January 9, 2011

Demystifying Cues

Category: Baby Milestones

While I know that every baby is different, I can’t help but feel envious when I hear of other mothers saying that their babies have been sleeping through the night since they were born. Or, that their newborns start sleeping through the night when they get to about 8 weeks old. It made me all hopeful at one stage that just one fine day, (in my mind, latest, latest by 12 weeks old), Spud too, will sleep through the night just like any other babies.

That hope quickly disappeared as at 3 months old, Spud was still showing no signs of being able to sleep through the night. She was still waking up and crying up to 3x a night for a feed. I mean, no matter what time we dream-feed her before midnight, she would, without fail wake up and cry between 1.30am – 2.30 am and another time between 3.30am -4.30 am every night. She really can’t be THAT hungry as she was fed once at 8.30 pm and then another time at 10.30pm!

It took me a while but it was only later (at about the 3.5 months mark ) that I suspected Spud could just be waking up in the middle of the night out of habit.

I soon realised there was a pattern. Up until 3.5 months, we were conditioned that each and every cry in the middle of the night had meant that Spud was hungry and needed a feed. And so, we went on an autopilot mode:

Spud cry.
Silver Bullet picked her up from her cot, passed her on to me.
I feed.
Passed her back to Silver Bullet to put her back in her cot when she was done feeding.
And we all zonked out again till the next cry about 2-3 hours later.

We were doing this however many times that were required throughout the night; conditioned to think that she was hungry.

One other cue I had leading me to suspect she was doing it out of habit was that night feeds became sloppy – she did not latch on properly, preferring to suckle lightly and then she would fall right back to sleep within less than 5 minutes of feeding. Most times, she fussed at the breast without properly feeding for more than 10 minutes, and even after checking that everything was alright (dry diaper, no gas or tummy ache), she will be in a half asleep mode and it will take us another hour or so for her to fall back to sleep.

That meant more broken sleep and certainly not a great start to an intense work day at the office the next day. Her habitual night waking was driving me insane! I was sleep deprived, I was perpetually tired, I was irritable and I was stressed from the sheer multitude of broken sleeps. It was a feat to get myself through to lunch, let alone for the entire day. I’ve got crazy people to deal with and it all became too intense to bear. I could hardly be described as a functional human being.

I thought about it for a while. If anything, they seem to be cues for me to start doing something about it before I go mental. It was then I decided to embark on little bit of tough love by “sleep-training” her sometime end November last year.

It was hard, it was exhausting (emotionally and physically), and it was heart-wrenching.

Only after 2 intensive weeks did we manage to stop the night feeds. The fussing at night still happens from time to time, but at least the broken night sleeps were minimised.  Spud has shown that she is capable of waking up till the next morning between 6 am – 7.30 am, (on some occasions 5.30 am!) usually with a little cry to let us know she is ready for the day. As soon as she opens her eyes and see our faces, she’ll go all wide-eyed and bushy-tail again — ready to take on the day with as little naps as possible to keep her parents/nanny occupied!

Spud is quite a piece of work in the day, but I’ll take that anytime over the frequent night wakings and broken sleeps.

Watch this space for more “brutal” details on doing away with night feeding in our attempt to get Spud to sleep through the night.

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