“Oh my sleeping child, the world’s so wild..
But you’ve built your own paradise..” – MLTR
Remember this song from the 90’s? Ahh yes, we used to sing it in class in unison. MLTR was probably the hottest band to us Primary Sixers back then in 1995.. we copied their lyrics left right and centre on autograph books, but I suspect none of us actually knew what the lyrics meant.
Trouble is, if your experience is anything close to mine, 18 years down the road, I sure as hell didn’t know what those lyrics meant. Not when Baby Xu Heng was born.
Our first month with baby was so vexing. He woke up every hour, wanted to feed at all manner of timings and refused to sleep at night. Facebook status updates helped us to get some advice from time to time; but often these well-meaning advice was just friendly diagnoses – we still didn’t know what to do to help baby sleep better.
As the month went on, Weili became increasingly frustrated and so did I. One night, in the darkness and exasperation with a wailing baby, I lost it. I don’t know what happened to me, but I just lost it. I grabbed Xu Heng by the neck and shook him. Real hard. Weili was stunned, and she had to come grab the baby from me before I did any damage.
Yes, judge me if you want to. I remember being very judgmental too when I learnt of ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ back when I was in Social Work school. But now, I understood more the frustration the plagues parents – and especially so if the parents have little support.
That’s it, I decided. We needed help. And if we had to pay for it, so be it. It’s a small price to pay compared to watching Weili getting more burnt out by the day. Heart pain? Yes. But not as heart-pain as seeing my wife getting practically no sleep. And certainly better than wallowing in my guilt for having shaken the boy I love so much.
If you find that name familiar, it’s because yes, her work was recently featured in the Sunday Times. After some consideration, I decided to engage her to hear about how we might get baby to sleep better. An initial phone contact was followed by a (super) long online questionnaire we had to fill up regarding all aspects of baby’s daily life and routines. Somewhere while we were filling up that form I began to think: man, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
After submitting the questionnaire, it was time for a face-to-face consultation with her. Zoe visited us at home to share with us what she thought was our child’s main issue with sleep and gave us some pointers on what to do.
Interestingly, I felt the consultation session was like a myth-busting time. As I said, there are all manner of advice everywhere: Facebook statuses, Christianised paediatrics (if you know what I mean), old-wives tales and even practices from different cultural backgrounds. Which of these were helpful?
One that we heard often was: “Don’t let him sleep during the day! When he is tired, he will sleep long long at night.” But this didn’t fit with our experience at all – if he didn’t sleep in the day, he wouldn’t sleep at night, not to mention sleep long long. In fact, at one point Baby Xu Heng would be screaming his lungs out from 6-10pm every single night the moment we stepped into the house. I can’t even begin to tell you how trying those times were.
Zoe busted this myth for us: Babies sleep very poorly when they are over-tired. Because they have not learnt yet the ‘skill’ of falling asleep, they get extremely exasperated when they are tired and are not able to sleep and that’s why they scream their lungs out. The key to overcoming this is not tiring him out, but letting him get sufficient rest in the day.
OH THE LIGHT OF DAY. We both found this to be possibly one of the most helpful advice we got from Zoe. Not only did we begin to get baby to sleep more in the day (and hence had more time on our hands), but he also fell asleep SO MUCH more easily at night.
Zoe has been very helpful in sharing her experiences and advice even after the initial consult and I must say we now know much better what to do to rectify baby’s sleep issues when they crop up. After some time, we also learnt what to look out for in baby and can now better troubleshoot his sleep problems utilising the principles Zoe shared with us.
Has Xu Heng slept through the night, yet?
Nope. I must say, it’s hard for us mainly because we live with housemates. To implement any corrective action to try and alter his sleep patterns would require some amount of crying (nobody takes to change easily, after all), and that would be disturbing to our housemates’ sleep. If not for this, I think baby would have slept better earlier.
To each our own
As all new parents know, there is a bewildering amount of information out there, and some downright confusing. Every child is different, and there is no one-sized fits all solution to baby sleep. What I do firmly believe is that there is a place for good structure and routines in a baby’s life and that puts him in good stead for life itself further down the road.
Overall, we’ve had a great experience with Zoe who helped us to outline the major principles surrounding baby sleep and some really handy advice too on implementing those principles in a practical way.
If you would like to get some tips and advice from her too, now’s your chance!
Becoming Home is glad to partner with SG Supernanny, Zoe, to offer THREE 20-minute phone consultations for readers of this blog.
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Closing date: 3rd Dec 2014 @ 2359hrs
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