By Mega Heuer
I have been a sleep consultant for 3 years and helped over 340 babies and their families in getting a good night’s sleep. I love my job, I learnt a lot in 3 years especially as I did not have any of my own children. I often saw myself justifying myself, to clients and even friends, on why I was qualified to do what I love and why it works even if I did not have my own children to practice on. Well my day has finally come. On the 24th of August my precious baby girl arrived in this world.
What a journey the last 3 months have been! I have learnt more than i ever thought possible yet my previous occupational knowledge definitely helped me. I will admit I felt the pressure the minute my precious bundle was put in my arms. A week in and the most common question I got asked was not “How are you doing?” but “How is she sleeping?” Luckily I knew and remembered that newborns should wake and feed 3 hourly, throughout the day and night.
The first 6 weeks was a beautiful time of getting to know my beautiful daughter but it was not without its challenges; sorting out correct latching, adjusting to the responsibility of having a child, waking every 3 – 4 hours through the night to feed, having a newborn who was adjusting to the outside world after being inside for 40 weeks and 3 days, a couple of hours of early night screaming for no apparent reason.
In 6 weeks I got to trust my instincts as a mother and I got to know my child’s different noises, cries and needs. From 6 weeks I started to more ‘formally’ (I use that term loosely), use the knowledge I had as a sleep consultant. With my daughter being remarkable more aware from 5 weeks. I would try read her tired signals but would sometimes miss them or it would already be too late, I had to stick to her awake time as that was leading to the over-tired Cracken that would arise and scream around 6 until 8pm or 9pm. That type of crying is emotionally draining so for my own sanity her awake time was crucial to stick too. Using Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s initially was hard to distinguish what worked as she did not enjoy being swayed and refused to take a dummy (after trying 3 different types). She did however find comfort in sucking her own hand, really calmed down with a mid-way swaddle and would calm down if I lay her on her stomach on my arm. White noise was also a huge positive as it not only blocked out the noisy outside environment it also was used as a trigger to let her now when it was nap time.
My Baby girl was quite a settled baby from birth and would fall asleep in most places when she was tired but from 5 weeks it was harder to get her to fall asleep so I started with a small nap routine and became very conscious of her sleeping environment, her dark room with white noise on and rocking to a drowsy but awake state. That is a very fine line as I came to learn. In the beginning – first 10 weeks, it did not matter if she was asleep or just drowsy, however after 8 weeks, if she fell asleep while feeding and I lay her down she would wake up within 15 – 20 mins and that would be her nap done.
One of the biggest areas I focused on was her feeding. A baby that feeds well, sleeps well! I would not let her go longer than 3 hours in the day before I would wake her and feed her. I didn’t have a set bedtime until 6 weeks, which included a bath, dressing, feeding, rocking and in the cot she would go. The night feeds wold happen in her room with the bedside lamp on and changing her nappy between breasts so that she would have a good, full feed. As a result she was giving me a 6 hour stretch from 5 weeks.
Naps definitely are much harder than night time sleep. They took longer to get her down and some days were abysmal. However with every sunrise there was a new day and a fresh start to work at better naps. I am really trying to soak up every moment with her, in 13 short weeks she has already grown so much.
The biggest lesson I have learnt with my newborn is to trust my instincts, stick to her age-appropriate awake time, set a calm environment and not to stress as she is small and adjusting to this new world.
“The days are long but the years are short” is my motto on the tough days but I am so grateful to already be getting quite a lot of sleep resulting in a happy smiley baby.