Silja's Sleep Diary: one year old

Written by Taru, Silja's mom

Happy Birthday Silja !!! Silja is one year old today and it is time to celebrate a wonderfully precious year. Our big girl is enjoying the first steps towards toddler hood. She does very well with regular naps but can cope with some flexibility too.
And she sleeps through the night ...

It's Silja's first birthday, and the whole family is in uproar with excitement about our one year old. The big kids could hardly wait for Silja to wake up at seven in the morning to 'help' unwrap her presents, and last night I stayed up a bit later than everyone else, thinking of the night a year before when she was born.

I remember watching the lights of the London Eye over the rooftops, and the crescent moon moving slowly across the clear sky as I laboured. And exactly one year ago, we were cuddled up together in a comfortable bed, skin-to-skin, stunned and sleepy. That seems like a million years ago now, yet like yesterday.

I'm sitting in the basement hobby room in our house in Z├╝rich, writing this, and one year old Silja sleeps in her buggy next to me. We've just walked her siblings to school and as usual, she fell asleep on the way back. Once we got home I just wheeled the buggy in through the basement door, removed as much outdoors clothes as I could without waking her up fully, and opened a window so she won't get too hot. Yesterday she managed a three-hour nap like this, however if the weather is bad and we need to drive she find settling for a morning nap more difficult in her cot and won't sleep as long. I wonder if it's the restraint of being strapped in the buggy that keeps her asleep, or maybe the cooler air?

Mosquito attack!

One year old baby girl in pinkThe weather here has now turned considerably colder, after one last heat wave about three weeks ago. This brought the weirdest sleep disturbance I've yet seen - the attack of the most stealthy and vicious mosquitoes I've ever been stung by. I never actually saw them, but the damage was impressive.

One evening my son was taking off his jeans to go to bed, and before he could get his pyjama bottoms on, he was bitten on the bum. I was right next to him and didn't see or hear a thing, until he yelled and showed me a painful-looking bump. The worst thing was that they went straight for Silja, and she woke up in the night screaming and with bite marks all over her face and hands.

We tried ensuring all windows were closed at night but this didn't help, they seemed able to get in during the day and then attacked us after dark. In the end I moved Silja's cot next to the window wall and pulled some sheer curtains over it to make a mosquito net of sorts. That seemed to work, and - apart from the itching of the previous sting marks - she had more peaceful nights. In a few days the weather turned colder again and the bugs were gone. And now, when the weather is clear, we can see the fresh snow covering the mountains as we walk to school.

Flexible naps and good nights at one year old

The big kids had a two-week autumn break, and we enjoyed a short, nostalgic trip back to London, and many lazy mornings at home. If the rest of us are not getting up early and everything is quiet, Silja won't wake up before 8 or even 9am - this is fantastic on the weekends, too. She doesn't seem to mind being up at 7am on weekdays, either, if everyone else is getting up early.

She seems to compensate by taking longer morning naps of weekdays, and shorter during weekends and holidays. What a smart little girl - I much prefer that to later evening bedtimes. She still needs a nap in the afternoon, too, but that is one hour maximum and the time varies depending on what else is going on.

Her preferred nap time would seem to be between 2 and 4, and if I can arrange a walk to the shops before I pick the big kids up from school she may sleep in the buggy. If I need to drive, or if she can figure out we're going directly to school, she's normally too distracted or excited to fall asleep. Then I might be able to settle her for a nap once we get home from school. On weekends and holidays these nap times are a pleasure as we can cuddle up together at the exact moment when she's starting to look a little tired. I'd expect she'll gradually shorten her morning naps and start to prefer longer naps after lunch around one year old, but this may still take some time.
And finally, if there are no bugs, colds or coughs (we've had a couple now, but nothing serious) or other disturbances, Silja may well be a one year old baby sleeping through the night. She normally falls asleep between 8 and 9pm, either nursing, cuddling next to me, or in her own cot if I can spot the right time to put her there - sleepy enough not to try to stand up, but not fully asleep.

Getting her to her cot at the right moment is atrociously difficult now (should probably have spent more time in training her to fall asleep in the cot earlier), as she's now very mobile (she's not only walking, she's now running) and will almost always try to stand up when she's put in her cot. She often wakes up a few times before she's in deep sleep at around 11pm, and then she may sleep until 6am.

Then she may nurse a bit and continue sleeping next to me. I'm rarely awake enough at this time to bother trying to get her back into her cot. I actually though she was waking up much earlier in the night, say at around 3am, until I forced myself to check the time on a couple of nights and discover that we'd indeed achieved the magical baby sleep through the night stage, without me even really noticing. It all goes rather well with my general 'no brain, no headache' approach to life.

Happy Birthday big girl!

Silja's baby separation anxiety is definitely over now at one year old and daddy is king. Her first proper word - just yesterday - was 'isi' (Finnish for 'dad'). If she gets overexcited in the evenings the best thing to calm her down now is a cuddle with her dad on the rocking chair. I'm thinking of getting him more involved in settling her down at night so I will be able to cut down nursing before bed, in the hope that she wouldn't be so keen to nurse if she wakes up at night.

This is not a huge issue though, as she's anyway becoming much better at soothing herself if she wakes. She often moves about a bit in her cot and then goes back to sleep on her own. At other times just a little pat on the back can calm her down and help her sleep again. Another change I'm considering is a move to the girl's room. Otherwise I'd think one year old is too early for that, but compared to our older children she seems more sensitive to noise, and she might sleep better early in the late evenings if she didn't hear us moving about.
But that is already an entirely different story. Now it's time for us to assemble the pink push car and decorate the cake, and celebrate the end of this magical year with our precious one year old baby. I may need to open the champagne too, if not only to celebrate then also to brace myself for the joys of impending toddlerhood. I'll treasure the memories of this year forever, and hope you've enjoyed the journey together with us.

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Coming Up: Taru's reflection about a year of sleep adventures ...