We get asked that every time we hear from The Mother-In-Law. The best The Child has ever managed is six hours, and that was only last week. Then she woke me up at 3am and nursed like a fiend till 7.
I am a firm believer that all babies are different, and some babies are just temperamentally more likely to sleep — or put themselves back to sleep — without needing their parents to interfere. Formula is harder for babies to digest than breastmilk, so they feel fuller for longer, which may help some of them sleep better. But as it seems unlikely for parents to allow researchers to mess about with their babies, feeding them formula and breastmilk on alternate nights in a laboratory setting, we’ll never really know if my belief holds true.
(I’m going to digress here and mention an advertisement for a power company that screened in the UK last year. Babies who are asking for milk at night do not wait calmly in their mum’s arms while Dad boils the kettle to heat up a bottle of formula. DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THIS BABY-MAKING PROPAGANDA. You want to hear blood-curdling screams? Delay giving a hungry baby milk. By a minute.)
My co-sleeping with her is what we have employed to get us through*. A ‘family bed’ is a nice term, but we have a double bed and a baby who likes to sleep perpendicular to her parents, which means either one or both of us will be barely hanging on to the bed while she snoozes with her finger up The Husband’s nose and foot on my throat. Placing the cot next to the bed with the side down worked for a while — then she got mobile and I was being wakened by The Child crawling up to me. We’ve tried many, many things to get her to sleep in her cot, but we finally gave in and moved her into the sofa bed in the second (and only spare) bedroom, so that her frequent night waking (and feeding) would be less exhausting. And perilous.
As I have not given birth to a baby who sleeps peacefully through the night nor self-settles without crying, I can’t attest to the existence of these creatures, but I am told there are definitely a few cases out there in the world. And I point at their reasonably well-rested mums and smile, because I’m thinking, SLEEP REGRESSIONS.
Oh yeah. Your babies who don’t disturb you? Or you’ve sleep-trained to not disturb you? Introduce a disruption: teething, illness, developmental advances like crawling, a holiday, and ha! What you think you’re suffering, it’s my daily life! I’m used to it, and you’re staggering about in bleary-eyed confusion, barely able to function.
(I take small victories where I can get them. Even if they’re a tiny bit Pyrrhic.)
If, like me, you have a child who wasn’t programmed naturally to sleep for hours at a time, take comfort (as I have) from the following blog posts in Psychology Today:
* Please remember that co-sleeping can be very dangerous if there is any risk of you rolling over onto your baby and not waking up, or of your bedding overheating and / or covering your baby’s face. It’s all about having good instincts and figuring out what will work for your family.