A survey released for Safer Sleep Week 2017 found that 55% of parents were not aware of the fundamental steps to reduce the risk of infant cot death; I am aware of the recommendations, but in the last few months we've not been following them - we are still sleeping safely, albeit not entirely in line with the guidelines provided by The Lullaby Trust. Awareness of how to achieve the safest sleep possible is essential for new parents, but in some cases, awareness of your childs' needs need to be weighed up. My baby needed sleep - and because of that, we took some steps that are not always recommended. My baby does not sleep through the night. He barely naps. But we have had progress - slowly but surely, we are making progress. Sleep has been hard to come across in the last few months, it has by no means been easy, and the combination of my own sleep deprivation and an over-tired baby has made daytime difficult. I've complained a lot, more often than I probably should have and this very blog turned into a dumping ground for my thoughts - majority being negative ones, but I was tired. Sad, but true. Lately, sleep has been easier to come across; we're getting there, we have some very good nights, and a bad one sporadically in between. We have daytime naps here and there and overall a much happier baby. I'm not as tired anymore. My baby isn't as tired anymore, and everything is just easier. This week marks the start of Safer Sleep Week and I feel like I can now finally update on our sleep situation without breaking down in tears. We are getting there - one night at a time.
At four month's old and my baby has left us. Flown the coop, left the nest, headed out into the the big wide world - well, the big world of own rooms and big boy cots. I didn't think it would happen quite as quickly as it did, but sometimes needs be. I'd been surrounded by pressure to move Harrison into his own room pretty early on; both myself and my brother had been moved into our own rooms fairly quickly, and my mum made no secret that she felt I should be doing the same with my child. This was mistake number one on her part, as it made me even more determined to keep Harrison in our room until he was 'ready'. The big question here being when a baby is truly ready: The Lullaby Trust recommends that a baby sleeps in their parents room until they reach 6 months old. In my own head, a baby would be ready when they were sleeping through the night, or at least, in some sort of distinct pattern. Either way, Harrison most definitely was not. Overbearing parents and in-laws are the worst, and whilst mine were only offering a suggestion, lack of sleep and a short temper meant that I took this advice as an 'I know your child better than you do' suggestion - and therefore I done everything I could to ignore it. I proclaimed Harrison wasn't ready to sleep in his own room, heck, he didn't sleep at all as it was, the very idea of sauntering back and forth to the nursery every forty minutes was enough to have me entirely against it. But then, I gave in.
I gave in due to an oppressive combination of sleep deprivation, exhaustion and sheer desperation - none of us were getting any sleep as it was, so there really was nothing to lose. I didn't want to admit that my mum could have been right, but her suggestion wasn't necessarily wrong. The first night was odd, our own room felt empty and quiet, a clear void where our Next To Me used to sit. Armed with our monitor, we gave it a try, and after a week, despite my initial hesitation, everything started to get that little bit easier. Slowly but surely, I stopped checking on him every 15 minutes, I stopped jumping at the slightest noise, and we all started to sleep more often. Shortly after, we went through the four month sleep regression whilst he was in his own cot: no mean feat, but we've came out the other end unscathed, with only a few slightly darker under-eye circles to show for the brutal few weeks. Now, with each coming week his sleep is improving. Slowly. He may not be sleeping through the night (something I very much doubt we will be getting at all in the next year or so), but he is sleeping, and that is a world of a difference from where we were at one month ago. It was no instant success story, but it's been a month, and I have a completely different child than I had before.
I've considered everything when it comes to helping Harrison to sleep, however many do fall on the list of things to avoid in order to reduce the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I won't deny it, but with deprivation can come desperation. I've considered co-sleeping, I've slept on the couch, I've wrapped him in warm blankets and I've now moved him into his own room before 6 months. Whilst I've also taken every precaution necessary to try and keep him as safe as possible, looking at the number of boxes I've managed to tick on the list of things NOT to do, it's easy for me to doubt myself and for others to judge my choices. Unfortunately though, for myself, and for many others, it's not as black and white as a list of do's and don'ts. When you have a baby who is getting little to no sleep at night and who won't nap during the day, the health implications are as worrying as the risk of SIDS. If your telling me that looking at a baby who has the heaviest of eyes, is agitated and won't take a bottle because of tiredness that you wouldn't consider co-sleeping, or letting them sleep on you while your sat on the couch, or continuing to swaddle past the recommended age, then your probably lying to yourself as much as you are to me.
Whilst recommendations are extremely important - they are exactly that, recommendations. At times, we ignore for a short term solution. We slept on the couch once or twice, we tried continued swaddling, and if it had shown any sign of working we probably would have co-slept, there's not a lot we wouldn't have tried to help Harrison to get some shut-eye. We were lucky enough that moving him into his own room and finding a new swaddle done the trick - two discouraged steps with the least amount of risk associated, but both are still against recommendations at his age. Being aware of SIDS and the Safer Sleep recommendations is essential with a newborn, with a baby and with a young child - educating yourself on preventative measures and following sleep guidance where possible is key, but I stand by my decisions that I have made to help my child sleep. I am confident now that he is sleeping safely in his own room, whether or not it is completely in line with the current recommendations. The recommendations for safe sleeping can be found here, and in line with Safer Sleeping Week, it goes without saying that sharing these among all parents, whether first time or those who are on their second, third, fourth, is extremely important. I am by no means advocating going against the guidelines, they are in place based on scientific evidence across a large pool of babies and could ultimately save a life. My situation was an individual case, but it is one of many, and unfortunately babies often do not fit into a strict yes or no list. We may have ignored the recommendations at times, but it was for what seemed like the greater good at that moment in time, and I can guarantee that I would make those exact decisions again.
Here's to Safer Sleep Week, and ensuring we are all educated and aware of the dangers of SIDS.