Follow your gut
By midwife and nurse, Sanne Kammersgaard Christensen. Owner of a private midwifery house. March 2020 / @sanne_jordemoder
There is a lot of good, well-intentioned advice about the sleeping patterns of infants and young children. As new parents, regardless of whether you are a first-time or multiple-time parent, it can be a bit of a jungle to sort through all the good advice and in the end it is mostly about getting to know your own child and following your gut feeling. And yes, that is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, I have made a number of posts about sleep and good advice, at least in the sense that I will tell you a little about what we have done at home - so you can use what makes sense to you.
Sleep #1 – children are different
Vera 0-6 months
From day 1 of her life, Vera has slept sparingly day and night. Apparently she doesn't need as much sleep as the rest of us. She has had a lot of awakenings all the time, and therefore we have also tried different strategies to help her sleep further, and quite frankly also to get some coherent sleep ourselves.
In the beginning she slept a lot of the time with me. We slept close in bed and she didn't move far from my armpit or from my chest for the first several weeks of her life. She needed a lot of closeness, around the clock, so of course she got that. I swaddled her every day and she fell asleep in the swaddling – right there – with mom. Everything else seemed unnatural. She also slept outside in the pram, but we quickly learned that she didn't sleep as safely there, which resulted in many awakenings. Vera has never learned to use a pacifier, even though we have tried hard, so she has always used me as a pacifier instead.
We were recommended to try a swing cradle, but although it gave her the feeling of being enveloped, it did not change the many awakenings.
And yet, the swing cradle has been good for us and for Vera as long as it is moving. She is safe when she is rocked, whether it is in the swaddling/in the arms/in the sling/in the pram/on the pilates ball. The thing that repeats itself through everything we've tried is that Vera is safest when we hold her close or wrap her tightly and rock her.
So yes, babies are definitely different, but to me it actually makes a lot of sense that the rocking motion is soothing. The infant knows this movement of being rocked from the time in the womb. For more or less than 9 months, the little new individual feels well protected inside the warm cavity of the belly, where the amniotic fluid cradles the child in time with the mother's movements. Therefore, the world can seem very big and violent when the infant is born and for some this great upheaval requires more time than for others. That is why I am also very opposed to the fact that today we are in such a hurry to get our little babies used to being away from us if they show signs of needing closeness. So my best advice is basically to follow your gut, look at your child, what your child needs and let other people's criticism of your choices fly by.
Because exactly what with the criticism, the prejudices, all the pointed fingers, it has actually filled us with a surprising amount, even though it is a second child. It has been both family, friends and healthcare staff who have had an opinion on our choices when it came to giving Vera a good sleep rhythm. It has made me aware that today, in my opinion, we are a little too focused on the fear of giving the young children bad habits.
Well, how many times have I heard this;
"now make sure it doesn't become a bad habit", "you are getting her used to the fact that she can only sleep if she is rocked or is close to mother". Yes, I have even been told that if I invested in an aid for the swing cradle, a cradle motor, it was an expression that I was lazy and could not cope with the task as a parent. Because I had to remember that I had chosen to have the child myself - the last one really hit me - quite honestly! Now think before you speak. I absolutely think that I am up to the task as a mother and I don't feel that we are doing anything wrong.
I agree that in the long run it is not appropriate to always have to rock a child to sleep, which is why a rocking motor is only for a temporary period.
We have now been lucky enough to be allowed to test a cradle motor from @membantu.dk over the last month and we have not regretted for a second that the cradle motor now cradles Vera when she lies in the cradle instead of one of us having to sit by the crib for hours.
Because this is no longer a question of whether Vera should be cradled or not. This is how it is with us at the moment and we will "cradle the problem" when the time is right. Right now, our primary wish is for Vera to get a better undisturbed sleep, while at the same time as parents we also get time for our big boy and for each other.
And there we just have to clap our hands - we have finally got our arms free. We have experienced that the cradle motor has given us our evenings back, so that we actually get to look each other in the eye when the children are tucked in at 7.30pm and before we pass out from exhaustion ourselves (yes, it's usually around 9pm, but still).
It makes a world of difference, especially when after almost 7 months you are still awake most of the night, to be reminded of being with the rest of the family as well. It was really needed.
In addition, over the last month we have experienced that Vera has slept through (6 hours in a row) as many as 3 times, which is a huge breakthrough for us.
Sleep #3 – how much and how little should you use the motor?
It is always a balancing act. As I said, we had reached a point where, regardless of whether we had a motor or not, we rocked Vera several times a day and sometimes at night.
An example of a day with us could look like this:
- Between 5-7: Vera stands up. May have slept the last part of the night in the cradle with the engine on if the night has been very interrupted.
- Morning: Vera is put down for her first nap - in the pram.
- Afternoon: Vera is put down for her second nap - in the pram.
- Around. 19.30: Vera is put down for the night, in the swing cradle with the motor on. We usually start at the highest speed if she finds it difficult to let go and slip into sleep. When she sleeps, we gradually reduce the speed. The motor has 5 speeds, so there is ample opportunity to vary how much movement you want.
- Between 21-22.30 Vera wakes up again and I nurse her for the last time before midnight (at least I hope). I put her back in the cradle and let it continue to rock her to sleep. Sometimes we can't just put her back in the cradle, so we first have to sit with her on the pilates ball and help her calm down. If all goes well, she is put back in the cradle and sleeps there for a few hours.
- When she wakes up for the first time in the night, she comes into my bed. She is nursing again and most often falls asleep with me while using me as a pacifier. If she calms down so I can get some shut-eye too, she'll stay in bed with me all night. But if at the next meal at the end of the night she doesn't calm down again, I have started using the cradle as an aid and it has really been a big help.
Yes yes it is preserved, the trees do not grow into the sky, so it is far from every time that it works on our dear Vera. Sometimes she just gets up at 5, even if the rest of us don't agree that the night is over. But other times we can get her to continue sleeping in the crib and that's all that matters, especially for me, if I can just manage to sleep for one more hour before the day starts again.