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Zoe Marshall writes: 'Fox wouldn’t stop crying and I was sleep deprived. It was time for an expert.'

Before I get hate mail, or you stick pins in a voodoo doll I want you to hear me out. My baby sleeps 11-12 hours a night. Please, please keep reading until the end.

He has been since he was nine-weeks-old. Of course, I still did the dream feeds and the 2am feed until he grew out of them. In fact, I kept doing them long after he had grown out of them because I loved that time with him so much.

Fox isn’t a unicorn baby. He isn’t any different from any other baby. We had circumstances that had us call in a sleep whisperer very early on. I had over committed myself stupidly, to start work seven weeks postpartum. It was part time work but as you know when you are in the baby bubble, you don’t want to leave.

When I gave birth, I expected to have a sleepy newborn for at least the first six weeks. I never got this. My baby was AWAKE. Wide awake and unsettled. All the time.

I didn’t know what to do. I cluster fed and I tried to co-sleep (this terrified me, I had heard of people rolling and suffocating there babies). So he sometimes slept and I watched him. I rocked, I strapped him to me, I patted, I tried 15 different dummies. He was just ready to party.

LISTEN: Zoe explains why sleep training worked for her on Mamamia’s latest podcast for new parents, The Baby Bubble:

It was time for the experts. I called Jen from Wot Baby. She has an app that teaches you the basics on how to create the perfect sleeper. But Fox was too little to start this so I called Jen desperately. Jen does phone and home visits.

I needed help. I needed to know from an expert that I wasn’t crazy and that this baby was rejecting sleep. I had no idea that babies needed to “learn” how to sleep. Just like they need to learn how to chew and feed themselves.

I remember the first time I called Jen. My husband was away. My godmother was here helping me and my gusband (gay husband) had brought over dinner. Fox wouldn’t stop crying. I was sleep deprived and overwhelmed.

Jen answered the phone to me sobbing. I was crying so hard that I didn’t realise the Fox had fallen asleep whist I was wailing. I realised in this first call this was going to be as much about teaching me how to cope as it was to teach Fox how to sleep.

I don’t have my mum. She passed 13 years ago. So the day to day guidance you get from your mum or parents wasn’t available to me. Jen became my biggest support.

The first few times Jen and I met was about helping me understand what was happening for Fox. She did admit that he was very awake for a newborn and seemed more unsettled than normal. This wasn’t a problem. We would be able to address it in a couple of weeks. But for now it was about teaching me what his crying meant when all his needs are met.

Zoe Marshall and Sean Szeps are here to bring the mother’s (and father’s) group to your ears.

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Here are some tips I learnt from Jen:

Trouble shoot.

Check the baby is fed, warm, not too hot or cold, dry (nappy changed), burped and well swaddled – as tight as possible, with arms down.

Have you primed the environment?

Is the room dark? Like really dark? Do you have music playing or white noise and is the volume loud? This distracts the baby from their own cry. Sometimes they go into auto pilot crying and forget that they are the ones making all the noise that’s keeping them awake.

What crying means to us adults doesn’t mean the same thing to babies.

It’s not associated with emotional pain. It is generally a call for something (I’m hungry, hot, wet) but a lot of the times, it’s a baby winding down. This was revolutionary to me.

Ask yourself…

Has bub been over stimulated? Have you had lots of guests visiting? Has the baby been passed around all day? Have you been out and about, more than usual?

All of this will cause an over stimulated and over tired baby. They need to toss and turn in bed to wind down and their version of this is crying. A good ol’ cry makes them relax. Please note that this isn’t to be done before six weeks. But the earlier you start the less time it will take.

 

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It will hurt your heart.

It goes against everything in you as a mother not to rush to your crying babies side. And this is where I get hate. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. I had to trust the process, even though at times I caved and went in to cuddle him (which pissed him off more).

I learnt quickly that I was the one getting in the way of him winding down and putting himself to sleep. I was better at this if Jen was here or my husband. I was able to go outside to avoid my maternal instincts stepping in just as he was drifting off.

You will crack.

Even yesterday I caved. Fox has been waking around 5:30am to 5:45am (the lightest sleep cycle for a baby) and I’m trying to get him to sleep until 6:30. I went through the motions and at 6:10am, I went in and scooped him up and put him in my bed. I thought that would be so nice to have a snuggle in bed (which he wasn’t in the mood for) so we were up for the day.

The point is there is no failure. It’s what you are willing to cop. Getting him up at 6:10am meant I had another 50 minutes of entertaining him rather than the 30 mins it usually is before breakfast. I weighed it up and I was willing to do it.

Today he woke at 5:45am and I managed to keep going until 6:20am. When I go in he stops whining and starts chatting. This is how I know there is nothing wrong with him. He’s not in pain from teething like I’ve been telling myself.

It’s the best thing I have done for me and my family.

At 6:30pm I have time with my husband. Having a baby can leave you so disconnected from your partner that having at least three hours to hang with him has been incredible for us.

Fox is thriving. He sleeps well. He knows how to resettle himself to sleep during the night and this has had a carry on effect to his day naps.

Babies need sleep for their brain development. It is just as crucial as nutrition. So If that means co-sleeping, or baby slinging whatever it takes, I support that.

So from the bottom of my heart I hope you support what worked for me.

Have you tried sleep training? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments section below.

To hear me and my The Baby Bubble co-host, Sean Szeps talk more about my sleep training journeylisten to the second episode of The Baby Bubble podcast! Get it in your ears.

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