Ten little known facts about your baby’s sleep

1. It is biologically normal for a baby to wake and nurse frequently throughout the first year and beyond. It is not a sleep problem. Some babies do have underlying issues that may be exacerbating their normal wakeful behaviour and addressing these is crucial but the idea that a baby of X age is ‘too old’ to be waking is based on fallacy not fact.  

2. Feeding to sleep is the biologically normal way for a baby to find and maintain sleep. It is not a sleep problem.

3. The vast majority of cultures do not sleep separately from their babies or young children. A baby not wanting to sleep in their cot is not a sign of something being wrong with the baby and their ability to sleep but a sign of society having a problem with how babies prefer to sleep.

4. Keeping your baby close, limits the disruption of normal wakeful behaviour to both the breastfeeding mother and her baby’s sleep. Not having to physically fully wake to go to another room, then try to stay awake to settle or then need to wind back down  to sleep, all helps the mother. Nighttime breastmilk is also packed full of sleepy goodness that help both mother and baby return to sleep more easily. This one also links to number 1, 2, and 3. In our society that is obsessed with making babies ‘sleep through the night’ by cutting nighttime parenting out of the parenting role as quickly as you can and places high value on solitary sleep, we see many mothers keeping their babies at great distance. This is exhausting and extremely difficult to maintain and can result in both mother and child losing far more sleep than if they were close together.

* There are many safe cosleeping arrangements that can be considered to suit the family, from bedsharing to side car cots. If you haven’t already, read up on safe sleeping practices to help guide your family.

5. Your baby’s sleep will cycle through patches of relative ease and then through intense times with more frequent waking right up to the age of 2. It is rare that a baby proceeds in a straight line of gradually dropping feeds and sleeping longer without ever going through times of needing more. Just because they could find and maintain sleep one way last week, does not mean they necessarily can right now. This isn’t your baby ‘forgetting’ how to sleep, this is their body and mind going through the rapid development, growth and painful experiences (like teething) that they need to in the first couple of years of life. Them needing you to help them find the comfort, peace and support to be able to fall asleep and then maintain it, is normal.

6. Babies and young toddlers lack the brain development required to self regulate enough to ‘self soothe’ themselves from a place of distress. It is normal for babies and young children to need help to find and maintain sleep.

7. No two children are the same when it comes to their sleep needs, just as no two adults are the same. No one has a ‘formula’ that tells you when and how much your child needs to sleep. The only guide is your unique child.

8. ‘Catnapping’ or sleeping for only one 1-2 sleep cycles (20-40 mins) during the day is normal. Sometimes a baby may resettle for longer but it is okay if they do not. So much time and energy is wasted trying to resettle babies who are simply ready to get up.

9. Babies who are separated from the caregiver by day may ‘reverse cycle’ by night to meet their nursing and connection needs. Closeness and contact can help achieve their needs.

10. Many ‘experts’ like to name an age when night feeds are no longer necessary. What this fails to recognise is that night nursing is so much more than feeding. They may only ‘need’ say 2 feeds but they equally needed those 2-3 other quick nurses as well. Nursing for comfort, pain relief, immune boosting, connection and to help them relax when their busy growing body and mind cannot seem to find calm are all valid reasons to need nursing aside from nutrition.

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The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

Australia is a massive country, most people would agree, but not many have a grasp of the true magnitude. I live in the outback in the heart of it all. We are a 1.5 hour drive from the Northern Territory border, a 10 hour drive to the East Coast, a 20 hour drive to Brisbane as our nearest capital city. My family is a 2.5 hour flight away and my husband’s is 2 x 2.5 hour flights away and the cost … well it is extortionate. Our time with our family is precious beyond measure and though it is limited by time and space, the bonds that have been forged with my babies and with my nieces are strong and heartfelt. These bonds have been strengthened through the sharing of a most precious and memorable experience… the sleepy snuggle.  

We are currently staying with my folks following the birth of my newest niece and I had an appointment this morning that ran over my baby’s first nap time. If the boob lady is around, only the boob will do for a snooze but when I’m not, well, Nana and Pa have got it covered. Pa has the magic touch with a little walk around the trees for calming or a short stroll down the beach front and then he swings him to calm him further. Today, the swing actually conked him out but as he couldn’t be left there, Nana scooped him up and held him while they waited for me. I came home to a peaceful sleeping baby, wrapped in his Nana’s loving arms, rocking in the rocking chair. She kissed him as she passed him to me, later saying, ‘I could have tried to put him down but I was just enjoying my snuggle.’

Just enjoying her snuggle.

I look back through all my photos of our family over each year as I make the new calendar and I can tell you now, hands down, my favourites are those of my babies sleeping on someone they love – me, their Dad, my Mum, my husband’s Mum, one of the Pa’s an Aunty, an Uncle… sometimes it’s snuggling on the couch, sometimes in a carrier (don’t you know babywearing is for dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, too?!?), sometimes it was bedsharing. In each and every photo, I see people at peace. I see relaxed faces, smiles on lips, kisses on heads, warmth and love. I see trust. I see time. I see incredible memories and bonds being forged.

While my sister was in hospital following the birth of her newest babe, I had the privilege to be able to lay with and cuddle my niece as she went to sleep for her nap each day. I loved every minute of it. I have never felt more special in her world than I did those days.

In the days since they have come home, I have had a number of sleepy snuggles with my new niece who is rarely out of the loving arms of someone unless she’s happy to be down.

As a family, we have embraced the power of the embrace.

It wasn’t always so. Back before I found my gentle path, these same loving arms belonged to people who also once believed a baby needed to sleep alone. We have all come such a very long way and I credit these beautiful little humans in our lives for showing us a better way. They have shown us the power of the sleepy snuggle for not only the baby but for the person they are finding their comfort in.

We may live so very far apart but our love is closer than ever.

Never underestimate the value of passing a baby from your loving arms to more loving arms. It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that child is the catalyst for changing views in the village into which they were born.

(Quote and image credit: Mothers, Milk & Mental Health

If you recognise the power of the sleepy snuggle, try to extend that love in your family and help create the shift we need to see in society away from solitary sleep.

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If you don’t want to sleep train your baby but you are past the point of tired

If you don’t want to sleep train your baby but you are past the point of tired

I have kind of covered this a few times in a mixture of articles but I figure a dedicated article might help collect some ideas and give mothers who are trying to avoid sleep training the breathing space to truly consider their alternatives.

This is not an article telling you how to fix your baby’s sleep and its not an article telling you how to fix your sleep and it’s also not going to tell you what you can and cannot do. I do not have the answers to ‘fix’ these things because a. I don’t think either you nor baby is broken and need fixing and b. One size fits all doesn’t work and c. You have the power to take control of your own situation and you are the one who will work out what works for you, your baby and your family to make it through this weary season in your life. You don’t need yet another stranger telling you one more thing you are doing wrong. What you really need is room to breathe. Room to think and room to open your mind to the true options you have or could have in your unique situation.

I am not an expert. I repeat, I am not an expert.

I am a mama who has been where you are though and I know your desperation, your exhaustion and the feeling that no one else truly gets it.

I also fully understand and respect your instincts that sleep training is not for you.

So here’s my first suggestion.

Completely take Sleep Training off the table. Stop thinking of it like some dark cloud at the back of your mind that feels like it is ever looming larger as your last resort. The inevitable. It isn’t inevitable. Many families of extremely wakeful babies have made it through this season WITHOUT sleep training at all or having failed sleep training and been forced to come at their life with a new angle. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

So now we’ve removed that ‘choice’ you have been thoroughly avoiding, where to now?

Well now, this is where you take over. I’ll float some ideas but they are not definitive. The idea is to get YOU thinking and problem solving. The idea is to open your mind to what could be an option that may have been something you either hadn’t considered or did not previously wish to consider.

Food for thought number 1:

• What is your goal? Is it realistic? Do you understand normal infant sleep patterns and that waking and nursing frequently throughout the first year and beyond is normal? If you wonder about your expectations and feel that they may be a too high for your baby or toddler, then reading up on the topic may help you review your expectations down a little. Having realistic expectations is so important. It alleviates many worries parents have about their little one’s sleep and the effect it may be having on them. Knowing your little one is okay, takes a big chunk of the desperation out of the process for many parents. It is very reassuring to know that while you may be exhausted, your baby is not abnormal and is in fact behaving like many other human infants.

Food for thought number 2:

• If you still feel your little one’s waking is of concern, then trust your gut and investigate possible things that may be exacerbating the wakefulness. Things like reflux, allergies, intolerances, tongue and lip ties and birth trauma a few to consider.

• If you investigate these things and it turns out there is nothing else at play, it’s okay to feel a little conflicted. I had a perfectly healthy sleep thief and while I’ll be forever grateful he was, you can’t help but feel a little deflated that it wasn’t ‘something’ that could be fixed and sleep may have returned.

Food for thought number 3:

• Don’t be afraid to experiment a little but keep it within the realms of what feels right and listen to your baby- they are by far and away the best gauge for when something is right and when it something isn’t for them. Pinky McKay offers an awesome framework to help you decide if a technique or idea is worth a try- Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right? If the answer is yes, give it a crack. If it doesn’t work out, you didn’t fail and your baby isn’t being difficult.

• Pinky McKay and Sarah Ockwell Smith both have some great suggestions on the ‘sleep environment’ which also may be worth a gander. Trying a darker room, white noise, making the room a bit cooler etc … does make a difference to some babies. But, and it’s a big BUT… it doesn’t matter diddly squat to many others. Which leads me to my key thought for this section-

• Do you find yourself obsessing and stressing about nothing but sleep and how tired you are? If you do, it’s okay to let it go. It’s okay to stop focussing on the weariness. It took me by surprise how much less tired I felt when I stopped focussing on how tired I should be. Yes, you are living on stuff all sleep but if you’ve been doing it a while, I bet, like me, you are surprisingly still kicking goals most days. Your body does adjust to little and broken sleep. Some days it’ll still get you but most days, if you simply get on and up without the focus on you tiredness, you’ll instantly feel better.

• If you are obsessing about awake times and how long until your baby wakes … give it a break. The wheels won’t fall off and the earth won’t stop turning if you simply let all of it fade into the background. It’s time to shift focus for both you and your baby onto things that make you happy. Time outside, catch ups with friends, gardening, parks … anything. Get them off to sleep when they seem weary, resettle if you want to and stop if it doesn’t seem to be working and get on with it. At night, ditch the clock. Stop calculating how much sleep you’ve had, how long until the next wake up, how long you’ve been awake … it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t help.

• If you’ve tried all you wish to try and your baby is still super wakeful, then it’s okay to accept that this is just them. They simply need the extra comfort, help and closeness that they demand and it’s okay to just go with it. It’s okay to accept that it’s normal.

Food for thought number 4:

• If your baby’s sleep is ‘normal’ and doesn’t require fixing, then perhaps the problem truly lies with your sleep deprivation, not theirs. If we take the focus off babe and shift it to you, take some time to think on your lifestyle and where the lack of sleep actually stems.

• My example to get you thinking- For me, a lot of my severe sleep deprivation came down to me insisting on getting up and keeping my baby in his cot. Me insisting that he didn’t need a feed and persisting with resettling instead of just nursing him and getting him straight back to sleep with no fuss. The resettling also had a compound effect where my baby was losing more sleep than he needed to and I was so razzed up from the lengthy crying and fussing that even once I did finally ‘give in’ and nurse him (resettling had a zero % success rate in our house), I took FOREVER to wind back down to sleep myself and sometimes I’d take so long, that my anxiety would kick up a notch panicking that I wouldn’t even get back to sleep at all or if I’d just fall asleep and he’d wake up again (which was often the case). My quality of sleep was dismal. I lived in a warped state of falling asleep to wake back up… for a while there, I actually doubt I EVER hit a deep sleep. Not even momentarily. I was forever in the drifting off … BAM baby crying and awake. It was fucked. It was unhealthy. This was actually post sleep school using their techniques that were meant to ‘fix’ the waking.

• What does YOUR sleep look like right now? It may be similar to mine or poles apart. Doesn’t matter. Try not to focus on quantity. Quantity can be elusive and uncontrollable. Quality on the other hand … you can work on that.

• For me, to get better quality sleep, I needed to work out how I could stay relaxed and drowsy while tending to my baby. The waking right up and taking forever to wind back down was making me way more sleep deprived than the wake ups in themselves. I solved this for me by no longer trying to resettle and taking baby to bed with me once he woke after I went to bed. I could not believe how much more rested I felt simply by no longer physically having to get up and no longer needing to wind back down after hearing my baby cry. It was seriously the biggest game changer for me.

• I know not all families can safely bedshare but if you can, then please investigate it and consider it. It’s not always pretty and can be mighty uncomfortable but it still got me way better quality sleep than the alternative.

• If you can’t safely bedshare, could you side car the cot or at least put it next to the bed? Could you lay a mattress next to the cot so you don’t have to go far? Are there any other physical changes you could make to limit the amount of time you spend having to stay awake to tend to your baby?

• Could your partner take on some of the nighttime load or can they take the morning shift once babe wakes so you can get some more sleep in then? Even if it’s not every day? My husband helps with the morning shift when he can because both of our babies have been all about the boob lady through the night. He tried very hard with our first to do his ‘fair share’ but it backfired horribly and ended up with all 3 of us being even more sleep deprived. It’s okay to accept that your baby will only settle for the boobs at night, but your partner can help with the sleep deprivation during the day (obviously around work schedules).

Food for thought number 5

• Your own health may be contributing to your struggle and not just because you are sleep deprived.

• I blamed my PND so much on being sleep deprived and yet I made a full recovery while my baby still woke at least 1-2hourly around the clock. My point is, while being sleep deprived can impact on your health, it may be masking something else that is going on. It’s important to look further to find what is really at play.

• Having tests done to check your thyroid function, iron levels etc. are particularly important as they can really effect your energy levels.

• Pre existing mental and physical health conditions may be exacerbated during this highly stressful time in your life. Have you been attending to them as well as you could to make sure you are in the best health you can be, or have they slipped a little with baby in the focus? Your health, is so vitally important during this weary season. Work out how to meet your health needs so you can keep up with your baby.

• Pre existing or even undiagnosed sleep disorders of your own may mean you are losing more of your own sleep even while your baby sleeps. ‘Mumsomnia’ is not technically a condition but I found when I was almost totally GaGa with sleep deprivation, I suffered terrible insomnia. I also had it while pregnant. It definitely made the wakeful baby of mine harder to deal with but it was MY poor sleep that made it even more challenging. I started reading a familiar novel before bed or listening to meditation music and gradually got over the insomnia.

Food for thought number 6

• Exercise and self care are supremely important. What are you doing to keep your body and mind well?

• With these incredibly intense babies it can be so very difficult to find time for you but it is ever so I important that you do. It doesn’t have to be much. I am no gym junky but I found great joy in going for evening walks with my husband and baby after we’d had dinner and babe was bathed. The peace of night, the conversation with my husband, the calming effect of walking on my baby, the light exercise for my weary body all helped me feel better in myself.

• Other mamas find the crèche at gyms a great way to have a break (even if you skip the workout for a long luxurious shower and wash your hair and shave your legs) or there are many options out there for exercise with your baby such as mum and bub Pilates or KangaTraining classes.

• What would work for you? What makes you feel good? How are you keeping yourself moving?

Food for thought number 7

• How can you work more rest into your day?

• Note, I did not say ‘sleep’ but instead rest. Sleep is not always possible but if it is … go ahead and take it.

• If it’s not though, how can you give those weary bones of yours a break? One way I got more rest, was to purposely let babe hang out on the boob and sleep on my chest while I chilled on the recliner. It was the perfect excuse to just stop still and relax for a while. The ‘to do list’ in my head just had to shut up as I was already doing the most important work- getting my baby and I the rest we needed to make it through this season. I still do it now when I can, especially while my big boy is at daycare. I also write and have a cuppa, read a book … whatever. But I make sure I stop and relax when my baby’s sleep and do the chores etc when they wake. I have prioritised rest over chores for a long time now and sometimes (more often than I care to admit), the chores miss out. I do what is absolutely necessary and the rest can wait.

• If you work, is there a way to work a rest period into your day? Even if it is just 15 minutes chilling in your car listening to some music?

• Your rest may not come each and every day as our unpredictable babies keep us on our toes along with other children and life but try to make rest a priority whenever you can.

Food for thought number 8

• Your support network can make or break any new mum. It can take a while to work out who is actually ‘supportive’ and who is anything but. Put your feelers out for those special people in your life who build you up, support you and encourage you to mother the way you wish to mother. Not everyone will fit the bill and that’s okay.

• Support for a mother of a wakeful child comes both emotionally and practically.

• It can feel very isolating mothering a baby who doesn’t behave the way our society says they should behave and often mothers feel embarrassed or even ashamed as though they have done something to make their child this way. Thing is, you are absolutely not alone and mother’s all over the world have mothered, are currently mothering, or will mother in the future a baby that is every bit as perfect, sensationally adorable and downright challenging as your baby is now. You may be lucky enough to have people in your direct support network who have had the pleasure of mothering one of these beauties and can offer you all the reassurance and connection you need, but if not, fear not, there are many groups online these days to help you connect with other mothers of little sparklers and they do a wonderful job of filling your confidence right back up when the doubts creep in.

• Who are your support crew for your emotional well being? If you don’t have anyone, consider reaching out today. Mother’s groups, Australian Breastfeeding Association meet ups, La Leche League groups, playgroups and libraries can be great places to meet other  mothers. 

• Practical support comes in many shapes and forms, from hiring a cleaner to borrowing an au pair for a couple of hours a week … the options are boundless. Whatever budget you are on, there are ways for you to ask for and accept help when you need it. It may surprise you just how much people enjoy helping you. I was astonished to find how many people jumped to my aid when I put a call out when I was reaching the end of my tether. Meals were dropped to my door, friends stacked and unstacked my dishwasher while making me a cuppa, laundry was hung and taken off … a friend even hired a guy to mow my lawn so my husband could spend extra time with babe that weekend instead of tending to the forest outside…

• I have since returned the favour and paid that kindness forward and it has forever changed my view on reaching out and showing vulnerability. For all my pride and worry that people would think I wasn’t coping, I wasted so much time and energy unnecessarily suffering. People love helping. It feels good in your soul. Don’t think that by reaching out you have somehow failed … you haven’t. This job was never meant to done alone and what you are in fact doing is opening the door to those who are helping you to one day respond in kind and call on you in their time of need.

• Your practical support may be regular, such as a weekly clean or sporadic, such as an occasional baby sitter on a weekend morning so you can have coffee with your partner. It may be emergency, such as flying in family or moving in with grandma temporarily to offer more intense assistance or your partner taking a day or even a week’s leave to allow you to get back on board and able to keep on keeping on.

• What practical support do you think would help you in your situation with your budget, how can you make it happen? You may need to think creatively.

Food for thought number 9

• Your load and expectations of yourself may be making this season even more weighty than it needs to be.

• Are you saying, ‘yes’ to things that could otherwise be done by someone else or wait until you have made it through this season? You CAN have everything and CAN do everything in this life, just not necessarily all at one time. It’s okay to accept that now is not the time for some endeavours.

• What expectations do you hold of yourself that may be making it harder to accept your baby’s sleep or the way life is right now? It’s worth reviewing what we expect of ourselves by projecting onto a beloved friend in our life. Would you expect the same of them in the same circumstances? If the answer, is no, then it is okay to give yourself the grace to lower your expectations even if it is only for this season. Surrendering to the here and now is not forever.

So where do you find yourself now, mama? Hopefully this has planted some seeds of thought, hope and discussions to be had for you and your family. If there are other key factors at play that I haven’t mentioned, don’t ignore them. Consider them and work with them to unravel the pieces of YOUR puzzle.

If you are simply not in the headspace to think this through on your own, some experts who will not ask you to sleep train your baby, may be your next port of call as they can help you see your way through in your setting.

Here are some I know of who offer Skype consults-

The Possums Clinic

Pinky McKay

Meg Nagle (The Milk Meg)

Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Tracy Cassels Phd (Evolutionary Parenting)

This list isn’t definitive but a place to start. If you do access a provider and what they suggest to you doesn’t feel right, it is okay to walk away and seek an alternative. Never feel trapped into having do something. You are your baby’s biggest advocate and you know them best.

I know it can be utterly demoralising not being able to see a light at the end of this ridiculously sleep deprived tunnel. No matter what you do or how positive your mind set, some days you will feel defeated. You will wonder what you did in another life to deserve this. You will once again doubt yourself and your baby. This is normal. All of the mothers who have lived or are living this experience feel this from time to time. But, it’s at times like this that you need to know just how incredible you are and despite your struggle, your baby is every bit as wonderful as they are because of you. Your time, your patience, your unconditional love is not in vain. YOU are your baby’s whole world and they love every inch of you. They truly would sleep better if they could and when they can, they will. They need you ever so intensely right now, but it WILL end. One day, they will be too big for boob, they will be too big to sleep on your chest, they’ll be too big to pick up, they’ll be too big for your singing and humming, too big for your stories. Right now it feels like a distant pipe dream but the sad truth of life is that time slows for no one. The intensity and rawness of now will soften and fade into memories but the impact you have had on your growing baby’s brain will last a lifetime.

Hang in there tired mama. With the support you need and deserve, you CAN keep mothering that baby of yours just as they are needing to be mothered. Xxx

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‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

Actually I can. 
Time passes by too darn quickly watching my babies grow to ever want to live just ‘waiting’ for the future. 

I’d rather live in the here and now. 
Right now I live in the land of twilight cuddles, nursing, sweet milk breath, tiny hands, kicky legs, sleepy sounds, toddler nightmares, teething pain, cries in the night that I can calm just with my touch, my presence. 

My bed is incredibly full right now, although the new addition of a single mattress next to our King has created the space we all needed to feel comfortable. 
I didn’t choose bedsharing first time around. My baby chose it and I will be forever grateful to him for forcing my hand. 

Second time around, we chose it from the start. Why?

  • Because it feels so right for us. 
  • I get more rest. 
  • My babies have me promptly when they need me. 
  • I can be the parent I want to be through the night. 
  • It’s easy when we travel. 

My husband and I will have years of our bed to ourselves. 

I can wait for that. 

Right now, our family bed is for our family. Always present. Always comforting. Ever loving. 

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Mummy’s Little Booby Monster

Mummy’s Little Booby Monster

Mummy calls my baby brother 

By a very funny name

She says that he’s her Booby Monster

And that nursing’s his favourite game.


Our baby can do other things

He loves to watch me play

He shrieks with laughter watching me

And crawls right in my way.


But if our baby is feeling tired

Or something makes him sad

Mummy scoops him up and pops him on

And soon he’s back to glad.


Our baby now eats some food like me

But while he was tiny he never

That’s why mummy has her boobs with her

So he wasn’t hungry ever.


Mummy fed him while we were at playgroup

In the carrier at the shops

He had boob while she chased me

Even playing wouldn’t make him stop.


Our baby likes to play booby monster

Lots and lots during the night

So he sleeps with us right next to mum

So he can boob along and sleep tight.


Mummy says I was once her booby monster

When I was a baby too

She says she loved to cuddle me close

And nurse away my blues.


Mummy and our baby Booby Monster

Have lots of cuddles now

But Mummy always has cuddles for me

And she loves to show me how.

Grubby Mummy and the Grubby Bubbies

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Baby Sleep- let’s try something different …

Baby Sleep- let’s try something different …

Please stay with me. Here’s your challenge.  
What if we stopped for even a day believing all the stuff we are told about Baby Sleep.

What if we accepted that our baby is normal and sleeping exactly as they should by going through cycles of waking frequently, nursing frequently, falling asleep on the boob, catnapping, only sleeping in close contact with a caregiver.

What if we accepted that not all babies need X amount of sleep in long chunks to be rested and healthy.

What if we accepted that the majority of babies need help to relax off to sleep and are incapable of ‘self soothing’.

What if we accepted that what our baby could do last week simply isn’t something they can this week.

What if we accepted that just because our friend’s baby happily drops off to sleep once placed in their cot it is not something our own baby can or should be doing.

What if we accepted that our high needs babies really do need us to help them back to sleep every 20-40 minutes at night.

What if we accepted that a teething baby, a sick baby, a baby going through a developmental leap, a baby learning to crawl or walk, a baby who has been away from their carer for a chunk of the day is likely going to want to sleep on the breast all night long.

What if we accepted that some babies don’t and won’t resettle from a day nap and catnapping is normal.

What if we simply accepted normal infant sleep behaviour and stopped questioning ourselves and our babies at every bump in the sleep road.

I challenge you to try this. Because I do believe there is method in my madness.

Once you have decided to accept (even experimentally) that this is normal infant sleep behaviour and your baby doesn’t have a ‘sleep problem’ as many in our society would have you believe you are now at the next very important point.

Where to now?

You are probably tired. Maybe even severely sleep deprived. You may have other children. You may have a partner or maybe you are doing this alone. You may be far from family. You may have barely heard from you friends since the baby arrived. You may be back at work or heading back soon. You may have your own health issues. You may have many other factors in your life that need to be considered right down to your own experience as a child.

There’s no one size fits all solution here. There is however a bit of a check you could run by to assess what changes, both physically and mentally, you ‘could’ make to help you through this season.

Firstly, set yourself a realistic goal. For me, this is to get the best quality rest and sleep I can and to feel well enough in myself to function, enjoy and appreciate my family. You’ll notice I said ‘best quality sleep’ not the elusive ‘quantity’ and I say ‘best’ meaning best in the current circumstances not best as in the amazing sleep I had before babies.

After that, give yourself some time to think and reflect on how you can achieve this goal in your unique setting.

If your baby sleeps best on you or feeds or wakes constantly, have you considered bedsharing, or sidecarring the cot or camping out in the nursery?

If your baby sleeps their longest stint first up, could you change things for this season so you too can go to sleep around this time?

Could a husband or partner take on a settle or dream feed first up to give you one longer stint (NOTE: this has never worked for me but does for others)

If you can’t sleep during the day, can you at least get a 15-30 minute ‘rest period’ even if it means sitting in the car at work in peace or putting the TV on for your toddler while you put your feet up with cuppa?

Is there any way you can farm out any other ‘jobs’ to create more rest time in your day? I hired a cleaner when I was diagnosed with PND and I can’t explain how much of a positive impact it had on me. This may not be within your budget but what else could you do?

Who can you call on when it’s all too much and you need more of a break? Could your husband take a half day or even full day of leave? Could grandma come and have bub while you have a rest or bath or a good long cuppa?

What exercise are you getting to keep you mentally and physically moving? I’m no gym junkie but an evening walk with our sleepy babes is a great way for my husband and I to stay connected. There are also many mums and bubs classes, crèches at gyms and other options if you need to bring babe along.

What are you doing socially to stay feeling connected and supported through this season? Finding your mummy tribe can be a very vital key to not only surviving this season but also enjoying it. Mothers groups, ABA or La Leche League meets, online forums and groups … Put out your feelers for likeminded supportive mamas who become your safe place for support, encouragement and genuine friendship.

Are you saying ‘yes’ or loading yourself up too much at this time? Could anything wait until this season ends?

How could your own health (physical or mental) be impacting on how you can manage this season and what could you do to alleviate any of this?

Do you think there are any other factors making it hard for you to accept your baby’s sleep pattern and if so, what could you do to deal with this?

Lastly, what expectations do you hold of yourself that may be making this weary season any harder than it needs to be?

The next step, try it out. Make the adjustments and changes (both physically and mentally) that you’ve identified and take it for a spin.

For me, stopping nighttime resettling and taking up bedsharing with my first was a complete game changer. I simply could not believe how much more rested I was when I stopped physically getting up and stopped having to wind back down to sleep. I wasn’t always comfy. He still slept like shite but hell I got more rest.

Give it a chance and tweak it where necessary.

You may have gone through this process and found you are unwilling to make the changes required to achieve your goal. Or maybe you feel there aren’t viable choices to be made. You may decide that for you and your family, sleep training is the right path. If this is you, I urge you to please, investigate gentler options that do not involve your baby crying. It may take longer but just as you’ve found it too difficult too make changes to your comfort zone, respect that your baby will also find these changes hard.

If however, you are still with me, I look forward to hearing how you go with your goal. I look forward to hearing how you work through your own adjustments to manage this season. Sometimes, simply knowing your baby IS normal is all that you need to make it through. It was a huge part of finding my surrender.

So here’s to accepting normal infant sleep behaviour and here’s to trying something different 💙😴

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Gentle Night Weaning- our journey

Gentle Night Weaning- our journey

So, we found out we were expecting our second little bundle of Grubby Bubby joy right around our son’s first birthday. It was a huge shock to say the least. We were actively trying to not get pregnant and I was still breastfeeding my high needs guy at least 2 hourly around the clock.  
I did not think my son was ready to wean and so as soon as I learned of my pregnancy, I immediately started investigating breastfeeding while pregnant and even preparing myself for the fact I may end up tandem feeding. After my initial investigations, I felt confident that I could continue to nurse but also decided that my main goal would be to have my toddler down to as few feeds as possible before the arrival of the baby. I had no idea how this was going to happen but at least I knew what I wanted.

The first lot of breastfeeding aversion (common in pregnancy) hit at the end of the first trimester. It was awful. My skin crawled. I felt like physically throwing him off me. My face scrunched up and my toes curled every time he latched. I had no control over this feeling. I struggled along with it and after only a week or so it disappeared again and I had no trouble carrying on nursing.

But then when the second lot of aversion hit, it happened to coincide with my guy getting his molars and his sleep went from bad to worse to sheer insanity. I had done it all before with him but being 20 weeks pregnant, still ridiculously thin and with severe aversions making me dread his very touch (particularly at night) I couldn’t just ride this one out.

I decided that I needed to night wean so that there was at least 12 hours of the day I knew he wouldn’t be attached to me (at least on the boob anyway). I organised a Skype consult with Meg Nagle, IBCLC from The Milk Meg to get my head around a plan of attack that would see me successfully night weaning my 15 month old guy in the gentlest, fairest way possible. The consultation really built my confidence and we started preparations right away. I had already ordered the book, ‘Nursies When the Sun Shines’ a few weeks earlier so I introduced it and really stepped up our conversations about night and day. I had already started working on him going to sleep during the day without boob and even had minimal success with dad settling him to sleep occasionally. 

Meg’s advice was quite clear. She doesn’t advise night weaning before about 18 months as this is when most babies have the understanding required to make the process fair. Although after talking with her about my specific toddler it became clear that he was in fact capable as his comprehension was quite advanced for his age. She advises that once you decide to start, you should stop feeding entirely at night (cold turkey) rather than trying to stretch out feeds as Meg explains that at this age, your toddler can understand time in terms of night and day but cannot understand time in terms of ‘no, you can’t have boob now because it’s only been 2 hours.’ And ‘yes, you can have boob now because it’s been 4 hours.’ It’s confusing to sometimes have it on the menu and then other times not. Meg also explained that at this age, my booby crazy toddler would not like this change despite understanding what was going on and he was likely to get very upset and would need all the comfort and reassurance he could get from us while he worked through his anger and frustration with the change. She was also clear that we may go backwards and that was okay. Set backs happen and to not fight it. If I felt he really did need boob one night it wouldn’t mean all was lost. We could just try again the next. I had a plan.
My husband and I had intended to keep the transition slow but in the end, my hormones and aversion hit the STOP button first.

At the time, I kept a diary on the mothers forum I am a part of and so to give you an authentic feel of how it went, I have copied in the eight entries I made. It really was a very successful process and although my guy did get very upset, at no point was he without every other comfort he could be offered other than the breast. We were right there with him through this massive upheaval which I know, while not what he wanted or needed at the time, I desperately needed to do to be able to keep mothering him the way he deserved.

So here’s our journey-


Night One– I have been preparing mentally to start night weaning but wanted to give Bub another couple of weeks of settling for his daddy and adjusting to the other changes we’ve made (not boobin to sleep in the day or to bed, new little mattress next to our bed, daddy putting to bed). Then along come his molars and although he’s now busted out two he is super irritable and crazy fussy on the boob and I was finding that he wanted to suck all night long once he started … I’d get him down for 5 mins and then he’d grizzle, refuse his dummy and demand boob. Feeding to sleep simply wasn’t the foolproof method of resettling it has been for so long and my breastfeeding aversion has been getting worse with his fussiness and constant demands so at midnight last night I made the call. No more night boob. I kicked my husband out to the spare room (he’s been missing a lot of sleep with these teeth and wonder week too) and I took a deep breath and relaxed into my decision to comfort my extremely angry baby back to sleep with no more boob. It was a massive session but he did eventually sleep. At 3:30 we kicked off for round two and my clever little man woke knowing boob was off the table and didn’t even try for it but threw the most almighty tantrum instead. He was furious with me. He kicked, screamed, bit and threw himself around. He even climbed off the bed and went to the door and started banging his head. I remained calm and offered him lots of cuddles (which were often refused but kept offering nonetheless) and kept trying to soothe him while still reminding him there would be no boob til the sun comes up. We went to the window and talked about the night and how it was dark and quiet and sleep time. I sang to him and offered sips of water and his dummy. He continued to rage on and off for an hour but eventually after he’d had one last big yell I used my firm voice and told that it was enough and to go back to sleep now. He took his dummy and snuggled on my chest and went to sleep. He slept next to me until 7:30am (normally up very early but was exhausted I’m sure) and then happily had morning boob session.

I’m feeling calm about my choice right now. I am ready and I feel like I have the mind set to push through calmly. Only time will tell though if I can maintain the calm and just how far and hard my guy will push. Fingers crossed it’s easier than I’m imagining.

I’ll update on night two tomorrow. Wish me luck 🙂

Night 2– was a real mixed bag but overall pretty good.

He started off brilliantly. He woke twice at 9ish and 11ish but I said, ‘remember, no boob baby. Would you like some water?’ He’d have a drink and a two second cuddle with dummy and then he rolled off me and back to sleep on his little pillow. At 1ish he woke up angry and was trying to bite me. His mouth seemed sore so we hopped up and got him some teething tablets and he then had a drink, cuddle and dummy and back to sleep easily. He woke about half an hour later doing the same thing so this time I gave him panadol and he once again went back to sleep with cuddle and dummy. At 3ish he woke again but this time he was furious and determined to get boob. I reminded him that it was still dark outside and the stars were out so no boob until the sun’s up. He raged and fumed for about 45mins. I stayed calm and reassuring and offered lots of cuddles while he let loose. After that time, I did the same as the first night and used my firm voice and told him that it was enough and no more crying. Time for cuddles and sleep. It took a couple of goes but then he relaxed on my chest and he slept til 7 when he woke with a huge smile as I offered him boob because the sun was up 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- I can’t say it’s nice watching him get so angry but at the same time I feel good doing it now as I can see he really does understand now. I couldn’t have done it earlier knowing he didn’t get it but now, he does. He’s not necessarily happy about it but he does understand. We talk a lot during the day and before bed about having boob while the sun’s up and I am very clear after his bedtime feed that there will be no more boob til the morning. The water does seem to help but I’m not sure if he’s only taking it now because my supply has dropped so much that he has too … He used to clean refuse it but now he chugs away.

When I consulted with Meg, she said that the 3-4 th nights can often be a very big challenge as Bub often seems to realise that this new situation isn’t going away and they buck extra hard so will wait and see how we go. So far though, I think we are okay 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- I strongly recommend a consult (I did a Skype one) with Meg from The Milk Meg. She was so encouraging but also very clear cut on how best to night wean in a way that is still fair on bubba. It’s such a hard decision. For me, my pregnancy hormones and aversion have made the decision for me really. I simply couldn’t keep doing it.

Thanks for your fabulous support as always ladies x

Night 3– wow! That was a good one! Daddy put him to bed at 8, woke at 11:45 (a fabulous first stint for our guy). He refused water and dummy and started to whinge but as soon as I said, ‘look outside baby, it’s dark. No boob til the sun’s up. Have some cuddles with my mummy.’ He flopped on my chest and fell asleep! He did wake a few times when I put him down but after repeating the same convo he flopped back on my chest each time with no tears. He then slept til 4:15 when we had the same experience. Whinge, remind dark, flopped on chest asleep. He did have trouble staying asleep for a few goes again but was out by 5 and slept soundly til 7:30 when he happily had morning boob 🙂

So proud of my clever little man! It is still an adjustment for him though and he won’t go down on his little bed after that initial wake up now as he likes to hold my face while he sleeps which is fair enough considering how much his skin to skin has cut back without night boob. I’m sure as these longer stints kick in though that eventually I’ll get him back on his little mattress and right now I am so happy with our progress I could care less when 🙂

I feel so good that this gentle but definite method is working for us. I love that I have been able to have him go cold turkey on boob while still offering the comfort he needs at night. Feeling all warm and squishy just thinking about it.

Fingers crossed we stay on this track now!

Night 4– went really well considering it was a crappy night for all of us. You know those nights where you toss and turn and can’t get comfy? Well my husband , babe and I all seemed to have one together!

Night weaning wise, babe was a star. Didn’t even really need a cuddle until 4 but needed a sip of water and a hand hold every couple of hours. He ended up being happy on his own little mattress too because daddy’s tossing and turning was annoying him, so another small win.

He was pretty cranky this morning when he woke up and had morning boob, as we all were. Here’s hoping tonight is a more restful night for all of us 🙂

Night 5– the night was good and interesting. We thought we’d gotten off too lightly with only two nights of true protest … We had, BUT it wasn’t too bad and hopefully means he’s getting it out of his system. He started off fine going down to bed. I had to do it as DH was out and we followed our usual routine but just as he was about to drift off he spat his dummy out and started rooting around for boob. It took about 5 mins of reminding him that we were done until the sun comes up and then he crashed and slept well til 11:20. When he woke he was the angry little man from night one and two and no amount of teething tablet, panadol, offers of water, reminders it was dark were going to avoid his meltdown. So we let him go for a bit with the usual offers of cuddles etc. Daddy then tried to cuddle and look out the window which looked as though was working but really he was just regaining strength for more fury. We let him rage for a little longer and then I sat him on my hip and stood by the door pointing out stars. He slowly relaxed, took dummy and put his head on my shoulder. We laid down and he conked out quickly and slept well til 4ish where we had a quick cuddle and he slept til 6:30 and had happy morning boob.

Still a great night overall.

It does make me wonder when I’ll actually be able to call him ‘night weaned’. We are definitely still a work in progress but very happy to have gotten this far relatively unscathed. I am also happy to report that I am feeling so much more rested without those extra calories of night boobin being taken out all of the time. I’m finally gaining pregnancy weight as well which is very reassuring 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- my husband is wonderful but him being able to settle babe is brand new. From 6 months he wouldn’t have a bar of daddy for sleep but thankfully in the last two weeks he has started settling for him. It was exhausting doing it on my own.

I did start doing the night weaning on my own really because my husband was exhausted and had a lot on at work and it was okay because although he was hard work, I don’t think I was missing out on much more sleep than I would’ve even if I was boobin because he was so unsettled.

In answer to your question about space from boob. My guy has been settled into his own cot for every day nap and the start of every night forever and before night weaning I had started settling him on his own little mattress next to ours instead of having him in with us after his first wake up. It honestly made no difference for him. Apparently it can for some kids though so would still be worth a try 😉

Night 6-I think we might be in for it tonight 😦

He would not get off boob tonight after his last feed before bed and then screamed for near on an hour and refused his dummy. Daddy has just gotten him down after I tried for half an hour. I think tonight might be when he really bucks. Wish me luck.

Interesting new development. Apparently we don’t take a dummy anymore. I am unsure if this is going to be a good or a bad thing just yet. I was thinking it was bad as he was a complete nightmare to get to bed last night. Firstly, he wouldn’t get off boob. He usually now hops off when I say, ‘that’s enough now baby, let’s go have a story and cuddles, it’s bed time.’ Last night, he chucked a whammy when he’d finished one boob so I offered him the other and then he proceeded to try and drift off on the boob and wouldn’t hop off. I ended up taking him off and that’s when the dummy refusal and tantrum kicked in. He screamed and threw himself around for the better part of an hour. I tried for half an hour as my husband was at training and then DH took over and finally got him down (sans dummy which he continued to refuse).

He woke two hourly overnight but a quick cuddle and sip of water saw him back to sleep with no fuss and he slept on his little mattress all night with no dummy … Maybe it’s not so bad without dummy?!?

Then he refused dummy for his morning sleep too and tried to demand boob but after a few reminders he drifted off with a cuddle and no dummy … I wonder if this is a permanent development or just today’s thing because he’s realised dummy is replacing boob.

The two hourly wake ups are making me think we may not have been lucky enough to to score the kid who happily sleeps through once weaned. I think we are still a long way from that but at least a quick cuddle is less draining on me than boobin all bloody night.

So just when you think things might be settling in … Who knows where we are headed. Still on a good track overall though and you never know, I might just miss out on having to dummy wean later 😉

Night 7– one week down!!! I really thought we were in for it last night as he was a wonder weeking terror during the day and continued his dummy strike for both day naps with much screaming involved. But surprisingly, he fell asleep on our evening walk (we always go for a walk after his bath as the bath really razzes him up). I’d forgotten to give him boob before our walk (he normally has one before and the other after) so my husband and I decided that when we got home, he would try to put him down but if he woke and protested, he’d bring him out for boob. He didn’t even stir while being transferred from pram to cot (a small miracle) and then slept for 3.5 hours! When he woke, I brought him in with me and he had a sip of water and quick cuddle but conked out almost immediately and went easily into his own little bed and slept for 3 more hours where he once again stirred, had a sip of water and straight back out for 3 more hours!!! This took us to 5:45 which is an hour earlier than he normally wakes and the sun doesn’t rise here (far west QLD) until 7am. Even though he’d had an awesome night, he’s been waking up earlier and earlier for that morning boob so I decided to maintain the sun rule. He wasn’t going back to sleep though so Daddy took him while he got ready for work and he explained to babe that the sun was still asleep and so was boob and little man was fine with it. As it got close to sunrise we went outside and watched the sky lighten and talked about how the sun was rising and he could now have boob oh he liked. He grinned at me and we came in and had morning boob 🙂

Fingers crossed for repeats of that night!!!

Night 8– I think I’ll make this my last update. We had an up and down night last night. The upside… He gave in pretty easily and slept well (albeit back in my bed) between wake ups. Downside, I had to growl at him each time for having a tanty… I really think he gets it though as he gives it up so quickly. Three wake ups last night is still 50 000 times better than the 6+ average we had while boobin.

So I’ll leave it at that … Still a work in progress but I know we won’t be going back now so feeling confident in saying the night boob has gone 🙂

I hope I didn’t scare anyone off along the way, it really has been way better than I ever thought possible! Good luck to those embarking on the journey soon. Let me know how you go x

And that WAS it for the night boob. He still wakes frequently on and off even now and he is over 2 but for the most part, he sleeps quite well.

After night weaning, I decided to follow the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ technique for day feeding as I thought it would help me reduce feeds without forcing him to wean more than he could handle. To my huge surprise, one month after night weaning he day weaned completely. I know my dropping supply due to pregnancy and also stopping night feeds would’ve contributed greatly but still… To go from feeding constantly day and night to nothing at all in one month?!? This baby of mine is determined to keep us guessing in every department.

So that’s my tale of gentle night weaning. Not perfect nor pretty but certainly gentle and loving nonetheless. As I type, my second bubba is latched on having boob while he naps … I wonder where this journey will take us. Right now, only the universe knows …