Out of eating, sleeping and pooing, babies are renowned for choosing to do just two out of the three well. Fuckers! It's not like stopping one of these is a minor issue.
We've had one of each! D is of the no sleep variety and I can tell you they are by far the worst. I love the little sprog dearly but what the Fuck!!
Perhaps we were spoilt that F&G slept 12hrs a night from around 2-3months old, but D waking up every two hours takes the piss. We also know there's an alternative; with F&G we instituted sleep training early on, aided by bottle feeding (you know precisely how much they've consumed).
For the uninitiated the principle method of sleep training is to teach your newborn to settle themselves alone until they learn to self soothe. This is code for: leave your baby alone in the dark, where it will cry itself to sleep over several excruciating nights until it learns that no one is going to come no matter how much it cries and it ends up finding comfort in something other than their parents; a thumb, a teddy, a dummy, etc...
However bad that sounds, it's really effective.
With D however we did things differently. With the help of the amazing post natal support available in France, Ali was able to breastfeed successfully, I was also around full time to assist so we decided to try the more "natural" sleep way.
D is 9 months old now and the best she's slept was during the first week of her life (4/6hr slots). Since then it's been worse, sometimes A LOT worse! And it's taken its toll.
On our recent trip we decided that we had to do something. We couldn't stomach the full night time cry-out but we let her cry a bit, then would come in and soothe, before leaving her again once settled. After a few days Ali and I got our evenings back - kids down by 20:00 and D only to be woken by 22:30 for a feed - fantastic. It may seem a small thing but it made a huge difference.
Back in London we added another stage; not feeding her in the middle of the night. While we don't know precisely how much milk she's drinking before sleep, if a 2 month year old can do 12 hours without food, so can a 9 month year old. At the very least Ali and I could do alternate sleep nights.
Initially the sleepless burden fell on me since I don't smell of milk. While I'm notoriously grumpy on too little sleep, after 9 months of hell for Ali it's the least I could do. After three nights we got D to go 8hrs without a feed!
Unfortunately no feeding does not mean sleeping through, once or twice a night she'll stir and cry her eyes out. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour despite soothing, maybe I'm missing Ali's magic touch.
After a week or so Ali relieved me for two days but unfortunately on day two D regressed, perhaps due to the smell of milk, perhaps because Ali has just run out of patience. Either way, I'm back on duty tonight.
Sleepless nights or not I don't regret taking this approach with D, in fact I wish we'd had the wherewithal to have done it for the other two. Not because they turned out badly, they're AMAZING but D is noticeably gigglier and completely unattached to external soothers.
I guess it's comes down to how would you like to be treated if you were a baby? If someone asked me: "I'm really scared of being alone, could you hold my hand until I fall asleep?" I would. It shouldn't be any different for a baby no matter how sleep deprived I am.
So last night when she was crying in her cot, I went in, hugged her until she started to fall asleep, I lay her down, the tears started again so I sat next to her and gave her my hand. She clenched her little fist around my finger, closed her eyes and was soon asleep, only when her grip eased did I tiptoe out.