Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cry baby

At about 4pm yesterday I think I did what is, in technical mother language, lose the plot. It all came home to roost, the lack of sleep, the constant worry, the complete and utter lack of control over this small bundle and what she needs - and how to understand her. There were tears (mine - she, being in daytime baby mode, was happily asleep) and the Boy gave me lots of hankies.

There are two things I could have done in this circumstance. The first was to get professional help. Before my own mother reading this worries too much, I was thinking of a sleep consultant offered by a midwife company here in HK. They spend three sessions with you and your baby and come up with a plan to help the little one sleep better. I got the Boy to print out the application form.

However, before I did that, I thought it was worth one last try myself. To do this I needed two things. The first was discipline. I couldn't start something and then cave in at the first moment and put it into the "too hard" basket. Parenting is hard, bloody hard (and anyone who says otherwise is lying or has a backstage cast of thousands to help them). The second was to live true to my word of the year, a concept I have stolen from my friend C, which is "patience".

I went back to a book highly recommended by my working friend L and read the chapter on how to set a good, albeit flexible routine. It went thus:
1. Feed baby when she cries for food. Fill her right up until she no longer wants to eat. This may take longer than usual and, in the case of fussier or lazy babies, involve waking her up a number of times. DO NOT let her sleep.
2. After she is full, do some form of activity. Change her nappy, play with her, read with her. DO NOT let her associate food with sleep, but get her sleepy via activity.
3. Only then put her to bed and leave her until she sends herself to sleep.

This last part was the hardest, because Eve is already used to being fed to sleep as she was in the hospital and has no frame of reference regarding how to get herself to sleep.

So, at 12.20am I found myself putting a somewhat awake Eve in her cot. She started to cry. It is impossibly hard to leave your child to cry. Every part of you as a Mum exists to protect and calm her. Allowing her to cry is counterintuitive and, at a much deeper level, horribly painful and difficult to do.

However, secure in the knowledge that she was not crying because she was hungry or needed changing because I had patiently made sure she was neither before I put her down (which involved feeding her for a lot longer and with more breaks than normal = patience), I relaxed. Eventually, after 20 minutes of whimpering and the odd screech, she was fast asleep.

As the night wore on she got herself to sleep progressively faster each time and with less wailing.

The Boy, who is altogether more rested and spends less time at night with her, was initially worried and kept offering to get up and "settle" her. I got very stern (I was on a bit of a power trip by this point!) and told him to leave her. Each time I was right. He now trusts my instincts too, which is the best endorsement of me as a Mum.

Today she has been the clockwork baby. Waking up exactly at the right time for feeds, and I have kept this system going. Let's see how it goes again tonight, but my sleep patterns and my sanity took a huge uplift last night.

And the Boy was almost functioning at work today!

No comments: