Grace Timothy on how New Year’s resolutions change when you’ve got a baby to look after
- Credit: Archant
As soon as we start gorging on December’s mince pies and mulled wine, talk often turns to January and the resolutions we’ll put in place to absolve ourselves
Every year it’s “I’ll eat more vegetables!” or “I’m giving up drinking!” in a quest for the perfect body. Last year, however, all I wanted was sleep. We’d finally established a bedtime routine with Emie – bath, massage and a book, I’d breastfeed her until she went to sleep and then make like Spiderman – swooping from cot to chair to door frame to avoid the creaky floorboards that always woke her. But after the lights went out at 7pm on my sleeping baby, we’d usually be up again at 10pm, 3.30am, 5am and 6am, when I would admit defeat and roll downstairs, bleary-eyed, tripping on my dressing gown cord. You don’t realise how ridiculously tired you can get looking after a baby until it’s too late and you have one. By January – four months into motherhood – I could no longer talk in full sentences. I couldn’t add up. My eyelashes hurt. I no longer sprang from my bed, I just sort of hurled myself in the general direction of the noises coming from the nursery. Every time another mother smugly announced their child was sleeping through the night – which it turns out can mean anything from 7pm-7am to five hours of solid sleep, by the way – I wanted to bludgeon them with Emie’s Sophie Giraffe. I then started ‘sleep-shouting’ at my husband. “There’s two of them! And they’re in the room!” I’d bellow at him, eyes still shut: “You’re sitting on the baby, and there’s a spider on your face!” We resolved to work out how to get Emie to sleep through the night because although our relaxed attitude had suited all three of us to that point, we were all suffering now.
Three things made a huge difference for me. First of all, I met Stephanie Modell, a nanny and sleep expert. She gently explained to me how imperative good sleeping habits are to a child’s physical and psychological development, and how to encourage Emie to fall asleep without being fed or rocked. I then read French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman, £15, and having moved Emie into her cot, I adopted ‘Le Pause’ – wait a moment before rushing in at the first sound and instead see if she will send herself back off to sleep. I wouldn’t class this as ‘leaving your baby to cry’ – she rarely cried, mostly just shifted position and slept on. Very soon she’d stopped waking altogether, waiting until around 7 or 8am to rouse. What bliss. The third thing was Emie herself. She was simply ready to sleep. She didn’t need us soothing her for hours at a time – it was our own needs that saw us lingering in her nursery as she snuffled about, or singing hushed lullabies to a baby who really just wanted us to shut the hell up. Letting my baby grow more independent is the only resolution I’ve ever stuck to, and the only one that has made me sleep better at night.
Top Baby Classes
Another resolution I had to make at the six month mark was to attend more baby classes. By the age of one my daughter had tried ballet, playgroup, rhyme time, and plenty more besides, but we have just two regular dates in the diary now – Mumbaba and Little Notes. Both are available across Sussex, and encourage you (and your kids, I guess) to sing out. Mumbaba sticks to a playlist of nursery favourites with a cup of tea to end, while at Little Notes opera singer Mark Bradbury tells a new tale in song every week, using a variety of instruments and sensory treats.
littlenotes.org; mumbaba.co.uk; stephaniemodell.co.uk