Despite the angelic picture above, Isaac is generally a terrible, terrible sleeper. It went well until he was about three months old — he was sleeping for longer and longer stretches, up to eight hours one fine night, and then! With no warning, it all went downhill. The only saving grace is that motherhood makes true mothers of us all — I would never imagine that I can survive waking up every three hours, multiple times a night, for more than a year.
But it happened. I did. At 15 months, Isaac still wakes up every three hours to nurse on most nights slightly longer when he deigned to eat a larger dinner or to be considerate for once.
Of course, there were a whole multitude of factors at play. I think he is naturally a bit of a terrible sleeper because he’s such an active child, always wanting to engage with the world. And then, he never took to a bottle, or drinking milk from anywhere other than nursing — so when I started work, I did not want to stop night nursing if it meant he would have no milk intake at all. We are also co-sleeping, which some baby books suggest would result in more frequent night wakings because um, the enticing scent of milk would wake them up to feed. But basically it’s probably just because I’m a marshmallow mummy to a stubborn baby. And I just really really like snuggling with Isaac even if it means I’m hanging off the edge of the bed most nights.
But last night, something most interesting happened! Without very little hullabaloo, Isaac went for eight hours without feeding!
It started randomly, a few nights ago, when after nursing in the middle of the night, Isaac refused to sleep and kept tossing and turning and asking for more milk. Nothing would soothe him — patting, shushing, singing… At some point, I was completely knackered and ill-tempered and went into a stern, nagging tirade along the lines of “What kind of baby are you? Babies are supposed to be able to fast for at least seven hours at night. You are just waking up for fun! Do you know how inconsiderate that is? Adults need to sleep too!” Then at some point, I realised that Isaac actually fell asleep!
Over the next few nights, I started using the stern voice in the middle of the night whenever he’s already nursed and nothing else worked to send him to sleep. And! Isaac actually fell asleep to the nagging. (Which in retrospect, is completely unsurprising =P)
Anyway, last night, he had his last nursing session of the night, and then spent half an hour flipping around and refusing to sleep. So it struck me that perhaps I should do the stern voice nagging — and lo and behold, he actually fell asleep after less than one minute of nagging.
That was at around 9 p.m. Then he woke at 1 a.m. and started to fuss a little — but stopped when I said “Isaac go to bed! It’s time for sleep? What kind of baby are you…” Without nursing!
The last phrase in particular, appeared to be a magic phrase because when he woke at around 4 a.m., I basically said “What kind of baby are you?” which led him to sigh, snuggle into me, then fall asleep!
I suspect of course, that it’s too good to be true and I’m very sure it will stop working this very night and Isaac will continue to torment me with multiple wakings until he is 15 years old.
But it is also very amusing — because nothing I read ever said to nag at your child sternly to send him to sleep.
Which is, the point of this entire rambling, that books are references but every child is different and the strangest of things may end up working for your child. For Isaac, jokes about the stern voices and motherly nagging aside, I think what helped him sleep was simply the fact that he was ready for night weaning, on his own terms.
When he woke up again at around 6 a.m., I realise that my breasts weren’t all that full, which signalled to me that he’s probably been comfort latching for a while, with very little milk intake. But now he’s ready to give up the latching, and I’m satisfied that it wouldn’t affect his nutrition so perhaps it’s time to start the weaning proper.
But of course, this morning at 6 a.m., I could see his face in the dim light, and he had such a happy smile looking at my chest (what a little pervert right!) that I gave in and let him nurse, after which we both fell asleep with him snuggled in my arms before we woke again to a lovely Sunday morning =)