Jessica Wilson updates us on her baby-raising efforts
Babies need routines. Babies are happier when they have regular sleep times. Babies thrive on routines. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? But how on earth do you get your baby into a routine when they are not remotely interested?
Everyone told me that it gets easier after six weeks. For me it didn’t. At nine weeks Didi never slept for more than two hours at a time, day or night. During the day I could just about get her to sleep in her Moses basket, but at night, no matter what I did, she ended up sleeping on me. I was so exhausted I felt like I was going mad. R kept saying we needed help but I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own. I thought I should know instinctively what to do. I finally relented and we booked a maternity nurse, M.
M arrived and announced, ‘This baby needs a routine.’ And she said it as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. She told me she was going to implement a version of Gina Ford’s routine. That night we put Didi down at 7pm. She slept, without a squeak, until I fed her at 10.30pm. Then she slept again until M fed her at 4.30am with a bottle of expressed milk. And she did it again the next night. M stayed for four days and the routine worked, every night.
Why did it work? How on earth did a stranger, albeit a trained one, walk into my house and get my baby to sleep? Was it her authoritative manner? Confidence? Before M arrived I had been entirely dismissive of the Gina Ford methods, assuming they were too draconian for me, but here was my baby, sleeping, on her own, every night. I was relieved that Didi was sleeping, but it did make me question, again, my own parenting style. Meanwhile, R questioned why we’d spent hundreds of pounds simply to put her to bed at the same time every night.
Getting Didi into a daytime routine proved to be more of a challenge. We tried. Feed at this time, sleep at this time. It was hopeless. I gave up. Our days were too fraught to try to keep to a schedule. Didi cried all the time, and I couldn’t make it better. I was in a constant state of frustration and guilt. Why was she so upset all the time? She can’t be hungry, she’s just been fed. She can’t be tired, she’s only been awake for 40 minutes. I’ve just changed her nappy. So why won’t she stop crying? Maybe she is tired, how long are they meant to be awake? Maybe she needs a nap. I put her down. She’s hysterical, I leave and stand outside listening to her cry, I wait four minutes, I can’t wait any longer, I go in. I pick her up and cuddle her, she calms down. I put her back down. This time it only takes three minutes of crying and she falls asleep. She sleeps for an hour. She was tired. Why didn’t I know that? I’m her mother, shouldn’t I know?
I researched babies and crying. Perhaps she has colic, whatever colic is. Maybe it’s reflux. I looked for evidence of symptoms, she hiccoughs all the time but she doesn’t spit up, does that mean its silent reflux? Is she upset 20 minutes after a feed? Not really, so what is it? what’s wrong with her?
I took her to the doctor. He told me there was nothing medically wrong, and he described her as highly unsettled and very sensitive. ‘She’ll grow out of it,’ he said. We went home and cried. Both of us.
R decided we needed a break, a change of scene. We rented a cottage in the Peak District for a week. The night before leaving I packed. Before I had a baby I imagined I’d be one of those very organised yet über-cool mums who pack lightly – throw a few things in a bag, grab the baby and go. So much for that idea. I took it all – the play mat, the bouncy chair, the toys, the steriliser, nappies, day clothes, night clothes, sleeping bags and the baby bath. I even took her bed, the whole bed. R packed the car, it took him more than two hours and every inch of space was filled. ‘Good job,’ I said, ‘but where’s the dog going to sit?’
Holidays with tiny babies are not really holidays. They are simply the same thing, in a different location. R went cycling and running and exploring; Didi and I watched The Real Housewives of Orange County in real time rather than on Sky+. We did try to do things. We went out for breakfast. Didi slept on the way there, woke up as we arrived, crying. We drove to the next town, Didi fell asleep. We found a café and I bought coffees and sandwiches. We ate them in a car park next to the Co-op.
But it was good to get away. R spent more time with Didi. He had a bath with her every night, a lovely thing to do, until she pooed in it! I got the giggles. He bathed her on her own after that.
Back home, she continues to cry a lot but it’s not all bad. Every day she seems to smile a bit more. We do everything together. I worry that I’m not teaching her independence but I can’t listen to her cry, even if I go to the loo. So I take her with me. She sits in her chair, by the door, Ruby the dog comes, too. I’m on the loo with my baby and my dog both staring at me. This is my life now. It used to be just me, the door closed. Not anymore. Didi smiles at me. It’s all worth it.