Here’s a knotty old conundrum: how do you try out any sleep strategies on a baby with an older sibling in the same room?
I have been bashing my brains about this for a couple of weeks. Teddy has been swaddled like a tiny chicken pasty since he arrived: we found out he liked it, didn’t need rocking to sleep, and stayed asleep for longer. These things are the holy grail of newborndom, and we held it triumphantly aloft and did. not. mess.
Now, of course, he’s a giant seven-month-old with legs the size of Henry’s torso, and we find ourselves in a bit of a bind. He was spending all night furiously struggling out of the swaddle – we’d come in to find him with one arm punching the air, all HULK SMASH THIS PRISON – but once he was out, he couldn’t sleep. The boys’ room is on a different floor to ours, close enough to hear them, but not at all close enough to reach across when sleep-drunk and shove his arm back in without looking.
All of which is to say that, really, you’re only safe if you get a baby who falls asleep with no aids whatsoever, by themselves, in the middle of the open floor. We were giving each other rueful high-fives about the fact that Teds doesn’t particularly like the dummy – no dummy fairy hell in this boy’s future – but instead he got attached to something else. And the something else kept trying to eat him at night.
Add in the fact that our flat is so small and open-plan that he’s been picked up the second he made noise, to stop him waking up the rest of the house, and, well. Time for a change. And who knew you’d end up coddling your second more than your first? I’d already done some gentle sleep training with Henry by this age. But then the only people to consider were Timothy, snoring obliviously upstairs, and Henry and me, duking it out in the nursery.
So here we are, round two. He needs to learn to fuss himself quietly into sleep, without having his arms strapped to his sides. He needs to do it without waking his brother, because we’ve just spent a month regulating his sleep habits, and my bitten nails haven’t grown back yet. I moved his bottle times so he could drink before sleep, in the dark room, to settle him. I started making up the cot like a little bed again, just like old times: raised end, soft blanket underneath, heavier blanket on top, pull back the corner.
(I like doing this. I don’t know why. It feels like a deliberate, ritualistic act of love, to make a baby’s bed. It tells him he is welcome here. Is that weird?)
Then I gave him a dummy to play with, and left him to it. So far, so sort-of alright (sleep training is a bit like that, I find). He squawks for a while, as I pop in periodically, but he’s getting there. And, it turns out that Henry’s a ludicrously heavy sleeper. Which I can’t help but think will be useful information at his teenage sleepovers.
Have you ever had to do sleep-training in small spaces, or with older children around? How did you manage it?