cup of tea (I’m a wild one, I tell you!). Or at 11am when I know she needs her nap otherwise the rest of the day is a complete write off. (Like yesterday, Raffaela!)
For all the research I did pre-labour, I have to say that less than 5 percent of it was about babies sleeping. I thought babies got tired and slept. I knew all about the stereotype of the sleep deprived mother – I assumed that was due to night feeds. The majority of my reading material was about labour and what could go wrong (Where I learned about the medical wonder of episiotomies… I wish I never had.)
What having a real life baby to care for has taught me is that babies do not necessarily fall asleep on their own. A random and every changing mix of feeding, rocking, holding, singing, noise machines, sleep aids and sleeping environments help babies sleep.
They cry because unlike hunger, wet nappies or being too cold, which we as bigger, more developed humans can directly help them with, sleep is something a baby has to do on their own. They cry because they are tired and want us to put them to sleep. And we’re like “just go to sleep” but they don’t know that. (How we survived as a species when we are born as helpless as we are, I will never know…)
So with a 10 week old Raffaela, there I was, at Masada Sleep School. (Affectionately called “baby jail” by a friend) Raffaela was waking up at 7am and not sleeping until 5pm. She didn’t fall asleep anywhere but on me. I tried the car seat, I tried the pram. She slept on me during the day. And in our bed at night.
I didn’t know sleep schools even existed before Raffaela. And now? It’s a whole other world I never knew about. Like running through platform 9 ¾ and learning that there are a whole bunch of moms living amongst muggles, also with no idea of how to get their baby to sleep!
Sleep school – especially Masada, is not for the faint hearted. Walking through the doors, it was like entering the twilight zone. Raffaela was the youngest baby by far. The other mums were far more sleep deprived than me. We’re talking 2 years of broken sleep. Kudos to you moms, you know who you are…
Masada practices the ‘cry it out’ method. I’ll save the overview for another post, but let’s just say the first day was hard. I called my husband, crying that I felt so bad for my screaming baby. But before I knew it she was asleep.
As hard as the program is on the babies, it is wonderful on the mothers.
I got 3 meals a day, which I had definitely not been getting (I don’t care that it was hospital food. It had veggies. I was excited.), babies were settled for us for the first 3 days, and I got a sleeping pill at night to help me sleep. Hotel Masada, I loved you.
And then like cold hearted people I didn’t know the nurses were, they sent us home after 5 days (Well fair enough, I suppose. With an average 8 week wait, there are a lot of us mothers to get through!) and the routine stuck. Until a leap. And then another leap. And then housesitting at my parents for a month. Then at the holiday home for Christmas. And there we were, going to bed at 10pm with Raffaela in our bed.
I know – routine is key. Here’s the thing. You either do routine or you don’t. It’s black and white. And I want to be a routine person. Really, I do. But Raffaela has shown me that I just am not a routine person. It KILLS me. I like switching it up. And making an impromptu coffee date with a friend. As such, in the last few months Raffaela has learned to sleep in the car as well as the pram. To be honest, those naps are easier than the cot. (Cot is evil, clearly.)
And through it all, I asked all fellow mothers what their sleep routines were. I could go on for hours about it. I have googled it. I have justified my choices. I have argued with my husband and then joined forces with him. Never have I felt as judged as when I am holding the baby in my arms at 10pm with the happiest, giggliest baby and with other people around.
Judgement, mostly internal, has been a huge problem for me. As mothers we feel judged (even when we are not) because we want to do everything right.
Take co-sleeping for example. When I talk about my co-sleeping tendencies, I will look you in the eye, feel the panic rise inside of me as I swear I can hear your secret thoughts of how that’s not the right thing to do, and will begin justifying how it’s only temporary. You may not actually be judging me. You probably aren’t. (To be honest, you’re probably thinking “I don’t really care, Katja. Are you ready to order your food?”) But my guilty conscience about how it may not be 100% the right thing to do just eats at me. And truth be told, I LOVE co-sleeping.
Baby Raffaela’s Bedtime Routine (Subject to change at any time, probably before this article is even posted…)
My husband and I have made a resolution for 2017 to instil a little more routine into bedtime. It generally goes bath, feed, we have dinner with her with us, a short feed again and in the cot. It works for us.
- Feeding right before sleep tends to help. She isn’t necessarily feeding to sleep, but she’s full. Think about your need to sleep after a big Christmas lunch. I’m aiming for that EVERY NIGHT. With my boobs. Ugh.
- Hubby and I are no good when we are hungry. We get very, very hangry. Waiting until after she was in bed for dinner was making us damn cranky.
- The Lulla Doll. It breathes like Darth Vadar and the heartbeat is creepy, but she loves it. She hugs it to sleep some days (when she holds the doll’s hand…*heart explodes*) and I’m convinced that it helps her sleep for longer.
- We have started doing 2 naps only – the 3rd nap tended to be too close to bedtime.
This has worked for us for… 2 nights. So we are on the right track!
And back to the idea of mom guilt. We are all trying to do our 100% best and what is right. But there is no 100% right. And we are all doing our very best. That is good enough. I’ve started telling myself something whenever I feel that overwhelming mom guilt. It’s corny but it works.
Each baby, mom, dad and family is different. Your love for your kid is perfect. Because it’s you and your kid.
So no apologies for doing what you think is best. I’m not apologising for my morning co-sleeping. And my general every night co-sleeping.
How is your sleep going? And do you feel ridiculously guilty about whatever choice you have made about sleep arrangements? Or is there something else you battle with? Tell me I’m not the only one!