During your pregnancy you will find that everyone has an opinion, everyone has advice for you about what to do, what not to do, what you should do even though ‘they’ tell you not to. By ‘they’ I am referring to health visitors and midwives. I am not sure why people think they know better than midwives, after all many of these women have children of their own and they’re the ones dealing with new babies and new parents every single day. They know the most recent and accurate facts and health recommendations, they know that what our parents did for us was fine at the time but things have changed now and the guidelines should reflect this.
I don’t know why we are so quick to dismiss the advice of professionals but many people say they’re out of touch with what it’s really like to have a new born. Well I did listen to all of the advice we were given, I tried to apply it all; no baby wipes for the first 6 weeks, no bubbles in the bath, no food before 6 months, no sleeping on their tummies (this one did go out of the window fairly quickly) but there was one thing we were told that I really truly did stick to, no matter how hard it was sometimes and it was:
Put your baby to bed awake.
When we were told this it sounded crazy to me, we didn’t have our baby yet and I guess I didn’t really understand the concept of putting a new born to bed. We were told don’t rock them to sleep, don’t feed them to sleep, don’t let them sleep on you, always make sure they are awake when you put them down in their bed. Easier sad than done I know! Don’t get me wrong, I know there are mums and dads out there right now with a sleeping baba on their chest, or a mama walking up and down her living room rocking a screaming baby to sleep. I know it is hard and I won’t lie, there were days and nights when I did the same too.
If I had been able to successful transfer my snoozing baby from my arms to her bed then this recommendation would have been out the window too I am sure, at the end of the day I just wanted her to sleep. For herself but also for me, the utter exhaustion you feel in those first few weeks is enough to make you chuck everything you were told and just do whatever it takes to get through the day and night. However I was not one of those mothers who could lay her baby down anywhere without waking her, quite the opposite actually. I was so sore and immobile from my C-section that just getting out of the chair was an effort that required a lot of stages and staggering around. No chance my baby was sleeping through that so by the time I made it upstairs to her bed her little eyes were wide awake and judging me for disturbing her peace.
This really is the main reason why she always went to bed awake, most of those early nights were spent stroking her hair or leaving my hand on her tummy so that she knew I was there until she fell asleep but eventually that new born phase comes to an end. If you in the midst of it now, I promise it does end. I started to find that I was able to put her down and walk away, sometimes I would stay in the room for a couple of minutes and sometimes I would just close the door or get into bed and leave her to settle herself.
We are now, 7 months on, able to put her in her bed wide awake and sometimes even crying because she’s tired but she won’t admit it and as long as she has Ewan The Dream Sheep bleating away and her favourite bunny blanket she will fall asleep by herself. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes she just doesn’t want to sleep and will scream blue bloody murder and if she hasn’t settled herself after 10 minutes one of us will go and get her but it hardly ever takes that long.
In those early days you can’t see it ever ending, I certainly couldn’t, I couldn’t imagine a time when she would just go to sleep without it being a battle of wills. Your baby’s will is stronger than yours, the sooner you accept this the easier it will be. All I knew from the beginning was that I didn’t want to get myself caught in a trap of only being able to settle her by rocking, or feeding or cuddling. I wanted my baby to feel some level of independence and be able to drift off to sleep on her own and we got there. It took time, patience, tears and determination but I really think it has made our bed times (and nap times) so much easier as she is getting older.
I am proud of myself and my husband for sticking with it, there were so many times I wanted to go in and pick her up, to soothe her and make her feel safe but my husband reminded me that she was fed, clean, dry, warm and safe, she just needed a moment to let the sleep come. And it did, every time.
I know there will be some people who read this and don’t agree and that’s fine, there will be some who think it’s easy for me to say but I have been through those new born nights, not that long ago and I know looking back on it how bloody hard it is when you’re in the thick of it but trust me, it’s so so worth it.