Sleep deprivation - always a hot topic when you have babies and kids! Sleep (or lack of) is consistently one of the first things that gets bought up when you meet up with a mum friend or someone comes to visit. It feels like a constant hangover, you are always trying to catch up on sleep and living on coffee to get you through the day. Are they sleeping through the night? What time were they awake this morning? How do my bags look today?
So having dealt with Finn's toddler sleeping issues (see here for my post on the Gro Clock), I now have Violet's baby sleep to deal with - a whole new ball park! Back to lots of little cat naps, long mega naps and night wakings, it's funny how you forget how it is in the early days. I tried to make the most of the newborn daytime cuddles where they are always falling asleep on you. I know these moments seem to disappear very quickly as you start to worry about getting into bad habits as they get older.... It's so hard to get the balance of enjoying your baby and making sure you aren't setting yourself up for longer term issues. It's overwhelming knowing what's right and wrong and there is a wealth of information out there to confuse us even further! The main thing is there is no right or wrong - you need to find what works for you and your baby!
The early days seem easy - newborn babies just seem to sleep all the time with minimal effort (apart from the old creaky floorboards in our house which always seemed to wake her up as you tried to make your way ninja style out of the room - check this video out which sums it up!). But we all know it gets harder and naps are more challenging and night time wakings become brain breakingly exhausting! You reach a point where you can't do it any longer - It's the million dollar question - how and when can you get your little one into a bedtime routine?! And when will they sleep through the night!!!
We are constantly told to put your baby down awake so they can start to learn to sleep by themselves and not be reliant on you to get them back to sleep or wake when you transfer them from arms to cot ('the transfer' - officially the worlds most stressful moment!!) . They need to learn to self settle and get themselves back to sleep in order to achieve longer stretches of it. Sounds so easy but the reality is so hard! This is why we ended up getting a sleep trainer this time, someone to help us out, give us confidence and show us the ropes to crack this baby sleeping thing much earlier on (scroll down to the bottom of this post if this is the only part some of you may be interested in!).
We have now got our precious nighttimes back, we can cook dinner and sit down and eat in in peace and quiet. We aren't creeping around or rocking /re-rocking a baby to sleep for hours on end. We were still rocking Finn to sleep every night at 5 months old which took its toll, especially in the middle of a sweaty heatwave! Violet is in her own room, with the baby monitor on her and I am back sleeping in my own bed, no more rustling duvet noises to wake her as I used to creep in next to her. Yippee!
So this is what we have done differently to help combat sleep issues this time round , we were determined to make sure it was easier this time, which I have to say it has been, with baby 2:
We decided this time that baby would not be sleeping in our bed at the beginning (sleep was now too precious as we had to deal with 2) and where possible we would put her into her own bed as much as possible so she wasn't too reliant on our arms for sleep. So which baby bed to get? We bought the Sleepy Head as we had heard soooo many good things about it. Plus we had lost our moses basket from before so this seemed to be a good alternative baby bed that can be transported around the house and also put inside a cot. It's basically got a flat padded bottom section with a firm bumper around the edge that cocoons the baby, making them feel snug, possibly mimicking what they've been used to in the womb. The bumper seems to 'cuddle' the baby so she feels safe and secure. We used it loads just on the floor in our sitting room at the beginning for daytime naps, but this was tricky when Finn was around as we didn't want him to stand on the bed!
It is expensive at £99 and it doesn't last that long - they say 0 - 8 months but I find that hard to believe! Violet is only 10 weeks and already I don't think it willI will last her much longer than another month or two. It is also expensive to get a spare cover at £39 (I have to say we cheated here and have been using muslins as sheets) and if you want the next one that goes up to 36 months its another £149, ouch. I would definitely recommend this Sleepyhead if you can get your hands on one or borrow from a friend. She has slept well in it so far and nestles into it nicely, I guess when she outgrows it and moves into a bigger cot we may have to make our own versions of the bumper sides up somehow.
We were lucky enough to have been bought this crib as a gift. Again, like the Sleepy Head, it's not cheap at just shy of £200 and again I'm not entirely sure how long it will last her in terms size (it's supposed to be up to 6 months). The Sleepyhead does fit snugly into it as well so this acts as her mattress, although it does come with a mattress so we will try it without the Sleepyhead when she outgrows it.
So why is this cot good? Well basically it's like a bed that attaches to the side of your bed - so a bit like co-sleeping without the worry of rolling over and crushing the baby. The cot can be adjusted to your bed height and you can unzip the side (or keep it up, its a mesh so you can still see through it), it becomes part of your bed and it saves you getting in and out of bed for all the constant night feeds in the early days. You can be close to your baby but still have your own spaces and peace of mind that she is ok.
It's sold as a 3 in 1 bed - it can be a bedside crib, standalone crib or as a moses basket/bassinet. The bassinet can easily be removed and act as an alternative to a moses basket around the house, however I would say this didn't work for us as it was very heavy and carrying it up and down the stairs felt too dangerous! The cot also rocks which was quite nice in the beginning when we were using rocking to help coax her back to sleep. It looks stylish (comes in a host of colours but grey and white are the nicest) and there is storage space under it, great for holding all those spare muslins (we get through so many!).
3) Swaddling/ Sleeping bags
We swaddled Violet until she was 9 weeks old - this really helped make her feel snug, comforted and secure when sleeping and also helped keep her flailing arms under control (from the Moro/ Startle reflex) and stopping them from jolting her awake! We are now using sleeping bags or gro bags as some people call them - great now she wants her hands free (she uses them as a comforter) and now that we aren't sharing a room to know that she is always warm and covered, no kicking off blankets or bedding. I liked the stretchy jersey swaddles the best (gifted from family in Australia, haven't found them here yet) as you could achieve quite a tight swaddle wrap on them and they seemed to stay in place more than the non stretch muslins. We also used the Aden + Anais ones (see here for how to swaddle) which are nice and breathable and now work as comforters for her to hold when she goes to sleep. You can buy baby sleeping bags everywhere now (from White Company to H&M), Grobag make the best ones in my opinion and you can find them here. They aren't cheap (starting around £25 and hard to find much cheaper, sometimes you can on Amazon or in the sales) and you will need to make sure you buy the right tog for the time of year.
The Snooze Shade has been great for creating black out when she sleeps in the buggy in the day. It helps extend her naps she does in there and will also act as a shade and sun protector on summer days and when we go on holiday. Best £19.99 ever spent! It works on most buggys and has been so much better than clipping muslins onto it, I've had many moments of muslins flying off my buggy! Velcro straps mean it stays safe and secure. Highly recommend.
Right, this is probably the section all you new mums want to hear abut the most! The wonderful world of sleep trainers, baby whisperers or sleep consultants as they are sometimes known! Famous for helping get your baby to sleep through the night, solve sleeping problems and help improve napping. We decided to book a sleep consultant as we wanted to learn some better sleeping habits we could implement with Violet at an early stage to avoid any longer term sleep issues. She wasn't an awful sleeper and is still very young, in fact we kept getting told how lucky we were she was waking so little in the night. We were aware she was probably too little to sleep through the night (this is normally from 3/4 months when they no longer require a night feed and start to achieve long stretches of night sleep). Well really the main reason was we were fed up with rocking her to sleep, transferring her into the cot, waking up and having to do it all over again (sometime 3 or 4 times)! We wanted to establish a good bedtime routine which didn't take so long. Violet was only waking once or most twice in the night and in general we felt we had a good baby for sleep and wanted to make sure it stayed that way!
We booked the lovely Vanessa from Lulla-Time based on a recommendation from a friend. She turned up at 6pm to see the bedtime routine of bath, pjs, milk and bed. She gave advice on how to keep her settled in the evening if she was grizzly before bath/bed, how to keep her awake when giving her final bottle, burping techniques and ultimately making sure she was put down (on her side) in her bed wide awake. I'm not going to give everything away as I don't think she would be best pleased but she shows you a 'pat shush' technique to do on baby if she cries for longer than 5 minutes. The main thing is teaching baby to settle herself and go to sleep without a parent entering the room everytime she makes a moan or cry. She then stayed until 9pm and we talked through Violet's daytime sleeping habits. This was the interesting bit, having not been worried about her daytime naps I learnt how important they were for ultimately making her sleep better and more settled at night. We learnt all about Violet's day awake windows and what they should be for her age (around 75 minutes - 90 minutes). It's all about catching the naps at the right time and not missing the 'window'. Naps need to be at least an hour to really have any effect on baby and their development - its all about learning how to stretch the naps by teaching them to connect sleep cycles. Also about recognising her sleepy signs and catching the nap before she gets overtired will mean she falls asleep much quicker and stay asleep for much longer. She gave advice and information on all aspects of day and night sleeping, really fascinating stuff and it really is a science! She then writes a profile and customised sleep report for your baby which you get the next day, filled with a wealth of advice and support. You then keep a baby tracker sleep log for the next week, noting every nap, feed, awake time etc. sending her updates every day and she gives advice and tips on each sleep and timings. The best thing is there is unlimited (I know not all sleep consultants offer this) follow up calls, texts and emails so you feel super supported and can get in touch if you face setbacks or concerns. We had a telephone call a week after her visit to discuss a full update and actions for the next week.
The downside I have found is you need to be willing to listen to A LOT of crying as you learn not to go to your baby straight away, even though it's not full on crying it can be intense, especially in the middle of the night. It can be VERY stressful, you need to be quite a strong person or have good support around to help and reassure you. Consistency is key in getting things established so try not to give in. There is a lot of waiting around, not going to her straight away and waiting to see if she will resettle and go back to sleep. Also if you can get your partner to sleep in the spare room they may get a better nights sleep! We no longer have one as it's Violets room (Liam has slept on the sofa a few times) but your other half will be knackered as you lay in bed staring at the baby monitor and timer debating whether or not to enter their room at 3am. Also if you have any other kids they may wake - there have been occasions where Finn and Violet have been crying simultaneously at 4am - fun! Anyway it is worth it and you start to see progress very quickly.
It has been worth the money and knowledge - Violet is now napping really well in the day, she falls asleep by herself (normally with a little bit of a moan) in both her cot and buggy and naps 3 times a day from 1 hour to 3 hours for each nap (you don't need to worry about waking them if they are having a long nap that goes over 3 hours, it's good for them to have this sleep and it won't effect the night sleep) . Although the last nap of the day is still tricky and is often very short, this is OK Im reassured, as long as they can have a quick recharge to get them to bedtime. I now know bedtime needs to be bought forward if she hasn't had a final nap or only a very short one. Violet is happier and her bedtime routine is super quick and easy. She still wakes once in the night (normally around 3am) for a bottle but has been known to sleep 7pm until 5am occasionally. She's at an age where it is normal to still have random night wakings so it's just making sure she re-settles until she really needs her bottle. I know that in the next few weeks I can try and practice getting her to sleep through the night but for now 8 hour stretches are pretty impressive for an 11 week old baby. We did have a setback for a few nights when she was ill and reacted badly to her injections but she has now settled back into her rhythm of long naps and long nighttime stretches. She seems happier and so are we!
I highly recommend Vanessa, she has a lovely touch with babies, is very understanding and unobtrusive with a gentle, supportive and encouraging manner. We have learnt so much, thank you Vanessa! Money well invested!
We did the Bedtime Consultation package for £260. There are lots of other package options too which you can see here. But the best thing is to call her, she does a free 15 minute consultation and you can see what suits your needs best. You can also download a free bedtime report from her website here.