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  • Dealing with Baby’s Sleep Association Through a Mother’s Gaze

    Allegra’s eating is what I believe to be terrible. I cannot tell you the last day she actually sat and ate three meals in a single day. I can’t. I know that the eating thing is a major struggle for lots of parents and their children, I have read about it endlessly in the blogosphere. Although there is pleasure in relating to the struggle, it doesn’t take away from the genuine sadness I feel about Allegra’s eating. What makes me mostly sad is the fact that I think it’s our fault – yes, us as parents.

    I could see Allegra’s eating going terribly wrong way before we even started to wean her. I would painlessly watch hubby give Allegra milk to solve all of her issues. If she was tired, he’d give her milk, if she was hungry, he’d give her milk and if she hit her head, fell over or  had simply just woken from a nap, he would give her milk. I am not blaming him for Allegra’s eating habits as they are today, in fact this blog is not even about Allegra’s eating. It’s about the importance of parents being on the same page. While hubby was pumping Allegra full of milk, I was trying to wean her. Between myself and Allegra’s two days a week at nursery, she had a really healthy appetite and could go a whole day with just milk before bed and a bottle throughout the night. What I was trying to tackle was Allegra’s need for milk in order to fall asleep. I was convinced that she had a sleep association and from what I had been reading and watching on YouTube, I was right.

    Each and every night Allegra would wake up after a few hours and the only way she could get back to sleep, was with her bottle. Throughout the day, she was well fed, so I was certain that this was not hunger. I knew in order to overcome Allegra’s feeds through the night we would need to put some plans in place that would be tiring and difficult, but my hubby was not on the same page. He did not believe that Allegra had a sleep association, nor did he agree to attempt not to feed her when she wakes through the night. Writing about this now, I remember nights and early morning when I would be desperately fighting the urge to give Allegra her milk, while she lie screaming in her cot and hubby getting annoyed and saying, ‘Just give her the milk!’ I wanted to literally throw the milk at him. However, in my tired state and with no support from him on this battle, I gave in and gave her the milk and basically have been giving her the milk ever since.

    The thing is, a year down the line and what may have been a sleep association when she was younger, is now sleep association and full on genuine hunger. Because Allegra knows she is going to get milk throughout the night, she doesn’t solely rely on the food that she eats throughout the day to satisfy her hunger. She eats for fun and then satisfies her hunger throughout the night. . Now, she’s a whole year old and not eating three solid meals throughout the day, she is hungry and we are essentially f**ked because we are now trapped in a vicious cycle.

    Like I said, this post really isn’t about Allegra’s eating, it’s about the feeling of guilt and disappointment that I now have in myself. Why didn’t I fight harder with my husband to support me on this issue? Why didn’t I just hold out on giving her the milk, even against my husband’s judgement? I knew that I knew best, but maybe part of me didn’t want to believe that Allegra had a sleep association also, because I wanted to avoid the hard work I would have to put in to fix it. So, I allowed myself to think that Allegra’s now horrendous eating habits was down to being ill, having a blocked nose, teething and all sorts of things. And I allowed myself to think that her waking through the night to be fed was simply because she was hungry.

    Well, yesterday Allegra had her one year check up with the health visitor and all of my concerns and everything I had tried to battle against and had been in denial about resurfaced. Hubby asked the HV about Allegra’s feeding and sleeping and I sat there in silence, fuming and wondering why he’d never once asked me these questions. The HV very casually confirmed that, yes, Allegra has a sleep association. Yes, we need to stop feeding her through the night. All we need to be doing is comforting her, rubbing her back, sitting at the end of her bed and letting her know we are still there if she needs us. Making sure she doesn’t fall asleep whilst being fed (which miraculously Allegra has started to do naturally the past month or so without any intervention) and making sure that Allegra falls asleep in her bed and not in our arms or on the sofa. Even if she falls asleep in our arms, we have to wake her, take her to her room and let her see that she is going to sleep in her bed, so when she wakes she won’t be startled to wake in a place she never fell asleep.

    I left the health visitors feeling uplifted, like I had just left a therapy session with all my worries off-loaded. Then it dawned on me that hubby and I have really got our work cut out for us, why should I be feeling so positive? We’ve got a long and difficult road ahead of us to really nail Allegra’s eating and sleeping. Of course I was feeling uplifted, because it would appear now that hubby may have finally flipped over to my page. There have been many differences of opinion between us regarding Allegra’s eating and there have been many dinner times that end in argument. The differences of opinion and approach  is tough, but what there is nothing the brings more guilt to me than looking at her face while we argue in front of her because I am happy to let Allegra touch and play with her food at the risk off getting it all over my white living room, if it helps to re-build her relationship with food. Whereas Hubby, is mortified and convinced that soon we won’t be able to take her out for dinner because I am teaching her that it’s OK to play with your food.

    The struggles of parenting and motherhood aren’t always directly related to the child, very often it can be caused by the very parents themselves. Allegra is an amazing, confident, independent and loving little girl with a personality that is big and bright infectious and I don’t want to fuck her up and I don’t want my husband to fuck her up either. I should have trusted my intuition the second I became concerned about Allegra’s feeding and sleeping, even if that came at the cost of a ‘quiet life’ because I know what is best. And I feel like my husband should have been able to listen to me, the one person that spends every single waking second with our daughter, and take my concerns seriously. Admittedly, as I think about it as I write this, it doesn’t feel great that it took Allegra’s eating and sleeping to get to this point before my husband was even happy to take any advice on board and it most certainly doesn’t bode well that it was the health visitor that made him sit up and listen. Nevertheless, moving forward we have a plan of action in place and we are now tackling the issues at hand. I just have to keep forcing myself to overlook the fact that if we had taken action six months ago when I had my inkling, we’d be fighting a much easier battle.

    I will keep you updated on our progress.

    For any parents reading this that may have dealt with sleep associations or have struggled with sleep issues since having a baby, I would love to hear how you’re coping. Have you managed to conquer the sleep battle? x


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