Following on from last week’s blog about leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep I had an interesting email.
It was from Mary Foster, infant and maternity sleep consultant (http://www.sleepylambs.co.uk/)
She said that “crying isn’t always bad but frequently isn’t necessary” the message went on to explain that ‘Cry it Out’ and ‘Controlled Crying’ techniques are often used by families who are at their wits end, mums with post natal depression and struggling with lack of sleep.
(I have to say at this point that in the last two days alone I have spoken to three mums who have all said they used controlled crying with their babies from around six months and with most GPs and health visitors advising its use I’m sure its pretty commonplace.)
Usually small changes in daytime habits contribute to easier and more peaceful bedtimes for everyone.
But I was also advised to do some research on “crying in arms” - the idea that in fact it is good for infants to cry as a stress release and healing process when all other immediate needs have been met.
Holding your baby in your arms as they cry (without rocking, jiggling, singing, comforting etc) it is a good way for your baby to release and balance emotions.
This isn’t something I had ever considered, in fact it annoyed me when people said I should let my baby have a good cry, its good for their lungs apparently.
However, even as a staunch anti-cry-it-out-er I realise there are times when babies cry and there is nothing you can do apart from hold them.
BUT, and this is a big but, if there IS something you could do to soothe your baby, even if it is just gently rocking, I don’t understand why you shouldn’t?
Later, I spoke to Mary on the phone. As you probably gathered from my last post we’re having what you might call a slight “sleep regression” in that “I’m getting pretty much no sleep” and any sleep she does get is following either feeding/rocking/jiggling etc...i.e. bad sleep associations.
Her suggestions were helpful, she made me realise I had been keeping Poppy awake too long during the day leading to over-stimulation and over-tiredness.
She pointed out that sleep was absolutely vital to mental development and growth so it’s of course really important to ensure she gets enough sleep.
True, perhaps I had been so focussed on not allowing my baby to cry that I had prioritised that over the importance of sleep.
I’m sure if I had a proper consultation with Mary that she would give me loads more great tips, she really was a nice lady and I’m kind of ashamed to admit I had assumed an infant sleep consultant would advocate some sort of cry it out technique.
However, I’ve realised instead of battling and stressing and worrying and fretting and getting annoyed with Poppy - WHY WON’T YOU SLEEP LIKE EVERY OTHER BABY?
I’m approaching this with a new tack...use whatever means necessary to get her to sleep so everyone else can sleep.
If that means rocking, buggy, sling, car, feeding, whatever...she isn’t going to need those things when she’s 5, 6, 7 but she seems to need them now so instead of trying to change it and change her I’m accepting it.
She’s a baby that struggles to fall asleep and that’s OK.
But as promised, here are a few tips for a more restful night (that I’ve learnt from mum’s whose babies sleep, obviously.)
*Sleep begets sleep - an overtired baby is more difficult to settle and more likely to wake during the night. Although you might worry that too much sleep in the day will mean little one is wide awake come bedtime it may actually have the opposite effect.
*Bedtime routine - start as early as possible, bath, massage, story, milk, sleep for example. It won’t take long for your baby to remember the routine.
*Wind-down time - try to have the 30 mins - 1 hour before bedtime as calm and relaxed as possible and preferably no TV!
*Have realistic expectations - not really a tip but just a thought from me. Instead of getting stressed that your baby won’t sleep I find it easier to cope if I understand the reasons. It is biologically appropriate for babies to wake through the night.
http://www.parentingscience.com/night-wakings.html - this is a great page for explaining babies’ sleep behaviour
Some people are lucky and have babies who are able to drift back to sleep unaided but if you don’t then try to relax about it, it won’t be this way forever.
In the meantime just remember, sleep is for the weak!
Read Francesca’s previous blogs - click the links below
July 18: The day my life changed forever.
July 25: Its scary but awesome being a mum.
July 31: It’s not easy being a mum.
August 7: Life is on hold but that’s alright.
August 14: Guilty secret.
August 22: In two minds.
August 30: Weaning issues.
September 24: Don’t leave babies to cry.
Contact her via email: email@example.com or my Twitter account @CescaNaylor.