Welcome back to the latest installment of New Mum Stories. This week I’m happy to share Nicola’s story from Mummy to Dex. Nicola tells us all about her baby led parenting style when it comes to sleepy time.
Over to you Nicola…
Finding your feet as a new Mum is totally and utterly overwhelming. No amount of groundwork could have prepared me for coming home with my new bundle of joy, feeling as if my vagina had just done ten rounds with Mike Tyson, completely exhausted after a long labour with the added pressure of trying to get feeding established and trying to do whatever I could to look after this tiny human.
The first four weeks passed by in a blur of pumping machines, muslins and sleepless nights and at around five weeks old we started to sort of find our feet and thought about trying to establish a routine with our lovely little boy. I had no idea about nap times or how long baby should be awake for and I made the big mistake of thinking if I kept him awake during the day, he’d be more likely to sleep at night.
The witching hour became a standard part of our day by around six weeks old. At around 5pm Dexter would start crying and nothing, and I mean nothing would settle him. I’d be holding my precious little boy as he would scream his lungs out and all I could do was clasp him close to me and pray it would stop. I felt like the worst Mum in the world, knowing very well that leaving a newborn to cry can be extremely detrimental and wondering why, as his Mum, I couldn’t soothe whatever was wrong.
There were times I felt like throwing him out of the window. Of course, I never would have done it, but dealing with a screaming child for even ten minutes can be extremely stressful; it is nature’s way of making sure you don’t leave that poor defenceless baby to cry, but trying to pacify him proved difficult.
I tried giving milk, singing, rocking, removing clothes, adding clothes, skin to skin, baths and going out for long walks. The result would only be prolonged crying until eventually he tired himself out enough to go to sleep. I became accustomed to the crying starting, settling him on my chest while singing and stroking and waiting for it to pass and him to fall asleep. We went on like this for around five weeks: at the time it felt like it would never end.
I read lots of websites and forums, taking in other people’s experiences and learning about Purple crying and what could be the root cause of it. Some websites stated that it was just a phase and that baby would grow out of it, but I also read it could be down to sleep patterns and getting extremely overtired by the early evening. I started reading about awake times and nap times with extreme interest.
I’m one of these people who likes to be super organised. I like to have my diary filled out with plans and I LOVE meal planning, so I set about creating a routine that involved set naptimes and a maximum amount of awake time.
As a baby led parent I was careful not to be too strict with my routine and watched Dexter very carefully over the next couple of days for sleepy signs. While he was awake I’d do an activity with him like tummy time and when he started yawning, rubbing his eyes or trying to roll over I’d put him in his cot which was next to my bed and hold his hand until he fell asleep. I noted that he usually got tired about an hour after waking from his nap and would take fifteen minutes to fall asleep. He would then sleep for forty-five minutes to an hour and a half and the process would start again.
We slowly forgot what witching hour was as it ceased to exist. Dexter would have his last nap at around 3.30-4pm which would mean he was ready for bed at 6 or 7pm. We followed this routine until I went back to work, extending the periods of awake time as he grew older and dropping naps until he was on only one per day.
As a new Mum, experiencing the witching hour was extremely stressful and the worry and anxiety it caused me was quite profound. I feel very lucky to have grown up in the age of the Internet where there was support and information at the touch of a button for me to learn from. I don’t know what I would have done without it. Even now at 20 months, Dexter is a great sleeper who will go and find his Sleepytot and dummy when he is ready for a snooze and goes down like a dream; something I attribute to implementing a baby led routine very early on.
Thanks for sharing your New Mum Story Nicola.
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