I have not had a straight full night’s sleep in over a year and a half. I used to be those people who could sleep the day away. I loved sleep over most things in life. It was just such a wonderful feeling to lay between the cosy warm cushion and the firm but comfortable mattress below. Sometimes, I would enjoy hours living in the perfect dream world. But not anymore. Those carefree sleeps are LONG GONE. Sleep is a luxury I am desperate for.
As with all new mums, the first few months were tough. My daughter would nurse for an hour at least. Yes, she was one of them. And her routine was to feed every 3 hours so I would spend 1 hour or more feeding her, have a gap of 2 hours if I was lucky and then it was back to the feed.
My daughter was already very attached to my lap because her feed was so long but it got worse. At 5 weeks, she along with all of my family got covid. This was at the start of the pandemic. It was the first day of lockdown, 23rd March 2020. I took her to hospital as she developed a fever and they wanted to check her over. We did not know it was covid then. Only I was allowed to go in with her due to hospital restrictions. The doctors did lots of invasive tests on her including a failed attempt at a lumbar puncture to make sure she didn’t have meningitis. I was absolutely terrified for her. She was kept under observation for 24 hours whilst she was pumped with antibiotics. I felt like I had held my breath for those 24 hours. A day after discharge, the hospital rang to say she had tested positive for covid.
I didn’t realise it then, but the experience meant I was holding my daughter a lot. I would not leave her alone just in case her fever returned. 2 weeks later my father passed away from covid. May Allah forgive him and raise his rank ameen. I spent the following weeks like a zombie. All I did was sit on the sofa all day long, holding my daughter, nursing her and watching as she slept. I was unable to do anything beyond the basic care she needed.
This set us into a downward sleeping pattern. My daughter became so accustomed to being in my arms that when I would attempt to place her in the next-to-me, my warmth being replaced by a cold hard mattress meant she would instantly wake up. I would spend ages attempting to sooth her and get her to sleep. I would place my hand in her to reassure her I was there but as soon as she felt my hand move – she would be wide awake.
The lack of sleep for me was seriously affecting my health. I resorted to co-sleeping. That worked well for my daughter. She would sleep well next to me but it didn’t help me. I was always on the alert, fearful of rolling onto her. Continuously sleeping on one side with my arm up in an awkward position caused me to start getting shoulder, neck and headaches. She was an avid drinker and took full advantage of having milk on tap. Every time she stirred, she would want milk or else I would have to deal with cries instead. I was shattered on so many levels. My daughter was 7 months old by now and I needed to do something about this sleeping arrangement for my body’s sake.
A few friends suggested different methods they had implemented to help their little ones sleep independently. However, most were not in my boat. It’s easier to train a child to self soothe to sleep if the child is already accustomed to their own bed. Even the books on sleep had less advice to offer for parents co-sleeping. A friend lent me her book by Lucy Wolfe called The Baby Sleep Solution. It was a stay and support method. Her book was really insightful and she predominantly focused on regimented routine. My mornings at that time would start at 9am. I was too physically weak to wake up any earlier but I realised that I needed to break my daughters day up into regular blocks of sleep and wake time. I forced myself to start waking up at 8am and getting my little one up as soon as possible too. I was amazed at the difference one hour made. My daughter would get tired and want her nap by 11am. She would sleep for half an hour (in my lap at this stage) and then be up for lunch and her second nap by 2pm. This new method helped me to establish her bedtime routine at 7pm.
The self soothing to sleep part was still not happening for us a few weeks in. She just would cry every time I walked away and got up to stand at the end of the cot. I would sometimes sit for an hour at a time by her bedside ignoring her and attempting to read a book in the dark. She would fall asleep but as if by magic, as soon as I crept away towards the door or just moved slightly – her eyes would dart open! The only way to get her to sleep would be to place her in my bed and nurse her until she knocked out. Then I would stealth mode slip out of the bed and make a dash for the door like a ninja! It was absolutely tiring and totally boring sitting in the dark like this week on end only to have her in the bed with us.
I started questioning why I was trying so hard to get her to self soothe to sleep. I placed so much pressure on her and me in this process but I realised that at the end of it all, my daughter just wanted and needed ME. This time would be short lived and one day she would not need me this desperately so I decided to instead just enjoy the cuddles whilst she slept and I sniffed her lovely head. It was a massive achievement that she had 2 good naps and a 7pm bedtime routine. I wasn’t going to push it with the self soothing and her sleeping in her own bed. So I reintroduced her to our bed and we began co-sleeping.
For the next 6 months, this became our routine. I would nurse my daughter, she would fall asleep, I would creep out and she would sleep for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, wake up crying for me, I would go up to her and the cycle would repeat until I retired to bed.
One day, a few weeks back, I introduced some soft teddies to my daughter. She loved them and would hug them. I took the teddies to bed, placed them next to my daughter and just quietly walked out of the room. I switched on the monitor and listened carefully. My daughter didn’t cry or ask for me, she played and chatted to the teddies and after sometime it went quiet. I crept into her room to find her fast asleep. I was shocked! I tried this technique again the next day and it worked! Alhamdulillah. It continues to work most days!
I don’t know why and how this has happened. All I know is that Allah blessed me with some peace after I showed patience and I am grateful that it happened without tears or stress.
I’m trying to make the most of this peace before the next big hurdle – weaning her off my milk. But let’s not spoil the moment with thoughts of the future!
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