Friends, I witnessed a miracle yesterday.
I watched a baby self-settle to sleep.
I have never, ever in my whole life seen such a thing. The eldest of six, the mother of two, the babysitter of many… I’ve never watched a child of 4 months fall asleep of their own accord.
I have spent the last several years largely thinking a self-settling baby was a myth dreamed up by folks who wrote parenting books. I certainly never had any self-settling babies and from memory, I don’t think I knew anyone who did.
The funny thing was, if you read all the books and the well-meaning advice, the self-settling baby WAS achievable and SOMETHING you should strive for. The self-settling baby was the gold standard, and if you just tried hard enough, you could have one too!
The reality, for me, was that I never had one. The reality, it seemed, for most of the people I knew, was that they didn’t have one either. Real babies seemed to do baby things, unpredictable baby things, and required much more hands-on parenting at all stages of the day and night. Wrong? Maybe. Realistic? Definitely. My reality? Absolutely.
The last couple of months I’ve been nannying a couple of days a week for a little one nearby, and it’s been a dream. It’s amazing how much of baby-wrangling is universal, and how much I’m reminded of those heady early days with my own.
Watching them struggle with wind brought back a million middle-of-the-night memories of my eldest doing the same thing. Month upon month of her writhing and farting as her digestive system got used to eating. The overtired cry. The moving them around every 15 minutes so they’re not bored. The hilarious period where they’re too small to sit up or even hold a toy, but they’re awake and they need attention. The catnapping, the agony when you finally, FINALLY get them to sleep but their eyes bounce open the second you put them down, awake as the wind and absolutely not going back to sleep at all, ever, thankyouverymuch.
As an aside, I never had a kid that would do the transfer. Whether they were asleep for a minute or an hour, the instant you moved them it was all over red rover.
Not to mention the lack of sleeeeep sleep sleeeeeep sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep oh my god that nearly killed me when Smalls was nearing two. Bigs wasn’t a great sleeper and Smalls was brutal. The kind of kid that would wake 11+ times in a night, the kid who didn’t sleep through the night until she was two and even then it was an accident. It broke me, it really did.
Oh and I tried control crying once – with Bigs – and I lasted 11 minutes. I never tried it again. I know it works, I know it does. But I didn’t have the kids for it and I didn’t have the heart for it and look, they sleep now, it’s fine. I survived. I will never, ever judge anyone for doing anything that helps everyone get a better nights’ sleep. I still remember what it felt like, the absolute desperation – kudos to everyone who figures out what works for their family.
Which brings me to the best piece of parenting advice I ever read: do what works until it doesn’t, and then do something else. The books that told you about consistency, that if you just do X, Y and Z your baby will be perfectly behaved… they never worked for me. For a couple of weeks one thing would work to help them settle, only for them to turn around and need something else. It’s too easy to think this is all your fault, that you’re just not trying hard enough, when really, babies are small humans. Different things work at different times. The flexibility to go with the flow and know that things will change/they’ll grow out of it is one of the best things I think a parent can have. Cut yourself some slack. DO WHAT WORKS.
Also I had totally forgotten I was the lucky recipient of a couple of these bangers back in the day:
It takes all types to make the world go round, eh? cheers Nev!