Last night when my five and a half month old daughter woke up for the third time during the night, I found myself seriously questioning my parenting methods.
You see, I have never followed a stict routine with either child. They have been fed on demand - basically offered a breast whenever they seemed unhappy. If they don't want it, it's time for plan B - put them to bed. If not, it's a cuddle. And so on, all day - and all night - long.
No four hours counted between feeds, or two hours between sleeps. No clock watching at all really, except, I admit, my two-year-old goes to bed almost every night at 7pm. Being non-negotiable on this point has been the only way I've stayed sane!
I have read - and rejected - books by parenting gurus like Gina Ford, who advocate a very strict timetable of feeds, naps and other activities to get your baby settled into a somewhat predictable routine. This way of doing things admittedly seems to work for many women, and is often used by those wanting to re-enter the workforce and needing to get some structure to their hectic days.
Perhaps because I'm a stay at home mum I have the luxury of doing things as they happen. That's probably why I silently scoffed when I heard, when I was pregnant with number two, a colleague of mine suggest to another collegue that he tries to get his six-week-old baby into a four hourly routine (ie. only feed the baby at four hourly intervals, regardless of what the baby wants. An old fashioned idea that is now, seemingly, back in vogue).
I thought that was so crazy - until last night!
My daughter no longer needs breastfeeds during the night at all, and nevertheless, I seem to be able to hear her whimper through concrete walls, closed doors, long hallways, and any other possible audatory obstacle. I awake like one of Michael Jackson's living dead on his Thriller video, frequently waking sometime later to find myself breastfeeding her.
She's probably just turning over in her sleep, or she's just lost her dummy temporarily, or had a bad dream about milk. I should - as my husband suggests - just wait to see which way her simpering goes (up, in to full scale wail, or back down into silence). Unfortunately I can not, like him, just turn over and tune her out until she goes back to sleep. Every cry is like fingernails down the blackboard in my head.
Eventually, hopefully, my unbroken run of almost six nights without an uninterupted night's sleep will grind to an end. Hopefully that will be achieved when solids keep her full all night long. I draw the line at Gina Ford, but there's always, as a last resort, tying myself to the bed or knocking myself out with sleeping pills to inadvertenly teach my daughter to comfort herself through the night!
Dita De Boni
Photo / Andrew Bonallack