Parent Diaries

“I was spending hours sitting in a dark room trying to get her to sleep…”

No-one tells you about the fractious evenings

No-one tells you about the fractious evenings!

Louise, Bristol, England

Freya has generally slept well overnight. From the day she was born she pretty much slept in at least 4-hour blocks, and soon she was settling herself to sleep at night like a textbook baby and sleeping long stints We’ve been really lucky.

It’s the days that were tough, especially the evenings. Freya has always been a terrible day-sleeper, something I get little sympathy for. Everyone says they’d much rather have a baby that sleeps well at night and can handle poor sleep in the day. That’s fine until you’re dealing with an over-tired cranky baby all day. I found it isolating and, subsequently, depressing.

From around 2½ weeks, she would start screaming anytime from 5pm and keep going till bedtime unless we could get her to nap, which was always a fight. This sometimes involved walking the streets for hours with her in the sling or buggy, or lying pinned to the sofa with her asleep on one of us. The doctor prescribed Colief for Colic but it didn’t seem to work. I remember reading that Colic peaks at 6 weeks which felt an eternity away in the early days. It got to the point where I dreaded 5pm coming. Then, at around 10 weeks Freya turned a corner and the fractious evenings stopped.

Daytime naps were still a big issue though. At first it wasn’t too bad, she’d fall asleep on me and we’d watch TV all day. But as the weather turned nicer I felt bored and trapped in the house all day. I started trying to get her to nap in the cot around 12 weeks, but then I was spending hours sitting in a dark room every day. It would take ages for her to settle, then she’d  only sleep for 30 minutes. I was so frustrated, would beat myself up for putting her down under-tired or over-tired. It took a while to realise that some babies just catnap, no matter what the so-called experts say.

Then one day, around 15 weeks, I was trying to get her down. She was really over-tired, screaming and arching her back so I walked out the room and thought ‘right, let’s see if you can get yourself to sleep’. And she did. Within 5 minutes she was gone. So that’s what we did from then on. It wasn’t even controlled crying really - it never took longer than 10 minutes. We both knew she needed to sleep, but until that point she just wasn’t able to settle herself. I’m not sure what changed, but once she learnt to self-sooth and fall asleep by herself, naptime became much easier. And accepting that she works to her own schedule is what gave me back my sanity.

Now I just try to get out of the house as much as possible. We do lots of classes, and playdates, we keep busy. Some days she can still be a cranky mess from lack of daytime sleep, BUT we’re both happier for getting out and about. I still remain hopeful it will change one day, but in the meantime it at least gives me freedom to be out all day.