Elbie and I are now day three into our second week on our own. This is pretty good going considering Elbie will be four months old on Sunday. We have been spoiled over the summer with Eddie being a teacher and having the whole summer off. It has been incredible to be able to spend so much of our first few months as a family together and know we are very lucky to have had that time. It has been one big holiday for the three of us and with holidays comes freedom and no routine. Of course this is a great thing and there is no one who would say that they would prefer to be stuck in a routine over a carefree holiday, especially Eddie and I. Before Elbie came along we were both mad about not letting the baby rule our life and getting ourselves stuck in routines. It’s just a baby right, they have to fit in with our lives not the other way round. Well I still believe that the baby has to fit in with us but I have now realised that we also have to make some changes to fit in with them too. Eddie and I are social creatures and often get cabin fever pretty quickly so the thought of having routines that interfered with our social lives was something of a nightmare for us. That is before we experienced sleepless nights and the four month sleep regression hit.
Elbie was a great sleeper and started sleeping through the night at around six weeks old and then consistently sleeping through at eight weeks which lasted until she was fourteen weeks old. She teased me with offering me my sleep back but only to then take it away again. I knew it wouldn’t last as she is a baby after all but boy its exhausting. Being a nurse I was used to doing night shifts and long hours which mostly left me being tired all of the time. So I thought I would handle the sleepless nights well and had a head start on most new mums. I could not have been more wrong. Absolutely NOTHING prepares you for the sleepless nights. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, because that is exactly what it is. At the moment I exclusively breast feed Elbie so Eddie can’t help much. He has done a few of the nights with expressed milk but we soon realised that Elbie falls asleep much quicker on the boob than she does with a bottle so it was just easier for me to do the night feeds. Eddie doesn’t get off completely though as he often gets up with her first thing to give me a much needed sleep in. We have worked well as a tag team throughout the summer but now with Eddie back at work he can no longer give me those extra hours in bed, so this is where the problem lies. I like my sleep and I would like to get some of it back and it turns out that babies like routine.
Although we have come to the realisation that we need some sort of routine we are definitely not a Gina Ford style family. Parent led schedules are way too rigid and do not fit in with our lifestyle. I don’t eat at the same time everyday so I don’t see how I should expect my baby too either. Yes we have rough times of the day but generally we eat when we are hungry. Saying this though I do feel that Elbie needs some sort of structure and I am most certainly not judging parents who do decide parent led is for them. Baby led or “Attachment Parenting” seems to be a little more suited to us as I tend to let Elbie guide me to when she wants certain things. I feed on demand and I put her down for a nap, or at least attempt to when I can see certain cues that tell me she is getting tired. Although I am leaning towards baby led routines in my sleep deprived desperation I went to the library to borrow some baby sleep books which have helped a little, albeit seeminly very unrealistic at this point. I have found Your Baby Week by Week by Simon Cave and Dr Caroline Fertleman pretty useful which I was lent while pregnant. This book has given me a rough idea on how much sleep Elbie should be needing throughout the day and I have combined it so far with a loose routine which seems to be suiting us all as a family, even if we have to say goodbye to our late evenings out for now.
Everyday is a learning curve with this little one and it is still early days but I’m going to try and stick this whole routine thing out as I have definitely seen some small improvements. Elbie still isn’t sleeping well but things are starting to become a bit more predictable with the routine. Despite all of this I’m sure this will change again soon as that is one thing I have learnt so far is that babies like to change things up just when you get used to it! Watch this space.