For the last week or so I have felt myself finding it more and more difficult to cope with Savannah at night times. She is a breastfed baby that feeds on and off throughout the night and therefore sleeps with me to give me more of a chance of sleeping. Until now this has been fine as I can essentially get the boob out half asleep and let her feed, then go back to sleep when she’s done without having to move too much or totally wake up.
However, she has started getting very fussy and unsettled of late. She has never really been a daytime sleeper; occasionally she will nap during the day in her pram or in the car for short bursts, but putting her down to sleep has never worked. She is also a ridiculously light sleeper and so even when she falls asleep on me or my baby whispering nan, one move and she is wide awake again. We thought that her fussiness might be due to her being overtired from not sleeping during the day, and so tried sitting still when she sleeps or walking her round in the pram till she did and even when she slept for an hour or more she was still bad at night.
We tried bathing her, having quiet time, cuddles and a book. We have tried rocking, singing, walking, swaying, nursery rhymes, white noise, music, darkness, silence, baby mobiles, lavender and swaddling; we have exhausted all the usual options and she is still fussy, still awake!
She has also recently taken to pulling off of the nipple mid feed and looking around her. This was cute for the first few times, but started making feeding her a lot more difficult; it now means that I have had to banish Ian from the bedroom until I can get her to sleep as he is too much of a distraction for her! This has since developed into her crying and fussing at the breast, either because of too much milk, teething pains or the wonderful case of oral thrush she has had. All of the above have also contributed to the biting of the nipple that she now does 2 or 3 times every other feed. The nipple pain is excruciating and if I forget to keep the pain concealed and accidentally let out a shriek, she will get upset and cry, and sometimes bite down more. I don’t think Ian really realised how painful it is until he tried to give her a bottle and saw how she bit and stretched the teat again and again. You could hear and see the force with which she did it and he winced thinking of that being me. This is all on top of the nipple thrush I have had that makes me swollen and sore anyway.
I am a big fan of the Wonder Weeks book and know that she is in the middle of what my husband calls a head popping week, but even so, there are times that I put my head in my hands and despair. I wonder what I am doing wrong, why she is seemingly regressing to the type of sleep she had as a newborn. And this coupled with my breast pain, sleep deprivation, and a natural propensity to low mood swings due to my bipolar disorder, and I feel like I can’t win! The thought of one more night like this, let alone another month, makes me want to cry and sometimes I do. I want to hold my hands up in defeat, to have some me time and stop breastfeeding. To walk away and leave Ian to see how difficult it is and feel pity for me. Friends of mine have formula fed babies that nap during the day and sleep throughout the night; why when I am doing what is meant to be better for us both am I suffering more?
I am not angry with her at all! I know it is not her fault in the slightest and as a small, innocent child there is nothing she can do to ease her teething pains or confusion at her new skills and this big world outside of my belly. I look at her and remember that I have fed her myself every day for nearly six months and have made her this happy, healthy baby that the majority of the time is amazing and easy. When she eventually does falls asleep, whether feeding or not, I remind myself that breastfeeding is the best thing for her and me, and kick myself for thinking that I would stop there and then for good. She is a little baby with no control over pain, and if the thrush hurts me then I can’t imagine what it would be like for her in her mouth when she is already in pain with her teeth.
Times like this are also when my husband, family and good lactation ladies are at their prime. There’s nothing to comfort you more than having someone tell you it’s ok, and reassure you that you are doing a great job; that this is normal, and just a stumbling block. To cuddle you, say you’re a good mum and let you cry it out a little.
And then as a last resort, I try leaving a hairdryer app on timer next to her whilst she is on her own and wrapped up in a blanket, and after everything she goes to sleep in five minutes. On her own!! For the first time ever she has fallen asleep in the bed on her own, no feeding, no mummy, no daddy! And my heart and head feel better again.
This is just a stage, she will grow out of it, even if sometimes it can seem never ending!