Sleep separation - a mother's tale
Hannah Harding writes Make, Do and Push!, a blog about a highly sleep-deprived mother, an insomniac baby and a pre-schooler with excellent leadership skills. Here she talks about her sleep separation experiences
I first became a parent back in the winter of 2012 to a baby who, on the whole, loved to sleep - and loved her independence when sleeping. She refused to co-sleep, which was fine with us - although I did find myself (very occasionally!) wishing for a few more snoozy cuddles.
Fast-forward to the beginning of summer 2015, and our second child entered the world. Henry is not an independent sleeper and, up until a couple of months ago, has refused to sleep anywhere but on me (or in our bed next to me) since he was born. He did some brief stints in his bedside crib when he was teeny, but would always end up with me by dawn. It wasn't ideal, but we educated ourselves in safe co-sleeping, and quite honestly it was the only way any of us could get some sleep.
However, a few months ago, we decided that continuing down this path wasn't practical. Yes, the co-sleeping was just a phase, the extra cuddles were rather lovely and, ok, it wouldn't last forever (at least we hoped not), but realistically we needed our own space back.
My husband and I sat down and talked through ideas and techniques to begin the sleep separation. Henry is quite a sensitive little thing; he suffers from silent reflux and cow's-milk protein and soya allergies, which we've discovered means that he needs more comfort than our eldest did, and at ten months has only just started learning how to self-soothe. Consequently, a technique such as controlled crying wouldn't work for him.
We began by implementing a stricter bedtime routine: the classic bath, bottle, bed worked well for our firstborn, and so we started Henry on this routine, too. Then we agreed that if Henry woke in the night, my husband would comfort him and put him back down instead of me, as he always plays up with me until I bring him into bed with us - when he falls back to sleep immediately!
It's taken a few weeks, and a few difficult nights, but we've persevered and it seems to be working. He's now sleeping in his cot, in his own room, and he's had a few nights of sleeping through... which after nine to ten months of broken nights averaging at four hours sleep a night, we're very thankful for!!
It has, at times, felt like Henry might still be co-sleeping at the age of 16, but in reality ten months isn't a long period of time... and I've definitely made the most of those baby cuddles!