A Question of Sleep

Little Plum slept well from the start, beside the slight breastfeeding issues.

On day one, we were struggling terribly with latching her onto the breast, so she was a bit hard to settle, but we soon sorted that out by using the hospital grade pumps to feed her some delicious, creamy thick, custard coloured colostrum in a little cup(as using a bottle would risk causing nipple confusion). I was pleased to discover I had a good supply.

On day two I managed to nurse her successfully for about 5-10 minutes. At the time I was very unsure if that counted as a successful feed but the fact that she then slept for five and half hours soundly seemed a good sign to me.

I will just interject here that I was then told by one Midwife, upon mentioning what I considered a great success(she fed, she slept well, all a Mother could want on day two), that I should wake her up every three hours to feed. She made me feel quite neglectful for not having done this, but she had all sorts of things to say throughout my stay which differed from other Midwives advice, and anyway I later read this suggestion is only for babies under a certain weight, say 7 lb or thereabouts. Plum was born at 9 lb 2 oz, so I’m now rather annoyed that as a nervous new Mum I was made to feel so bad. Way to knock a girls confidence in the most overwhelming time of her life. Thank god she was the only one with such views. Other than this I will point out that I had a relaxing three days in the hospital, and the service I received from most of the midwives was good, mostly for the support in nursing, which was abundant(perhaps because I requested it in my birth plan). In fact the support was so forthcoming that it eventually got a bit too much, and so I was looking forward to getting home and practising a latch without a stranger squeezing my breasts. I think Plum wanted some air too.

When we travelled home, latching was still a problem, but I was borrowing a pump from the hospital to express and was to try latching as much as possible. I had to let Daddy feed her at night while I still got up and pumped two or three times a night. Plum was asleep when we left and slept through the car journey. She was moved into her Moses basket, which was an exciting moment for Mummy and Daddy Plum, but she didn’t stir. Other than latching, and some tough baby blues, everything was great, she was a healthy contented baby, with a very big appetite. And once latch issues were resolved life seemed pretty perfect. No more staying home and pumping and giving bottles all day(we did use bottles to feed her eventually as it made life easier when feeding and we just thought we’d risk it with nipple confusion, I don’t think it was an issue) like some sort of recluse. It was boob all the way now!

Yet one day, somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks, maybe even later, it occurred to me, now that I had started doing more Mummy socialising, that everyone had a routine; a dead on schedule with specific nap times and feed times(more the bottle feeders, as most breastfeeding mums will do on demand to at least some extent). I quickly started to feel this was something I should really be doing, simply because that’s what everyone else was doing, and thus far I had not spoken to a single person like me, who had never seen the random sleep cycles as an issue. We hadn’t planned a deliberate bedtime routine at a set time, she slept loads anyway and slept in our room at night well. I wish I had known then that if we were happy and she slept loads it was perfect, don’t change a thing!

I knew almost instantly that sleep training was not an option for me. Each to their own, as they say, but not for me, no matter what. Every child is different, all I know is my daughter would not have benefited from ‘crying it out’.  I also knew that I was happy to continue with on demand nursing(which I still do now, anywhere and everywhere)

We have tried various ideas along the way; read from books or the internet, advice from friends and family, and even my own made up ‘solutions'(which of all were probably the most successful). I have spent countless nights lying in the dark with her pretending to be asleep, which worked at times and not at others. I have spent hours reading books(which on the plus side is rewarding for everyone, the whole reason to have a child is to spend time with them) and in the end, we have never stuck to a routine. Things get better, then they get worse, then they get much worse, then they get better again.

The truth is, I really believe that all the struggles only started when we tried to control things, and alter her natural patterns. If no-one had ever mentioned routines to me I think things would have been fine. I did not need to mess with her, she was a happy low needs baby.

What I’m finding now is that the more I relax(yes we do a bedtime routine, and encourage naps but never force them, and never force her to stay awake even if she’s very tired) the better things are getting. I have tried telling myself this before but outside influences can be powerful.

Today I am sitting on the sofa, furry blanket my over legs and Little Plum is asleep, as she has been for about an hour now(1:20pm) She kept saying ‘bed’ and ‘nom nom'(wants to nurse) and when we went upstairs she pointed at the bedroom, and when I took her in and nursed her she was asleep in minutes. You may disapprove of my nursing her to sleep all the time, but if I go out for a girly night, or a meal or the cinema with friends, or even with Daddy Plum, she finds another way, and only yesterday I put her in the pushchair for the walk home from town and she quietly and peacefully dosed off in a matter of moments, staying asleep even after we got home. I don’t personally believe the theory that she’ll be so dependent on nursing to sleep that she’ll have sleep issues. I think nursing to feed is an ancient practice. Her nap times and bedtimes can vary, but then we have spits and spurts of natural routine kicking in and then things going out of whack again. The important thing to me is that she gets enough sleep overall, and as she grows up, and with any future little plums, I intend to follow my gut and give them what they need, not what society tells me they need.

After all the books and the internet and the social conversation and so on, I am done with the stress and uselessness of it all. By all means if you’re a new parent, do the research and see if you find what’s right for you, for most there seems to be a an answer somewhere. However my advice would be if you don’t think you have a problem, don’t try to fix anything.

In future I will continue to trust my own instincts. If that sounds good to you, you may be interested in reading about attachment parenting. You’re likely to find a book at the library on this or you could search for it online.

Those peaceful pre-worry days…


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