They say you learn from your mistakes, this may true for a normal non-sleep deprived person. But for the person doing the night feeds the lessons come more slowly. It’s 12:30 am, I feel like I’ve only just fallen sleep after the last round of feeding, burping and bum changing. Seriously – the baby’s waking for a feed AGAIN?!?!? The night feed routine goes a little bit like this….
- First things first, the reluctance to move. I think to myself: He cannot be hungry, he’s not moved in 2 hours, he’s been sleeping not running a marathon! HE CANNOT BE HUNGRY!! Maybe he’ll just go back to sleep, I’ll pop the dummy in, that’ll work. Oh no he’s getting louder, he’ll wake everyone else up! Oh bugger it I’ll feed him. By now this internal dialogue has been raging in my brain for the last 20 minutes, so, I might as well get on with it now and admit defeat. Repeat every feed!
- Then I lift the baby up – oh crap I’ve forgotten to turn his breathing monitor off. The alarm is now advising me of the fact with a very loud NEEAAAA NEEAAAA NEEAAAA – there is no breathing motion detected from the baby. Obvs!! If you have ever had the joy of the breathing monitor you will know that the alarm is like a smoke alarm on steroids. You will rarely remember to turn it off as you retrieve your baby bleary eyed in the darkness and you now risk waking not only your own household but possibly the rest of the street – QUICK, QUICK, PANIC, PANIC, QUICK, TURN IT OFF!!! Repeat every feed!
- The baby is now installed on the lap but the crying is getting louder. He’s getting the right hump, because despite me picking him up he’s still not being fed. Mental note to self ‘undo straps before I pick the baby up!’, so much quicker 2 handed than attempting a Houdini moment under pressure. Repeat every feed!
- Finally on to the winding, if I’m lucky this may result in a massive sick burp straight away. For the love of god where do the muslin cloths go at night? It’s some ‘sick’ and twisted game being played on me. I know I left it right there next to me on the bed, but, no amount of hand scrabbling in the dark will locate it. The second reality of winding involves 20 minutes vigorous back rubbing with no sign of even the tiniest burp, although the bingo wings benefit from the exercise I’d actually rather be asleep. I end up putting the baby back in bed, just drop off to sleep when he does a shout out for ‘a rewind’ and we start the winding again. Repeat every feed!
- At last you snuggle down, think how lovely it is to be between the duvet and mattress, calculate the maximum amount of sleep possible before your presence is required for the next feed. It’s 1:30 am, I’m super confident that this time he’ll sleep through to 6. I just start to drift off and the 3 year old wakes me because a). his feet are poking out of the duvet, b). he’s had some freak growth spurt and his bed is too little all of a sudden, c). he can’t find his pillow because he’s sleeping half way down the (apparently tiny) bed – all true stories. Repeat every feed!
When you feel like you have actually come to the end of your night feeding tether you scour the internet for the wisdom of mums before you for ways of putting night feeding to sleep! (excuse the pun). You try all the advice, more feeding in the day, less naps, more naps, a sleeping pod, a noise app, something, anything!!!! Once in the dead of night by the glow of the screen of the android phone I came across a blog where the mum (obviously much more earth mum than me) said to embrace the night feed, something along the lines of it being ‘a beautiful moment of togetherness for you and your baby’. Sorry, but, bollocks to that! 6am to 7pm, that’s 13 hours allocated to nurturing, feeding, cleaning, cooing, toy jangling. Baby you can have as many cuddles as you can possibly take when the sun is up. Night time, now this is for sleeping!
When it comes to night time and sleep, as a breastfeeding mum I know that the breastfeeding collective feel we are much more hard done by than the bottle feeding mums. After all it’s a well known fact (myth??) that bottle fed babies sleep better at night, right!? I have plenty of bottle feeding pals that I know will disagree with this. In the quest to find ways of ditching the night feeds I have stumbled across this interesting fact – parents of breastfed babies apparently get 40-45 minutes more sleep than the parents of bottle fed babies (source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine). Not sure whether the test took into account that either parent can feed the bottle fed baby and therefore share the lack of sleep?!
No matter if you’re a bottle or breastfeeding parent, night feeding sucks! But with all things baby, this too shall pass. Hang on in there. Sweet dreams.