Implementing a Sleep & Feed Routine

Written by admin on April 5, 2011. Posted in Sleep Challenges

My mother came and stayed with us for the first 7 weeks which I thank her from the bottom of my heart. She helped with burping and readying bottles throughout the night and we’d burp the girls together but when I was almost falling off the rocker asleep she’d take over and send me to bed.

After those 7 weeks when she went home I had a long cry. Having your mother or a mother figure there to inspire you and be a rock of calm when you’re tired and frazzled helps you see motherhood in a marvelous way and stay serene. I’m a better mother because of her and the time she shared with us.

During that time our babies’ sleep routine was mum and myself feeding them a combination of breast and bottle feeds every 1 1/2 – 2 hours. There was no real “routine”. When they woke at night they were fed and changed if needed. We rocked them to sleep every time night & day. That approach was tiring, a little frustrating when they wouldn’t settle (we understood ‘Triggers for Sleep Problems” later with thanks to Tizzie Hall. During the day they were catnapping but not tired enough to have a full sleep so we could rock all day long and we weren’t going to get anywhere!) In this link you’ll see that dummy’s are a bad idea too, which we had started but stopped inside of a month. We just didn’t like how it looked to be honest. It’s not a natural thing for a child to do, constantly sucking on something that will alter the growth of their jaw. Sucking on something while they go to sleep was also something we didn’t like. Luckily both my partner and I agreed on that so we stopped it just as quickly as we started. As Tizzie explains, I’m glad we did.

At the seventh week when mum went home this was the scene: Picture you and your husband sleeping in separate beds. One: the matrimonial bed with the door shut stealing 5-6 hours sleep. The other grabbing naps in a single bed next to the babies’ cots. This happened in two shifts Mummy sleeps from 8pm – 2am with the door shut, and Dad does the bottle feeding in between his home-based business work; 2am till 8am mummy gets up and does the feeds dozing uneasily next to them on the single bed while daddy shuts the door and gets 6 solid hours sleep.

From 7 weeks of age, this was our life for THREE months. The first four grueling months of life with multiples. We found that if we divvied up the feeding shifts we could each get just enough sleep to function throughout the day. Gerard on most nights worked on his new internet solutions business Velocity Host before going to bed at 2am sometimes crashing on the couch beforehand but that was rare. I would get extra broken sleep on the bed next to the girls from 2am till 4 or 5am but I likened it to a scene from Aliens.

Waiting.........waiting......

You know the one. Sigourney Weaver is standing in the room with the mother alien and all those little alien eggs when she realises just what she’s walked in on. And as the alien eggs peel open from the top the camera zooms in on Sigourney’s face and you feel the anxiety wash over her (and you). I was 13 when I watched this film and it scared the daylights out of me. Laying next to our girls awaiting those cries 4 times a night I was in that state of perpetual anxiety. How do I juggle them both if they cry together? I’ll race them downstairs one by one and put them in the car capsules for their feed. (TIP: Got multiples and need to feed them at the same time? Car capsules on the lounge room floor, brilliant!) But the bottles need to be ready straight away. When should I jump up? Is it now? No. Is it now? No. Eeeek! Too late one of them has launched into screams. I have to get her downstairs before she wakes her father and sister. Get the bottles ready. Come back for the other one…. Yes. That was my life for 3 months….every night. Anxiety that makes me feel icky even now remembering it.

So at 4 months of age our girls were still going down around 7:00pm and waking at about 10-11pm, 12am, 2-3am, and up for the day at 4:00-5:00am. This dear people, is what we call, babies training their parents. When they cried at night, we fed them (we were on night time formula at this point). We answered their calls in the night assuming they were hungry. They weren’t as we discovered later with Tizzie Hall’s ‘Save our Sleep’ advice. So in the absence of any disciplined routine from us, we inadvertently encouraged them to continue waking up every 2 hours for a bottle because that’s what we assumed they needed! Even if they didn’t want the bottle after time, waking every couple of hours being given a bottle your system establishes that that’s the right sleep pattern. Make sense?

This very unpleasant ‘routine’ thankfully came to a halt when we bumped into our onsite managers in our residential complex. She said didn’t your GP give you sleep routines or any information? My response was “Sleep routines? She measured the babies and sent us on our way!” Luckily she still had her baby’s sleep routine information and emailed it through to me that afternoon. (You’ve gotta love women who keep information purely for the sake of others. Her youngest is now 5). So without hesitation we started the routine from Tizzie Hall. And darn it if it didn’t work in 2 days flat! The girls cried and protested (There is a difference. See Tizzie’s video) When they ‘protested’ we ignored them. (Which is hard! But necessary. My previous viewpoint was “I’m their mother it’s my job to go to them when they cry“…..WRONG!!) If they ‘cried’ with a really emotional sounding cry we of course went back to check that they had everything they needed: weren’t too cold, weren’t hungry, hadn’t dropped their beddy-bye blanket out of their cot (which was usually the problem) and were comfortable in their clothing. Be assured, it’s hard. Very hard to listen to your babies crying. Listening to them ‘protesting’ isn’t so hard because you know they aren’t actually stressed and sobbing uncontrollably. The big hint is when it goes quiet for a couple of seconds juuuuust long enough for them to listen out to hear if you’re coming. They’re saying “we want OUT!” But if you stand firm and don’t mix messages your bub will go to bed when you say so. The kindest thing you can do for your baby is not to go and pick her up and try to soothe her only to put her back in the cot and start the rejuvenated crying all over from the beginning again. That’s just inciting a feeling of rejection in them and he/she will switch from a protest cry to an ‘emotional’ cry because you’ve abandoned them again.

Commit yourself to giving it a try, to the letter, for a week and then assess if it’s working for you and your baby. We started our routine from the morning nap session so this gave the girls two sleep sessions to get used to the fact we weren’t going to respond to their protests. That way by the evening we figured they’d have 2 sessions of experience and the night time sleep time would be less stressful because they knew what to expect. Keep in mind our girls were 4 1/2 months old by this time and had behaviour to correct. It’s a different scenario again for younger babies. The younger you implement it the better, though personally I wouldn’t try it till they’re at least 10 weeks old.  They really need as much milk as possible to grow well in the first couple of months. On the flipside I couldn’t fathom trying to break a 1 or 2 year old of a bad routine. Best wishes to mums out there in that boat!

At afternoon naptime encourage your baby to sleep in places other than their bed - Tizzie Hall

There are a lot of sleep routines out there and a lot of different settling techniques including controlled crying which I agree with Tizzie Hall, is BAD news and setting your child up for a mammoth feeling of repetitive rejection and unnecessary stress. But I can say from our own experience with Tizzie’s advice that at the age of 4 1/2 months, our girls went from waking 4 times a night to just one dreamfeed at 10.30pm and rising for the day between 6am-7am (11-12hours). Then, by adhering to Tizzie’s routine, at 9 months of age they were sleeping from 7pm till 6am. 11 hours of bliss….and sometimes 12! This was in conjunction with the set daily routine of feeds and naps so don’t expect that even if you’re not following the day routine, the night time routine will simply fall in your lap. It is a 24 hour routine that should be followed expressly. We did it, and since then I have thanked our managers every time I see them. They changed our lives with one conversation and an email. I hope I can do the same for you.

Interviews with Tizzie Hall

Baby Routines by www.saveoursleep.com

 

 

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