So I thought I would write a follow up post on Allegra’s sleep association, as it seemed to be something that resonated with a lot of you. I just wanted to share some of the wins and of course some of the challenges we have had as we’ve tried to battle her eating and sleeping routine. (If you read the post jump forward to the next paragraph). For those of you that haven’t read my post on Sleep Association, I have been dealing with waking through the night sometimes as frequently as five times a night to feed Allegra for a year now and in the most recent months she’s been consuming more milk and starting to refuse her food. So after receiving some advice from the Health Visitor on Allegra’s one year check up we started to hammer down on these issues. You can read the post on the struggles I had dealing with Allegra’s feeding and sleeping and why I blamed my husband and subsequently myself..
I am glad to say that we have made some progress, more so in some areas than others. The first day we came home from the Health Visitor Allegra slept through the night. I could not believe it, in fact I have become so accustomed to watching her in the monitor tossing and turning and standing at her cot bumpers waiting for us to come and feed her throughout the night, that I was actually worried. First thing that came to mind was, ‘Is she still alive?’ However, after I managed some sleep myself, I woke up the following morning completely elated. I realised, although hubby and I were prepared for a difficult journey, that it may not be as hard as I thought it would be. Since that night Allegra has been sleeping through the night most nights now.
Here’s what I have put into place to get us to this point. It’s crucial to bare in mind that all babies are different and this might not work in all cases. Also, Allegra is a year old, so milk no longer satisfies her for long periods of time unlike food does. Which is why her eating and sleeping are completely synonymous with one another in this battle.
Shift the Bedtime Routine Later by One Hour
Allegra would usually be fed and bathed by 7 pm. However, because she is a little girl with a lot of energy, she has never been a baby that would go to bed straight after her bath, in fact 8.30 pm would be the earliest she would fall asleep, on a good day! So giving Allegra her last meal at 5 pm or even 6 pm is just too early and it was one of the reasons why she was waking through the night, because she was still hungry.
With our new routine, to help to settle Allegra and keep her fuller for longer throughout the night, instead of her last meal being at 6 pm, we have moved it to 7.30 pm. It works well for us because hubby gets home at 7 pm and will bath with her while I finish off dinner.
Remove Any Sleep Associations
So ‘Sleep Associations’ are anything that the baby associates with bedtime. Allegra had two sleep associations, one was being walked up and down in order to fall asleep, which hubby would do each night and the other, ironically was, drinking her milk. So whenever Allegra would wake through the night she would mostly want milk, but there had been occasions when hubby had to get up in the middle of the night and start walking around the house with her in his arms in order for her to dose back off to sleep.
Miraculously, Allegra no longer requires milk to dose off and this happened naturally, however the walking to sleep was still taking place. This has stopped entirely now. She is taken to her bed when she is sleepy and either read or sang too and she simply doses off. Admittedly there have been times when she has dosed of sitting on our laps and the Health Visitor advised us to wake her up and take her to her bed, so she can see exactly where it is that she is being put down to sleep. Of course baby is supposed to feel their bedroom is a safe place where they will want to sleep. If I am honest with you, I am not going to wake Allegra from her sleep if she falls asleep anywhere but her bedroom. I just can’t do it and with a little girl that fights her sleep so hard, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. That is me using my intuition for my daughter, as all mum’s have the right to do.
Removing the Morning Milk Feed
First thing I used to do when Allegra woke was give her a morning feed. However, because Allegra has started to rely on milk far too much, I will no longer give her milk in the mornings. I see a lot of mums on YouTube giving their babies and toddlers morning milk, but as we’re trying to massively cut down on the milk, this feed has been removed.
In the morning when Allegra wakes up I give her some water if she’s thirsty and give her about half an hour before I make her breakfast. The first morning we did this, she wolfed down a whole bowl of museli, the very same museli which we had been struggling to give her for a few weeks, because she decided she just didn’t want to eat it anymore. Dislcaimer: The following morning, Allegra refused the museli again and has been refusing it since then…so go figure! Hence we are back to youghurts and fruits for breakfast.
Allowing Allegra Not to Eat if she Doesn’t Want To
The Health Visitor advised us to allow Allegra to say no to any food she didn’t want. Meaning, not to continue to try and give her food after she had turned it down. The HV also said not to prepare any meals specially for Allegra and simply give her what we are eating. At first this used to work, Allegra would eat anything and everything, however she has become an insanely fussy eater. When she initially started showing signs off not being interested in the food that was on her plate I would make multiple attempts and eventually she would give in.
Now I am allowing her to say no and come back to her food when she likes. However, Allegra is super stubborn and nowadays, if she says no to eating something in that sitting she is not eating it and that is that. I can’t even say that this is because Allegra is still relying on her milk, because she has no milk throughout the day at all, just one bottle in between dinner and bedtime. Therefore, I have found myself making Allegra a few options for her meals and allowing her to choose what she wants out of what I have given her on the plate. At dinner time, I don’t even bother with the battle with her. I give her what I know she likes, because I need her to eat well so she can sleep well.
Take a look at my YouTube video where I go into more depth on Allegra’s eating and sleeping and speak about some of the advice that I was given from the health visitor that I am rejecting because it just doesn’t make any sense to me or for Allegra.