3 under 3


Posted on: December 8, 2010

It’s been ages since my last post… I’ve made a few attempts but they were mostly unintelligible. There’s nothing like sleep deprivation to take away one’s ability to make any sense at all. I’m still sleep deprived, but I’m putting in a special effort because there’s something I need to get off my chest…

Am i a co-sleeper or not? It seems that the time has come for me to decide one way or the other with Neave, as she is making my nights (and days, for that matter), rather miserable at the moment. Somehow Neave and I have fallen into a pattern where I breastfeed her to sleep, day and night. It worked beautifully up until about two months ago, when Neave was supposed to start eating solid foods. But as it turns out, 6 – 7 milk feeds per day somewhat spoils the appetite, and she hasn’t eaten more than a spoonful, ever. This is very unfamiliar territory for me – Tiernan and Molly are big eaters, and always have been. Even Molly, who was two months premmie, had no trouble whatsoever with starting solid foods. So it’s no longer appropriate for Neave to have unfettered access to the boob (damn shame, too – I’ve been losing so much weight lately!)

Which means we have to go through the horrible, horrible process of teaching her to ‘self-settle’. There are those who would suggest that the process is horrible because babies aren’t meant to be separated from their mothers for any reason, so there is no need for them to settle themselves. The guilty part of me agrees (who can listen to that crying and not feel guilt? Well, actually, my husband can!) However, the more honest part of me doesn’t want to be strapped to a baby 24 hours a day with my boob out, thanks. There are definitely times when being able to place a tired, but awake, baby into the cot and walk away while they calmly go to sleep is the best feeling in the world (I know – I’ve been there with my older two). The problem is that you can’t have it both ways – the baby either settles him/herself every time, or none of the time.

Which brings me back to co-sleeping. I’ve dabbled in the past. All three of our babies slept in our bedroom for at least the first six months, which, I’m told, is a watered-down version of co-sleeping. I’ve fallen asleep feeding each of them many, many times, leading to part-time co-sleeping. Plus, for the last year, Tiernan has been finding his way into our bed in the early hours of most mornings (Molly can’t yet because she’s still in a cot). So, I guess I really am co-sleeping already. But sleeping with a baby is different to sleeping with a child – I don’t have to worry about squashing Tiernan, or smothering him, or pushing him out of the bed accidentally. Well, the last one does happen occasionally, but he survives it.

But while co-sleeping might mean more sleep at night for both Neave and I (albeit an uncomfortable sleep for me, while I try not to squash, smother or push her), it won’t solve my problems with her during the day. The reason we got into this mess is because I simply don’t have hours to spend trying to settle her to sleep while the other two run amok and try to kill each other. The quickest and easiest option, up until now, has been to feed her and let her fall asleep that way. I spent ages kicking myself for allowing this habit to form, when I knew it would eventually cause issues, but I’m learning to just do what I have to do at the time, and deal with the consequences later. Which is now…

So it would seem that I’ve already come to the conclusion that teaching Neave to self-settle is the way forward for me. I’m not looking forward to it. There is nothing more heart-rending than being unable to comfort your screaming child. I usually break the rules a bit and give pats and cuddles along the way, but deep down I know this only makes them cry for longer. On the positive side, hopefully Neave will respond quickly (she did used to self-settle when she was tiny, once upon a time); hopefully I’ll be getting more sleep soon; and hopefully she’ll drop some breastfeeds and then start eating real food soon…

Wish me luck!

5 Responses to "Dilemma…"

Hi Anna, your self analysis is spot on…however, I sooooo understand how difficult it is to listen to your child cry…wanting you….but, be strong….it won’t take too long and Neave will be able to self settle/soothe….in the long run, it is not only good for you..so that your can sleep and deal with your everyday issues…it is good for Neave…good luck..thinking of you and wishing your success

Hi Anna – I hope you (and Neave) are going well with your efforts so far. It always amazed me how dads are able to sleep through anything, but at the first wimper I’m awake and on my way into their rooms! Both Scarlett and Xavier were both good going to sleep at night but alway woke up in the middle of the night and wanted a feed to settle back to sleep. I continued to do so for both until they were about 11 months old, but after being back at work 2 months I just couldn’t survive with the broken sleep any longer. It only took a few nights (of what seemed like endless crying at the time) and they both got the picture. Xavier was harder as he didn’t want to be patted or consoled AT ALL. For him it was all or nothing, so he really cried for a few nights then stopped all of a sudden.

It never seems easy at the time (I’m especially sure with 3) but you know that eventually it will all work itself out. So – good luck.

Thanks for your words of support, Kerry and Nicole! We’re nearly a week in, and we’re making some progress with the self-settling part, but Neave is yet to actually drop any feeds (might need to push her there soon), and she is still pretty much refusing to eat anything! However, she is now falling asleep within 10 minutes most of the time (evenings still tricky but improving), so at least that’s something!
Thanks for reading!

Hey Anna
That all sounds very familar- You could have just described everything I was doing (minus having the 2 older kids!). I would let my bub snack feed, and feed to sleep, or failing that-pat or rock to sleep. I too am guilty of falling asleep while feeding and waking up in a panic afew hours later realising Alex is still in the bed (and usually STILL sucking away!)
Just last week I did a residential stay at Tresilian Nepean as I knew I would struggle with teaching Alex to self settle (and as he is my 1st I was at a loss with what exactly to do) . It was really hard emotionally as I wasn’t used to leaving Alex to cry, but he is now self settling, sleeping for twice as long during the day, and has gone from waking every 2 hours at night to only once or twice. I’m now only feeding 3 to 4 hourly instead of hourly. The change has been amazing, even if there were afew tears along the way (from both of us!)
Good luck with it all! Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job

Thanks Heidi,
Sorry to hear you are having similar troubles, but it’s such an easy pattern to fall into, isn’t it? Especially with your first – it’s so hard to hear them cry, so you do what instinct tells you and pick them up, feed them, rock them, sing to them… whatever makes them happy! I’m glad things are improving for you now 🙂

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