When baby finally sleeps through the night, it's time for a French toast
I wish I were French. It's not the first time, either. I had the same strong urge when I was at university, struggling with when to use the hideously complicated French verb mood, the subjunctive.
This time, however, it's because I've read the book French Children Don't Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman. An American living with her three small children in Paris, she outlines how French parents manoeuvre their babies into successful sleeping, eating and behaviour patterns. Meanwhile, Anglo-Americans fail miserably on all counts.
The main thing I want to tackle ?la Fran?aise is my son Tom's sleeping habits. At 10 months old, he still wakes up at about 4am or 5am for a bottle of milk.
Ten months of broken sleep has taken its toll on both my husband and me. We're extremely tired and cranky. We both work and find that sleep deprivation means we can't concentrate. I leave things everywhere and can't remember the most basic words. We really need to get back on track.
The thought of a full night's sleep feels akin to finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - a delicious prospect, but is it likely?
My first question is: how do I know Tom isn't waking up in the early hours because he's hungry?
Deborah Taylor is the founder and director of Infant Sleep Resources, a Hong Kong-based baby and child sleep consultancy.
'By three to six months, most babies are able to go through the night with only one feed,' says Taylor. 'Then, on average, once a baby is well established on solids and is also taking enough milk in the day [seven to eight months if you have started solids after about six months] they would be likely not to need any night feeding, so you can start to wean them off it because they would be able to last from a bedtime feed to a start-of-the-day feed with nothing in between.'
I've done a thorough investigation about how to wean a baby off milk at night. Taylor favours gentle methods, but we've picked a slightly harsher one called 'controlled crying'.
I actually hate the sound of it because it involves leaving Tom to cry through the night, which goes against every ounce of my maternal instinct. However, I am told it gets the quickest results - within three nights he should sleep through. Quick is good.
When he wakes up, instead of giving him milk, I am going to give him a bit of comfort and then leave the room, returning to comfort him at longer and longer intervals until he falls back asleep. The theory is that after a few nights of this, the habit will be broken.
Before I start, I ask Taylor when it's not a good idea to sleep-train. She replies: 'If your baby is unwell; is not currently gaining weight well; if you are travelling in the next month; moving house; a new baby is arriving; starting preschool; you going back to work; or relatives or friends coming to stay.
'Basically, when you are expecting behavioural changes in your baby's sleep and settling, be sure that, as far as possible, everything else in your baby/child's daily life remains the same during the process and for a little while afterwards to enable the new, healthier sleep habits to take hold. Also, if your baby has any medical conditions, check with your paediatrician before embarking on any sleep changes.'
Tom is fine. We have moved house and have no holidays on the horizon. I brace myself to be strong.
You won't believe this (I didn't myself) but on the appointed night, I wake up at 5am in anticipation of crying. Not a peep. He sleeps until 6.30am. The next night it's the same. And the next night. He's done it!
We celebrate ?la Fran?aise with croissants and coffee. We Anglo-Americans may be a bit slower, but we get there in the end!