Getting Elka to sleep has been simultaneously my great strength and my great weakness, depending on which perspective you are looking from.
I have generally breastfed Elka to sleep. She is now 17 months old, and this has been often the easiest means for me to get her to sleep, but has sometimes been very frustrating. Some nights I lie there for an hour at night waiting for her to go to sleep, meanwhile wishing I could be out in the living room with Greg having dinner, or calling a friend, or finishing my study for the day. And sometimes it is really wonderful. I relax, and lie in a half dream state, thinking of stories to write, or reflecting on my life generally. Had you met me before I had Elka, I would have told you patience is not one of my virtues, but over the last 17 months, I can honestly say patience has been finely tuned, and is now one of my strengths.
I meet with a mums group fairly regularly, and often the subject that comes up is sleep. How is Elka sleeping? someone will ask, and I will reply: the same as she ever has. Ever since Elka was born, she has woken up every three to four hours at night for a feed. She sleeps next to me, and it has always been very easy to turn over, and give her a quick drink, and both of us go back to sleep immediately. Up until now, I have never had the heart to change this, as it has not hindered my energy levels – I wake feeling refreshed each morning – and I suspected Elka would protest strongly if ever I tried to change anything.
But as time goes on, virtually all my mums group’s babies sleep through the night. Various strategies have been used, and I have listen in with a curious and slightly envious ear. Although my own sleep situation was palatable, I couldn’t help wishing for a full night’s sleep, and to not constantly be the means for my baby to go to sleep.
So I made a decision – post exams, I would encourage Elka to sleep though, no feeding. I knew I had to be consistent and strong. I talked to many people, asked the Nifty Mums Network for advice, and prepared myself mentally. Then one night, I did it. In dulcet tones, I told Elka that she can drink when the sun comes up and the birdies awake, and not before. Night is for sleeping. I lulled her back to sleep with a soft account of how the fairies make rain by dancing on the rainclouds, and at night live in bubbles beneath the ocean, emerging to the surface when rain is needed. Miraculously, it worked! Since I have refrained from feeding her, she has woken up once or twice a night with a little waa, and is easily encouraged back to sleep. We still sleep together, and this is something I don’t want to give up as I love waking up with her little smiling face next to mine.
So I feel brave and proud and pleased. And happy that Elka has nearly achieve that long desired title of “sleeping through the night”.