Week 7 and 8: From restless nights to sleeping through the night ...

by Veerle

8 weeks old Isolde

8 weeks old Isolde

Isolde is now six weeks old, and week seven sets out as we’ve been used to for the past two weeks. But change is at hand. I’ve often heard that babies can be cranky and restless in the days before they acquire a new skill, like sleeping through the night, smiling, and later: sitting upright etc… Only, you don’t realise this until they’ve actually acquired the skill in question, apparently not even when you’re a mother the third time round… Oh, cruel irony!

Isolde still wakes up once a night and most of the times , these night feeds don’t take too long. No complaints on that score. It’s her last evening feed, before we put her to bed, that’s proving to be a difficult one. To start with, it seems to last forever, I offer her the left breast, then the right, she does all her usual belching in between and after, I change her diaper, put her in her pyjamas, and still she’s extremely restless afterwards. I don’t really know what’s bugging her,and frankly, sometimes I’m just too worn out at the end of the day to have the patience to find out. Result: we let Isolde fall asleep in between us and try to move her to her own bed later, that is, if we don’t fall asleep ourselves and forget… I realise this is not ideal, but we do take all possible precautions to make sure she can’t get covered by our duvet or by a pillow.

Most babies sleep better when they are firmly tucked in. It makes them feel safe, a bit squished together like in the womb, and not ‘lost’ in their cot. That’s why from birth ‘till now, Isolde has slept wrapped in a thin fleece blanket at night, nice and warm. Now that she’s getting bigger, I’ve taken out my baby sleeping bags, so she can’t kick away her covers anymore. I’m hoping maybe she’ll also be more at ease than the previous nights.

Well, talk about a backfiring plan… We’ll never know if it’s the sleeping bag causing it or not, but Isolde’s first night in it, we might as well not have gone to bed. It is the worst that we’ve had for some time now. Isolde never even makes it to her own bed, and spends the night kicking, crying, wriggling in between us, drinking, burping and pooing, and so on… Usually, I keep track of Isolde’s drinking times in a little notebook I also use to make small notes in for this diary, but from 9 p.m. ‘till 8 a.m. it’s a complete blank. While I walk around like a zombie all of the next day, she happily resumes her ordinary daily routine as if nothing happened. Grmbl! The next day – I almost feel guilty for complaining – she drinks at 11 p.m. and then sleeps until 5 a.m.

The rest of the week goes as usual: restless evenings, one night feed. In the morning I find it quite easy to put her down for a nap, the afternoons are always a bit more difficult. Looking for a solution, I try my baby slings to make her fall asleep, and they live up to their expectations: she falls asleep within a minute. I’m so thankful for this, as my house is filled with children at the time (a friend of Daphne’s is here for a sleepover, my sister’s three children, and obviously, my own), and I really need to get supper ready: lots of mouths to be fed…

I think maybe I should try the slings to calm her down in the evenings as well, but I’m just so tired, I admit I often hand Isolde to Tom when he comes home, and she becomes ‘his’ baby.

But I wrote that change was at hand, and what a change it is! At exactly seven weeks old, after an entire day of crying and not sleeping at all apart from a very short nap in the morning, Isolde takes her last feed at 10.30 p.m. and sleeps until 7.25 a.m! This has to be a lucky streak, she’s probably exhausted from such a day, is my self-preserving reaction. But the following nights are largely the same: Isolde sleeps all night long and wakes somewhere between 5.30 and 6 a.m.

One of the mothers at the children’s school claims to know a fool-proof way to make children sleep through the night at an early age (6 weeks) and takes her own two kids as living proof for her theory. She says it’s all about making a very clear distinction between day and night: dress the baby in pyjamas at night and change her into regular clothes in the morning. As it happens, I actually did this with Isolde (before I even knew of foresaid theory), but it just can’t be that easy, can it? Because if it is, I can’t help but feel slightly upset that we never had this information when we were struggling with Alexander’s broken nights – for almost 2 whole years! No, if I want to keep my sanity, I must count myself to the non-believers of this theory. On the other hand, there’s no harm in trying!

At 8 weeks old, Isolde finally graces us with her first real, intended smiles. It took her some time, but as all parents know, those beautiful signs of recognition are more than worth the wait!

Ah well, let’s hope I’ll still be as optimistic in my next report, because right now, this is one relieved and soon well rested mother writing to you.

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