Ask SIFTW: Separation anxiety and needing a little grownup time

January 6, 2008

Oona writes:

My 9 month old daughter is going through a phase, yes the dreaded phase of waking up every half hour if I’m not in bed with her.  She’s also gotten very picky about which boob she wants.  We co-sleep which I really don’t want to change, and I don’t really mind the night nursing which she mainly sleeps though as do I.  What’s killing me is that I put her to bed at 8:00, nurse her to sleep with few problems and then she wakes up usually by 8:45 and thinks her 8:00 sleep was a nap.  She’s ready to rock and roll, sleeping is for the weak willed, just ask her.  She’ll go back to sleep at 11:00 but by then I’m exhausted and cranky.  The problem is that I leave for work at 6:00 am and need some grownup time between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm when I come to bed.  Is there some way to get her to resettle herself until I come to be at night or is it unrealistic to expect that I can still co-sleep and night nurse but only after I come to bed?

Oona ends her email with a big sigh (understandably) and I think I’m going to start my response with a big sigh too (understandably).


Oona, you sound like you already know what is going on here – it is a phase. A horrid phase, but yes a phase. Babies are always changing, so if they are doing something you don’t like just wait a few weeks, but the same goes if they are doing something you just love, also just wait a few weeks. You’ve also beautifully identified the issue to me. It’s not the co-sleeping, it’s not the night nursing, it’s the lack of adult time and space.

If you’re enjoying the co-sleeping and the nursing, I don’t see any reason to change that. Instead you might want to brainstorm how you can create a little time for yourself or time with your partner or whatever you need. Can you steal a bit of time in the lunch hour to do something for yourself? Or can you take a bit of time on weekends to do something you enjoy? I find even an hour to pop down to the farmers markets on a sunday with a coffee makes me a much saner person and mother than before i set out.

I’m not quite sure how you can reclaim that 8-10pm valued grownup time though right at the moment. I do know how precious it is though to eat dinner in peace, sloth in front of some bad tv, catch up with your partner or write your blog … I know that some people who co-sleep put their child in their cot or bed for the first part of the night and then take them into bed when they first wake up. However, if your daughter is waking after 45 minutes, then this may seem completely ludicrous. My only thought is to get her used to settling in her cot for a bit and maybe it would go better. But in all likelihood, the waking and getting up would persist and you would be getting nowhere fast. So may I suggest my favoured alternative…

The alternative is to hang on until it passes. And it will. 9 months is classic separation anxiety so it doesn’t surprise me that you daughter is clinging onto you for dear life at the moment. You are her world and she’s not letting go until she’s very very sure that you will be coming back. She may also want to maximise time with you if you are away from her during the day. None of this is bad, it’s just how it is at the moment. The Imp still goes through sessions of this periodically, but not nearly as bad as that 9 month episode.

I have one other practical thought amongst all the consolatary waffle. Maybe you could revisit her nap schedule during the day. Perhaps she’s not tired enough in the evening, or perhaps even too tired. I think at about 9 months the Imp went from 3 naps to 2 and there was a bit of transition involved in that. Just a thought.

Whatever you do though, it will pass soon enough.


The unfairness of parenting

January 5, 2008

This is partially inspired by the question Amberjee answered below with my own rambling thoughts on the thorny question of parenting styles. I think it was Amberjee (if I were more organised I’d search her posts and find out) who said something quite early on which made me think a lot: that she wasn’t the parent she’d expected to be.  There may be perfect parents who did all the reading, decided on a Parenting Style that suited their expectations and lifestyles and slotted Perfect Junior into their regime or routine when he or she arrived.  I’m sure there are, whether they are Attachment Parents or Contented Little Baby owners or Baby Whisperer devotees.  And good luck to them.  I am not.  I do not know anyone else who is.  Life in SIFTW goes somewhat differently.

  1.  Look at the problem (a new baby, a non-sleeping baby, a baby who will not be put down, colic, slow weight gain, fast weight gain, whatever)
  2. Do the research: read the books, look at the websites, ask health professionals
  3. Come up with a Plan.  It’s an excellent plan, it covers all the bases and it makes you feel all warm and organised and a Perfect Parent when you look at it
  4. Apply the Plan to the Baby
  5. Watch
  6. ???
  7. ???!!!
  8. ????!!!***&&&$%^%££!!
    The thing I always forget is that while babies as a group are predictable, babies as individuals are not.  Which is annoying.  It’s especially annoying if you on the Attachment Parenting side of the great parenting debate.  You do all the right things: you breastfeed, you babywear, you co-sleep, you do all you can to make sure your child is loved and secure and guess what?  They still get colic/refuse to sleep/have tantrums (oh yes, the terrible twos have hit early in the Swizzler house) and you feel so resentful.  ‘We have done everything right’, we cry, ‘ and he doesn’t appreciate it!
     Of course, if you step back and have a large gin and a good think, he does appreciate it.  He loves you unconditionally and reaches for you whenever he’s in distress (or just bored) and considers you the centre of his world.  Which is rather nice.  He isn’t judging you according to your success or failure at the style you’ve adopted.  So try not to get too invested in it (and I’m trying hard to take my own advice here).  If your plan doesn’t work, change it or (my preferred option) stop thinking about plans for the time being.  You may not be the parent you expected, but is anything turning out as you planned?  Really?  In that case, I have a teething, tantrumming 15 month old I need some help with…

    Shhh…My Child Is Sleeping (in My Bed, Um, With Me)

    October 24, 2007

    Shhh…My Child Is Sleeping (in My Bed, Um, With Me)

    “In most of the world, sleeping next to your child is a necessity. But in the West, the practice is widely frowned on by grandparents, friends and the medical community. Still, studies have shown it is more common than many people think.”

    Slings and things

    October 11, 2007

    OK, not technically a sleep issue, but many mums find their babies sleep much better in a sling.  I have a lovely Didymos sling that has been stuffed down the side of the bed for months since Loudboy got too big for the front carry position.  Last week I dug it out, took a deep breath, swung him over my shoulders and tried the back carry.  A bit tricky to tie when he was wriggling about, but he loved it.  And he fell asleep in a very cute way with his head against the back of my neck.  I’m going to try it more often: it’s great in London but not so good if you have lots of shopping to carry.  Any suggestions of failsafe back-carry positions for wrap slings are welcome!

    The 10 best and worst things about co-sleeping

    October 8, 2007

    Blue Milk writes the 10 best and worst things about co-sleeping.

    Bringing up baby (or just putting it in the garden)?

    October 4, 2007


    Have you seen this show on Channel 4? It’s a disgrace. The poor parents having their lives dissected in front of the camera in those first precious weeks. I had to turn it off half way into the episode this week. I think I’m done. Not to mention the famed Claire Verity and her sleep through the night at 8 weeks methods. Sleep Is For the Weak is here to tell you THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!

    Melanie at Melanie’s Daily Blurb has written a brilliant piece on the show, the approaches, and the “£1000 a day don’t look at your baby or dare pick them up” nanny.

    Bad Habits!

    September 22, 2007

    Just when I thought it wasn’t possible for me to make any more ‘mistakes’ in my attempt to get monkey boy to sleep through the night…I’ve gone and added another one!

    I think it’s what Tracey Hogg refers to as ‘accidental parenting’!

    I’ve started to let my little boy (I don’t think I can get away with the term baby anymore)fall asleep on the bed beside me!

    The routine used to be that he was put in his cot and we had hand holding and singing until he fell asleep. Somehow in the last week I have started to let him get into bed with me, we sing a few songs, he has some milk and before you know it he’s out like a light!

    The first 2 nights I then lifted him into his cot. By the third night I figured what’s the point as we co-sleep from midnight anyway so I left him in peace snuggled up in our bed. Oh Lord what have I done!

    There’s no denying it makes bed time much easier for me as it cuts the settling time to 10 minutes but even my incredibly supportive and co-sleeping advocate of a husband thinks going to sleep in our bed is a step too far.

    So tonight I have the dreaded task of going back to our roots and putting him to sleep in his cot.

    Wish me luck!