(Not so) Silent Night…

I’ve been trying to remember what age we started our first-born’s bedtime routine – in terms of getting her used to a specific bedtime and the associated elements of routine – bath, massage, story etc – that could be built on as she became older and more aware of the concept waking and sleeping hours. I think we first tried to claim back our evenings when she was about two months old. I subscribe to the theory that it is never too soon to introduce routines and getting her into good habits early has served us well: the majority of the time she is a good sleeper and has always been good with her naps during the day. There has, however, always been a link between feeding and sleeping for us; I have spoken before about the power of the boob and my willingness to wield it whenever needed to ensure a peaceful night…

Interesting, then, to see a conversation amongst my breastfeeding support friends on our facebook page this past week about how to begin separating feeding and sleeping. There are clearly many different parenting styles, and therefore opinions, about how to tackle this and, indeed, whether it really matters at all. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading a book called ‘How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm’ by Mei-Ling Hopgood which looks at various different parenting approaches from around the world, including some much more laid back international approaches to sleeping. In the UK, we seem to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how and when our children sleep, focusing on routines and trying to ensure baby sleeps in their own cot/nursery. It would seem there are many cultures where co-sleeping is prolific and many where bedtime really doesn’t matter with children being encouraged to stay up late and enjoy their parents’ social life.

Breastfeeding seems to be almost inextricably linked with sleep, given that there’s no fixed start and end point of a feed. With a bottle fed baby, it’s clear when the milk is finished and the feed comes to an end but many breastfed babies can snack and nuzzle away for hours on end. The other angle, of course, is night feeding. True ‘on-demand’ feeding means many breastfeeding mums are up at least two or three times a night having cluster-fed their baby all evening, a pattern which, in the early months, can be very demanding.

Often, people will claim their baby sleeps better due to being bottle fed but I think this must be a myth as babies have such small tummies when little that it is surely unrealistic to expect them to sleep more than a few hours before wanting more food.

Our new arrival is currently cluster feeding for most of the evening and then waking every three-and-a-half to four hours through the night. The main thing for me, though, is her willingness to be put in her moses basket awake. I am determined to build on this in the hope she will self-settle better than ‘number one’ ever has. We are waiting for the excitement of the new baby to die down before we start to tackle number one’s current bedtime routine: separating out the bedtime milk drink from falling asleep and trying to introduce a story and some self-settling. Wish us luck!

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