Sunday, 2 August 2015

Baby Sleep

So, here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately: Baby sleep. If you've ever read a parenting magazine (and there are a few to choose from), you will have noticed that every single month there is an article advertised on the cover that promises 5 SLEEP TIPS THAT WILL HAVE YOUR BABY SLEEPING THROUGH TONIGHT or GOLDEN SLEEP RULES EVERY PARENT SHOULD KNOW or some other patronising tagline that 100% promises you that your baby will sleep well from this day forward and NEVER fucking delivers. Ever. Every single one of these articles follows the same basic premise, which is to make you, as a mother, feel like you are doing everything wrong when it comes to getting your baby to sleep.

Can I please have a show of hands for anyone who has ever done that ridiculous fucking shush-pat crap and found that it actually worked? How about pick-up-put-down? Controlled crying? See, I’ve tried all of these things and the only thing that has ever actually worked for me when it comes to making sure Baby Taylor goes to sleep when I want him to is this formula:

He needs to have been awake for at least two and a half to three hours.
He needs to have been recently fed and have a clean, dry nappy.
He needs to be showing actual signs that he is tired (a little yawning, eye-rubbing or general grizzling is usually a good indication).
He needs to be in a very dark room with a white noise machine running constantly.
He needs a dummy and he needs to be swaddled.

That’s it, and I know that it sounds like a lot, but most of it is just basic common sense. Babies are just small humans, and they function in basically the same way. If you’re hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable or just not tired, are you likely to go to sleep just because somebody else thinks you should? No. So why would you expect your baby to? Why do all parenting publications seem to base their sleep-related articles on the assumption that all people who have babies are morons?

For my part, Baby Taylor is almost ten months old now and, until last week, he had only slept through the night a handful of times. I used to blame reflux and then I got to feeling like maybe it was just habit and maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t a great sleeper. Toddler Taylor was a fantastic sleeper as a baby, and I did all of the same things with him that I have with his brother. So I’ve arrived at the shocking conclusion that maybe babies are just a lot like their adult counterparts; maybe some of them are good sleepers and some of them aren’t and maybe there’s not much you can about a crappy sleeper except ride out the storm and rejoice when they actually sleep well.

Sometimes I actually read the baby sleep articles and find myself feeling aggressively infuriated by them, because they are usually just a rehash of the same generic bullshit, and what really fucking annoys me more than anything else is that they always try to tell me that if I don’t take Baby Taylor’s dummy away from him RIGHT THIS MINUTE then he will never, ever, EVER sleep, ever. If I let him have his dummy – the dummy that helps calm his reflux and makes him feel comforted – for one more night, I will, without doubt, find that he is still waking in the night at 18 wanting it. Can you imagine a more ridiculous concept? Toddler Taylor had a dummy for naps and night time sleep until he was two, then one night I just didn’t give it to him when I put him down to bed. He asked for it a couple of times and I had to go into his room half an hour later to give him a cuddle and reassure him that he hadn’t done anything wrong, but the point is this: At two years old, he understood when I reassured him. Baby Taylor would not understand if I just suddenly didn’t give him his dummy one night when I put him in his cot. He would think I had forgotten (which I sometimes do) and he would cry and whinge and yell until I went and gave it to him. Why would I put either of us through that? Where are the 18 year-olds who still need dummies to sleep? I need to meet them, hear them say “it’s all my mother’s fucking fault for letting me have it when I was a baby” and then I might pay some attention to idiotic articles proclaiming that sleep aids are The Devil Himself.

I’m not even going to go into the things that come up when you type “baby sleep tips” into Google, but invariably you will end up on a message board or chat forum populated by other parents, some of whom think they have all the answers and will tell you that you are basically a complete failure of a human being and why don’t you try doing the pick-up-put-down dance for another 27million hours until you’re so completely sleep-deprived that you can’t even remember your own name or how to put on your knickers. Believe me, I have talked to these people – usually women, sorry – and I am doing everything wrong. Allegedly, Baby Taylor is going to suffocate because I still put him in a swaddling bag and he often sleeps on his front or side OR he is never going to sleep through because of the Devil Dummy.

So now I just approach baby sleep like this: Mothers of the world, keep doing whatever you’re doing to get your baby to sleep because (and I am only going to say this once, so listen carefully) they are NOT still going to need you to do it when they’re 18. Ignore the articles and the message boards and the self-important “experts” and trust yourself. It’s really unlikely that anyone who doesn’t know your baby knows better than you what they need to “sleep through”. Which, by the way, is only actually considered to be five consecutive hours anyway. Don’t even get me started on how five hours is NOT fucking “sleeping through”.


  1. Oh, this made me chuckle. The hours I spent thinking I could do something to "improve" my baby's sleep. (10 months, wakes every two hours) what worked? Accepting there's jack sh*t that'll change it other than time.

    1. I think most mothers do that at one time or another, and you're right; it's one of those things that will eventually improve and there's not a whole lot you can do about it most of the time. I don't think I've ever obsessed more about sleep than I have since I had children, which is a cruel kind of irony because I don't actually remember being that bothered about how much sleep I was getting at all until I suddenly wasn't getting ANY!