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Monday, January 27, 2014

The sleep battle... and how I won

I'm sure if you ask any new mother what they want most, their answer would be more SLEEP. Especially in the beginning. Looking back now I seriously don't know how I survived. I remember when she was about 2 weeks old I posted a Facebook status marvelling about how amazing it was that I could function normally on 3-4 hours of broken sleep each night. I was totally in awe of my body. I've since found out that this is possible because after you have a baby the surge of adrenaline and change in hormones you experience are specifically designed to ensure you continue functioning so that the baby survives (evolutionary facts never cease to amaze me). The problem is that after the first few weeks the adrenaline wears off and you are left with plummeting hormones and the cold hard reality that sleep deprivation sucks!

Unfortunately for us, bubba has her (then undiagnosed) allergy so she was a very unsettled newborn, especially at night time. Well she was unsettled all the time really, but it was worse for me at night. Most nights I got about twenty minutes sleep after 2am. I was literally a living zombie. But eventually we worked the sleep thing out. I'm pretty sure it was a combination of her bassinet mattress being raised, being swaddled and being rocked to sleep. Whatever it was, it worked.

She started to sleep for four to five hours straight. It was heaven. Of course the first few weeks of her doing this I would still wake up every 2-3 hours expecting to feed her and panicking that she'd been crying and I hadn't heard it. As her stomach started settling more and she got older she started to sleep longer and longer. By around 3-4 months she had dropped all her night feeds and was sleeping roughly nine hours straight each night. It took me a while to adjust to sleeping longer, but eventually my body got back in the groove and we were moving along nicely in the sleep department. Of course the wonderful thing about babies is just as you think you've figured them out and gotten into some sort of routine, they go and change it just to keep you on your toes. Just as my poor body had grown accustomed to getting a good 6 hours of sleep a night, I was thrown back into the (non)sleeping patterns of a brand new mum.

This time it was much worse than before. I was up every 1-2 hours each night to resettle her as she started screaming for no reason. She wasn't hungry (I tried feeding her, it made no difference). Her evil non sleeping sleep regression hit at the same time that we had to transfer her to her cot and while she was teething. Originally I wanted to keep her in the bassinet until she was 6 months, but she quickly outgrew it just before five months. At first I figured that the transition to the cot and/or teething were to blame so I set about trying everything I could to rectify the situation (and reclaim my sanity).

I tried putting her in the cot semi awake so she was aware of where she was, incase that's why she was freaking out. It didn't work. Then I let her fall asleep next to me on my bed then transferred her to the cot. That got her to sleep, but didn't stop her waking during the night. We tried panadol two nights for her teeth. Didn't stop her waking up. I noticed she was rubbing her ear a bit so I took her to the doctor to make sure she didn't have an ear infection. No ear infection. I couldn't work out why she was waking up.

Then we noticed that she was getting her arms out of her swaddle. So I thought maybe shes waking herself up by touching her face at night. I started re-wrapping her each time she would wake. It settled her, but she kept getting her arms out over and over. I swear this kid is related to Houdini, it didn't matter which way we wrapped her she would get her arms out. It was kind of funny to watch on the monitor. She would wait until we got downstairs then she would start wriggling about as hard as she could and pop one arm would come out, followed closely by the other. Then she would flail them about and start screaming. Finally we had worked out what the problem was.

I always knew the day would come when I would have to stop swaddling her. To be honest it scared me. I'm petrified of her rolling over in her sleep and not being able to move. I know in reality she would most likely cry straight away and nothing bad would happen, but I can't wipe the thought from my head. I had always planned on using sleeping bags with her (mainly for my own peace of mind), even though I didn't really know where to start with tog levels and brands etc. I thought that you could just go from swaddles to a sleeping bag. Obviously that wasn't going to work for us as she would just flail her arms around everywhere and wake herself up, so I had to put my thinking cap on to find a solution.

During this time I came across the Love to dream page (it appeared in my newsfeed on Facebook) and remembered that my friend had one of their swaddle ups and had been using it since birth with her son. I actually went to buy one from a local baby shop when bubba was about five weeks old, but when we got there they didn't have any in stock and they talked me into a large wrap instead so we just went with traditional muslin wraps from that point on. Curious as to whether the swaddle up would solve our sleep dilemmas, I went onto the Love to dream website to look at the swaddle up again and I discovered that they also had a swaddle up 50/50. Its a swaddle designed specifically to help babies transition from a swaddle to a sleeping bag. Why had I not heard of this before?? The swaddle up 50/50 keeps the arms swaddled up tightly with detachable wings and the bottom half is like a sleeping bag. Over a couple of weeks you detach the wings one at a time until your baby is used to sleeping with their arms totally free and it essentially turns into a sleeping bag. I was a tiny bit worried that she might not like it as she's used to being swaddled with her arms down, but it couldn't make the situation any worse.

This is her not impressed face!

I was somewhat correct. When we first put her in it she was not impressed at all. Probably because she realised she wasn't going to be able to get her arms out no matter how much she thrashed about when we weren't looking. It was quite hilarious, she looked like a seal flapping its paws with a mermaid tail. I know that sounds horrible, but I couldn't help but think it at the time. She even tried to eat through the wings to get her arms out (hence the wet patches in the pic). After a while of protesting it was obvious that she wasn't going to give in and go to sleep so I compromised and took one wing off. Having one arm out seemed to be all that was needed to keep her happy. She was so proud of herself when she got her arm out and started being all cheeky pulling her dummy out. She took about ten minutes to settle to sleep at first, but after that she didn't wake up all night! It was a miracle. I thought it may have been a fluke, but it continued to happen. She even slept in until 7:30am one morning! She normally wakes at about 6am so that was huge.

The first night

The good sleep continued

She is getting closer and closer to possibly rolling in her sleep (much to my dismay) so I decided it was time to move onto trying sleeping with no arms. She took longer to get to sleep and it required letting her fall asleep next to me in bed, but after that she transitioned into the cot well and has only cried once (and that was for her dummy). As I sit here typing away this blog post, I am watching her on the monitor happily sleeping with both arms outstretched. Hopefully this continues for the rest of the night. Fingers crossed.

The swaddle up 50/50 has been such a lifesaver (sleep saver) for us in the past couple of weeks. I am so glad that someone invented a product like this and that I stumbled across it (random Facebook trolling is useful afterall). While researching it I also noticed they sell sleeping bags as well for later on. I will be using this one for as long as she fits into it and will then be transferring her to a proper sleeping bag. If you are in the horrible sleep transition period and you are stuck for ideas I would suggest you give the swaddle up 50/50 a go. It can't hurt.

The Love To Dream sleep system stages

Do you have any other sleeping tips?

Toni x

* All opinions are my own and based on our experience with the swaddle up 50/50

Would you like to comment?

  1. I never tried an arms up type swaddle as they weren't around when my older 4 were babies and #5 has a nerve issue which affects her shoulder rotation, but I did swaddle them arms down for a long time. In fact, #5 was nearly 15 months before we transitioned her off the swaddle. Definitely a great sleep tool!

  2. If we didn't swaddle her she would never of slept since birth lol, She preferred arms down when she was a baby so we just stuck to that as she got older. When she gets her arms out though she always slept with them up. I think she just didn't like the restriction at first, but now shes fine. How did you get her to stay in a swaddle til 15 months? I would never be able to do that she would find a way to escape!

  3. Glad you figured it out. Things are always changing and evolving with these little ones. I always tell friends that the first year is going to be one wild ride of constant changing and adapting. If it's not teething, or solids, or wonder weeks, or flipping, or growth spurts, it's sure to be something. But the 'aha' moment when you figured out something is always so rewarding.

  4. That's really good to know, I like the look of that one. So glad you finally discovered something that works.