Night-waking continues

I have lost count of the number of poems I have written about sleep. Here’s another one about my daughter’s uncanny ability to wake up just when I am about to crawl into bed, whatever time that is.

Sneaking, Sleeping

Ten, eleven, midnight, three
Soft-stockinged tred
can’t fool me
ears prick up:
Mummy is going to bed.
No no not yet

Your cry cuts through night
and wall and tinny
receiver, flashing green
your need to be heard
and held and seen.

Bundled in bedding
zipped and buttoned
twisted up and bleary
teary eyed you
“ney ney ney” and
“dee dee” and “mama”
with outstretched arms.

I hold we sway
you suck your fingers
snug then arching
out of arms,
your cuddle collected
you want back to bed
and sleeping sound –

but if I dare to
crab-creep to the
chink of light
to freedom and my bed-
if I dare to make a sound
so small
you grumble then protest and wail
and stay!
I have to stay.

Once more we sway.
My eyelids drooping,
knees buckling under
weight of sleep.

On we circle round this track
on and on and back
in the deep night’s black
until your breathing
slows
sucking stops
limbs relax.

I tiptoe out and
creep to bed.
So softly do I tred
you cannot
cannot
have heard me
this time round
I made
no
sound.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Read more original poetry by other bloggers here.

Another poem about sleep

Midsummer Night’s Dream

The night is warm
you toss you turn
hair sweat sticky
sticky uppy
fists clenched
you fight with sleep

no not.
too hot.

you wrestle and weep
call to wake
need help
to turn not sit
lie down not stand
I lend a hand

eyes glued.
black mood.

on we roll we limp
till dawn breaks
birds wake
all forgotten
cheery you
start the day anew

sunlight.
gone night.

it feels wrong
but I go along
and start the day
with a reluctant song.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013.

Prose for Thought

More precious than gold

She fooled us. We boasted at 7 weeks that she was ‘such an easy baby’, that she slept through and would re-settle with a single “shhhh” from a parent. I guess she got bored of that nonsense and has since realised ‘easy babies’ don’t get as many midnight cuddles as wakeful ones. Besides the occasional 11pm to 5.30am just to keep us on our toes, the Baby continues to wake up at night. Sometimes once, sometime many times. Always at 3am – a magical time when all babies are programmed to wake screaming, I think. Whatever she does at night, the day starts at first light for her, when she is cheery and chirpy and ready to play. More often than not I sneak her downstairs at that time, hoping she hasn’t woken the Toddler yet, and try to persuade her to have another hour’s kip in my arms on the sofa.

What is more precious than gold, you ask? Is it Love? Is it World Peace? Is it Babies? No, dear reader. It is sleep.

Dawn Chorus

You do know
this is classed as torture
sleep wake sleep wake
shrill crying in your ear
the grey dawn
day after day
lying cramped and curledsleep
neck and back
aching
holding you
precious you
as you snatch a little more
of that sleep
that I wanted
your lashes resting lightly
on your soft cheek.

I hope your dreams are gentle
and you feel warm
safe
and loved.
Although I ache and
my brain feels dead and
the day is dull-
I guess
I do feel
warm safe and loved
too.

My daughter,
I would suffer any torture
to spend this time with you.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Okay, so maybe it was love and babies after all. Leave me alone, I’m really tired.

Linking up to Prose for Thought.

Prose for Thought

Sleep – and lack of it

Parents of newborns are boring. All they talk about is sleep: when the baby sleeps, for how long, how often, how little sleep they are getting, who they would kill to get some sleep. I remember a friend warning me before I had our son that me and my husband would inevitably get into bitter arguments over who had had the least sleep. She wasn’t wrong.

When people meet our baby, they will often ask: “Is she good?” Bizarrely, that turns out to mean: “does she sleep at night?” – as if this were a behaviour the baby had much control over. Well, our baby is pretty good, but she likes to surprise us. First, she surprised us by sleeping through for three nights in a row when she was only six weeks old. Then she surprised us by waking up in the night again after that, and sleeping through again every third or fourth night, just to keep us on our toes. After settling into a nice sleeping-through pattern around Christmas, she has most recently surprised us by waking up every two hours or so from her last feed at 11pm. This is not a popular trend, as I am sure you can imagine.

In situations like this, when you are sleep deprived and a little bit desperate, and also foolishly trying to stay off the cake and chocolate, you start to look for magic solutions. I see parents searching for answers everywhere I go: on baby forums, in toddler groups, in the Netherlands, in the UK – why is my baby doing this and more importantly, how do I make it stop?

Gina Ford enthusiasts debate the wisdom of pushing the morning nap (MN, on the forums) later in order to combat early morning waking (EMW). Gina herself warns you not to feed your baby when she wakes up in the night if she has previously not needed milk at that time – you will just be making a rod for your own back as she will start waking up at that time expecting milk. Her dire warnings echo through my head as I breastfeed my daughter at 2.30AM to get her back off to sleep quickly.

Then there are those in the opposite camp who prefer to combat the waking by sharing their bed with the baby (co-sleeping, this is called), so that the baby can feed on demand in the night while you drift in and out of sleep yourself. Personally, I prefer to keep the bed for grown ups, plus my baby seems to like sleeping in a darkened room on her own. This of course also causes fear and guilt, as the more evangelical proponents of this method will tell you that it is unnatural and even cruel for little babies to be separated from their mother in this way.

What really scares me – possibly because it goes against my own fervently held opinions – is when parents decide to start weaning their babies early to make them sleep through the night, say at 12 weeks old. How far will we go to get some sleep? Surely this is compromising their baby’s health? Their tiny stomachs are just not ready for solid food at that age. When I hear these kind of stories my blood boils and I want to shake people. Then again, advice on weaning has varied widely over the ages and even over the past few years. Before there was formula, mothers unable to breastfeed their children would make pastes a little like baby rice now and feed them to infants barely a few days old – and still the human race has survived. There may well be people reading this who feel very strongly about either Gina Ford or co-sleeping who are quite ready to give me a good shake based on the previous few paragraphs and tell me that I myself am compromising my baby’s health. In fact, you may already be on the case, finding me links to articles online that will prove conclusively that I am Wrong.

When the Toddler was a baby, I spent hours reading parenting books trying to work out what I was doing wrong and how I could make him sleep through again when he stopped being “good”. With our daughter, I plan to just ride it out and do whatever seems best at the time. As it is unethical and entirely impractical to do scientific research into which baby-care method is most effective, we all just find our way through the conflicting opinions and do what seems to suit us and our babies best, and as long as they are happy and growing well, we can pat ourselves on the back and say Good Job Well Done.

 

I’m not messing about on the early weaning though. Stop it. Wait till they’re about six months, sitting up and can bring food to their mouths themselves.

The Two Week Itch

A wise pastor of our acquaintance imparted a valuable piece of knowledge when our son was born: nothing with a baby lasts longer than two weeks. We clung to this during the long, screamy nights. What he neglected to mention, however, was that this goes for the good stuff as well.

It has once again proven true with our daughter. After a week or two of being inconsolable and needing to be rocked and marched up and down the stairs and held and sung to in order to drop off to sleep, she discovered she had fingers to suck on and now she just wants you to put her in a darkened room so she can drift off peacefully by herself.

I say “now”, but for the past day or two I have been wondering whether she has hit the Two Week Itch again. Sleep has most recently been preceded by some heart-rending crying as if she is in pain. Last night she wouldn’t settle at bedtime, which is very unusual, and after a few minutes of this very worrying cry I picked her up and stroked her back. A huge burp. And then peace. I put her down and she went to sleep.

When the same thing happened for her most recent nap I started to wonder whether this is her new fad: the pre-sleep-burp. We will see. Whatever happens, I think it is always wise not to get too excited about the good times with little babies – they do like to surprise you.

Sleep/Wisdom

I am in shock.

First of all, my daughter has found her fingers. She has decided that it is very soothing to suck on the middle and ring finger on her left hand, and it has made a dramatic difference in her sleep. Last night, I put her to bed tired but awake (like The Books tell you to), left the room for five minutes and came back in to find her asleep.

Secondly, last night for the second night in a row, she has slept right through from midnight to about 6.30 in the morning. She would have slept longer even than that, except I woke her up at that time in a panic to check she was still alive.

As she is only six weeks old, I don’t know how to feel about this. I have asked several friends and looked on websites and forums and there seem to be two contradictory schools of thought:
1) Well done! Your baby is sleeping through! Babies will always wake up if they are hungry, so if she doesn’t she must be fine. See it as a blessing and enjoy the extra sleep.
and
2) A six week old baby should not go that long without food as her stomach is still too small to hold enough food for such a long stretch. You should wake her up in the night until she is about three months old, because until that time babies cannot be relied on to know whether they are hungry.

What is wisdom? I have been mulling these two opposing points of view over throughout the day and cannot decide what is right. My interim conclusion is this: I believe that the true value of things is shown in the fruit they produce. I will do as I have done for now, and let her sleep at night but wake her up in the morning. But I will have her weighed more often for the moment. If she keeps gaining weight well and seems healthy and content then I will assume the mammoth sleep is not a problem.