I know it’s crazy. But I will find something to worry about, and so here is what I called the Tresillian Live Advice Line about today: Is my baby too settled?
Ellie was a non-sleeper for twelve weeks. She would whinge during the day and not go back to sleep after the first sleep cycle of most naps. She would then regularly stay up until 11.30pm and sometimes 12.30 am, 1.30am and once, 3.30am, crying and screaming if we tried to get her to go to bed. She was a recalcitrant rocking chair girl. Eventually though, it got to the point that, even in our arms, bounced and rocked and patted, she would end up so overtired that she would scream for half an hour to an hour before finally passing out from sheer exhaustion. Even then the most she ever slept at one time was about four or five hours, with one memorable seven hour stint, which was followed the next night by being up until 2.00 am and then only sleeping for two or three hours in a row. It got to the point that, even during the day, in my arms, she wouldn’t settle.
It was at that point that I decided it was time. She was 12 weeks old. If she was going to cry in our arms, she may as well do it in the cot and learn how to get to sleep.
The next two nights were agonising. I had to leave the apartment for very long walks while Yen sat with a screaming, hysterical Ellie, who did not understand why we would no longer pick her up. The first night she screamed for two and a half hours, then took a break for a feed, then cried for another hour. She was asleep by 10.30 pm and slept through until 7.00 am. That night, she cried for an hour and a half and slept through until 7.00 again. The next night, she whinged a bit for about forty minutes. The next night, for ten.
Ever since, we have had her screaming for about an hour at the longest, on days when she is really overtired, or when we introduced Yen as the person putting her to bed, or when I started to reduce my pre-cot soothing rituals easing her towards self-settling. But every night, ever since that awful first, she has slept for at least 12 hours, and more often, 13, and sometimes when she has a lie-in, 15.
She naps well during the day now – although that is less consistent – and when she is awake, she is calm. Relaxed. Smiling. She is so chilled, in fact, that I have to go in and check if she is awake – she will often wake up and just hang out in the cot, sucking her thumb and cooing to the bee mobile over her change table on the other side of the room.
People tell me that this is the time to refuel before teething starts. Apparently, babies can start to need night feeds again, when they go through further growth spurts. I am trying to savour this time while I can.
I still get up a few times a night to check on her. Is she too warm or cold? Is she still breathing?
Today, lacking anything else to worry about, I worried about whether it was quite normal to be so relaxed as a baby. I called the Tresillian hotline.
“I know this sounds weird,” I giggled nervously. “But is it possible for a baby to sleep too much? Ellie can’t really stay awake for more than 50 minutes at a stretch, and apparently the average for babies her age is 1.5 hours.”
The kind woman on the other end of the line reassured me.
“It’s normal to worry, I know what it’s like,” she said without once laughing at me, although perhaps a little with me. “But remember, 1.5 hours is the average. There are going to be babies who are awake for three hours at a time, and then babies like Ellie who are awake for less than the average.”
“She was so unsettled for the first three months,” I said. ‘It’s just strange.”
“Perhaps she is now comfortable in her skin and her surrounds,” the woman said. I like that idea. I don’t know if it is scientific, but I like the notion that Ellie is now getting used to her room. Her cot. Her rituals. Her parents. Me.
Control crying is not going to be for every baby. I had to make the hard, intellectual step of recognising that it was probably worth trying for Ellie, despite how difficult it was going to be for me, emotionally. A few hours of stress for her opposed to days on end of being overtired and cranky were worth it for her.
It was my first test as a mother having to “be the mother,” and take a step back and be definite about what was going to be better for her, no matter if it hurt me in the process to implement. I was worried I was a bad mother; I stood and listened to her crying as my “punishment,” even though as soon as she stopped crying my rational brain kicked in again and I knew it was for her own good. A baby who does not settle in your arms is a baby who is trying to tell you something acheter viagra pharmacie. Put me down. Let me get some sleep. Stop pandering to your own emotions of guilt and perfectionism, and see what I really need.
Anyhow. So Ellie is now one of the most placid babies you will ever meet. It may be fleeting, but it is good to know that, when the time comes, I can put her interests above my own desire to be the textbook mother and she the textbook baby. And today, worrying about whether she was too relaxed, was just my way of saying, “I love you.”