It was rough few weeks. And I’m not exaggerating. Not one part of me wants to relive what I have had to go through with my first and her sleep. I pray everyday our future children are easier or maybe that I’ll just be more prepared and experienced. All the same, it was horrible. Being a first time mum, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing and if I am doing any of it right. I like to tell myself if she is happy and I am happy we must be doing fine. But after 3 months, my daughter’s sleep went downhill. She had a dummy that she used only at sleep times. And she had had this dummy since she was less than a week old. It’s what got me through those first few weeks. She’d love to use me as a dummy and with all the pain and complications we were experiencing with that, I thought that introducing the dummy would ease the settling. It worked. And it worked well. If your a mum and your child has or has had a dummy you will probably agree with me in that it works some serious baby magic. Sometimes all my daughter needed was a good suck to calm herself and she was fine. It was such a lifesaver!
My daughter, B was sleeping through the night, most nights from about 11 weeks. When I say sleeping through, I mean about 10 hours and that was perfect for me. I thought I had hit the jackpot! It lasted about 2 weeks and I felt so in control of this whole mummy thing for one of the first times. Then roughly at week 13, I can’t remember the exact timing but B started waking up all night long and only lasting one sleep cycle of 40 mins each nap time during the day. She would just wake looking for her dummy and as soon as I put it back in her mouth for her, she was fine and would fall back asleep. I questioned why she was all of a sudden doing this. I Googled it, just like every other new mum who lives on Google. I read that a dummy is referred to as a sleeping aid. Like patting, rocking, shhh-ushing and feeding to sleep. They were all sleeping aids and because she was falling asleep with the dummy, whenever she stirred between sleep cycles she would realise it was missing and needed it back to settle into the next cycle. This is why it’s incredibly important to teach your baby how to self settle as young as you feel comfortable with. And waking up for her dummy every sleep cycle (roughly 40 minutes) at night was driving me absolutely crazy. I was getting less sleep than I was when she was a newborn.
I guess to relate it to us, we go to sleep with a pillow and if we were to suddenly wake in between sleep cycles and notice that someone had taken our pillow away, we’d probably wake ourselves up and go looking for it till we were able to fall back asleep again. Babies are the same. The only problem was B is still too young to be able to put the dummy back in her mouth herself if it fell out, so she was relying on us. Yes of course, I am there for her, and I would do anything for her. I knew that when I signed up to be a mum! But every 40 minutes at night was not making either of us happy and we both weren’t getting the sleep we needed. This is when I realised I had had enough. So by 4 months old, it was time for us to teach B how to settle herself and if that meant ditching the dummy then that’s what we were doing to have to do.
I was determined. I was nervous, but I had read so many success stories, once again on Google, and knew we too could do it. I decided to read the ‘Save our Sleep‘ book by Tizzie Hall and while the routines haven’t quite worked for us yet, I thought her advice in self settling sounded like something we could try. So we did. It was hell. Pure torture! The first few nights were the worst. I remember being awake from 1 am to 4 am just hiding under my pillow to dull her screaming and praying so hard she would stop! I wanted to give up so many times. I could have easily bought some more dummies and she’d be asleep straight away. But then I just kept telling myself that there’s no way I want to put myself through this again so this was it and there was no going back.
I persevered. It was so hard. Especially because of all weeks to decide to do it, my husband was studying for his exams that were the following week. I know, bad timing. Because that meant he needed his sleep and a lot of it was up to me. But it was now or never. I was going insane! I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture! I kept being hopeful. Until Day 3 hit. That was tough and I was physically and emotionally drained. I second guessed everything I was doing. I was on my way to the shops the buy more dummies! But I remembered some advice someone told me and that was to persevere and be consistent for at least a week. If then there has been no improvements then you’ve given it a decent shot. So I kept going! That’s when I decided to turn it into a game. I would give one point to myself if B went down without a fuss and then I’d give B a point if she needed more of me than I had set out with the method I was following. Whether that was to be rocked, feed or shh-ushhed to sleep. But never once did that dummy come back out.
And surprisingly Day 4, 5, 6 and 7 were constantly improving. I was winning more and more, until I was winning every time. I think B got down to being able to settle herself in 15 mins with absolutely no crying. I thought that was amazing!
Every day since is here and there. By the end of that first week, she would sleep from 7 pm to 4 am, and then wake wanting a feed, but go straight back to sleep. This is such a big improvement as it is. Then, as the ‘Save Our Sleep‘ book recommends, I decided to introduce a dream feed to see if that would make a difference and I can say B then began to sleep from 7 pm to 6 am with the a dream feed at 10:30 pm. No waking, or stirring. It’s been amazing! Although, when it comes to actually getting to sleep initially, she will still sometimes take up to 45 mins to self settle without the dummy but she does it with no crying [and even still just as long now that she is 2]. She would grizzle and grunt like crazy! But at least she was never upset and knows when it’s time to sleep. And as a result of all of this, she is a much happier baby [and toddler] during the day. Which makes for a happy mama. I believe this has been the best thing I have ever done as a mother!