There is something I need you to know: I am getting enough sleep.
Why do I feel the need to tell everyone this? In this crazy world of motherhood where you need to censor almost everything in case you make other women feel bad, am I just being smug and taking the opportunity to boast about how great a sleeper my baby is?
I’m telling you this in the hopes that people will stop giving me pitying looks when I tell them that, not only does my 6 month old baby never sleep through the night, but that every night she reliably feeds approximately every 2 hours. And sometimes, every 2 hours is generous.
“Is she a good baby?”
Yes! She’s delightful.
“So she sleeps all night then?”
No. She still feeds quite frequently.
I guess she doesn’t qualify as a good baby then? So she must be a bad baby? That’s sad isn’t it, because she’s so cute and happy. She has smiles for everyone and she fills my heart with joy every minute of the day (and night). I would say that makes her a good baby, but apparently not. Only babies who manage long stretches of sleep are in the running for that title. Such a shame…
So with my “bad” baby who feeds so frequently overnight, how am I not some sleep-deprived zombie?
Well I will tell you:
Quite simply I have found a mix of two things that work for us and I am unashamedly doing both:
We bed-share and
We have mastered breastfeeding lying down.
That’s it, that’s our magical recipe for more sleep. And thank god, it works wonders for us.
Now, a lot of people hear “bed-sharing” and raise their eye-brows, laugh politely and then make a few comments (disguised as jokes of course, so they don’t hurt my feelings) about how my daughter will never be able to sleep alone and how my husband and I are making a rod for our backs by “indulging” and “spoiling” our child.
I think the problem is that our sleeping arrangement makes some people uncomfortable simply because it doesn’t, or didn’t, suit their family. That’s fine. Each to their own, but it works for us. Really, really well! And call me crazy, but I’m not really sold on the idea of putting my baby in a cot, in her own room and reverting to zombie-mother status just so I can “fit in” to the norm. Again, our arrangement equals more sleep (not to mention all the snuggles.) I’m not giving that up for anything.
As for the feeding lying down it took us close to 4 months to master it, but this was the best thing we learnt how to do and was so worth it. When she needs to feed in the night she doesn’t cry, she doesn’t need to. She just begins to fuss and I can feel her little hands brushing against my pajama shirt (this kills me, this is just the way to melt a mummy’s heart, guaranteed.)
So I pull her in, she latches on and feeds. Meanwhile, I keep snoozing and then usually fall back to sleep before she finishes or shortly after. When she’s done, she’s straight back to sleep too. I never need to fully wake up, never need to sit up, never need to get out of bed. It’s brilliant. In between feeds I sleep well. I dream, but I’m also aware of her beside me and find myself frequently drifting into light sleep to check that she’s okay. And to kiss her head that is now (finally!) covered in soft hair and breathe in her sweet baby smell.
I know this arrangement wouldn’t suit everyone and that’s okay. Some people can’t sleep a wink with their baby in the same room, let alone in the same bed. Some people are unable to breastfeed and even for those that can, some find it truly difficult to feed lying in bed.
But for us, these things have just worked. And I can promise you, I’m not taking it for granted.
Some days are still hard, I’m not going to pretend that it’s all smooth sailing. Especially those nights where for whatever reason she is unsettled and fusses in between feeds. But it’s on these nights I’m even more grateful that she’s close to me, so that I can comfort her and cuddle her without having to fully wake up. On these occasions a coffee with breakfast is a huge help.
So if you ever ask me if my baby sleeps through the night and I tell you that she doesn’t, and that she still feeds frequently, don’t pity me and please don’t think that she isn’t a good baby. She really is, just look at that gummy grin! We have found a way for us both to get enough sleep and for that we are so blessed. Some parents never seem to find anything that works, and these are the people who need your compassion and maybe, if they ask for it, your advice.
But not me. I’m doing fine, but thank you for your concern all the same.
Georgina Dowden is a mother, midwife and lactation consultant (IBCLC).
In her day to day life, she looks after her two beautiful children and also supports other families on their parenting journey.
If you would like to get in touch sleep/settling support, click here:
Home visits for breastfeeding support available if you live in the Northern Rivers of NSW.
(Originally published at: www.babydoc.com.au)