Sleepless in South London

Labour ward never ever closes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year we are always there providing care to women and their babies, so it’s not unusual to pick up the phone in the middle of your night shift and receive calls like the one I had last week.

‘Hello labour ward, midwife speaking how can I help?’ (maybe less excited more I need another NHS coffee it’s 4am actually make that a vodka and Red Bull)

‘Oh god I hope you can help we’re at our wits end here’ (this wakes me up). My wife gave birth 2 weeks ago and our baby won’t settle, I mean she sleeps all day and cries all evening we just don’t know what to do’.

This is good, I feel very qualified to give all sorts of advice on sleep or lack of issue. I’ve got two small children both who were very different babies when it came down to sleep my brain is almost bursting with knowledge on routines, feeding swaddling blankets and beyond. I search around the office, fellows colleagues scamper off to various delivery rooms like timid mice and shut the doors behind them not wanting to take this what could be very lengthy call. I’m ready all ears listening ‘go on’ I say.

‘She just won’t settle especially between the hours of 7 and midnight my sister calls it witching hour whatever that means my wife is exhausted she’s breastfeeding and every time the baby cries she offers her the breast but it’s like she’s fussing, not really wanting it.’

I really felt for this guy, he was obviously completely sleep deprived and my god anyone who has had a baby knows exactly how hideous this is.

When I had my first baby I had only been a midwife for a year and my now husband and I moved to South London where I knew no one (I was the over enthusiastic new mother queuing at the post office smiling like a loon and making small talk to any poor sod who happened to catch my eye ‘hello yes me again more jiffy bags please’.) Any way an amazing health visitor at my local doctor’s surgery once gave me the best advice on settling my new-born daughter through the infamous ‘witching hour’, the three S’s, suck, swaddle and sling. As a midwife I kind of thought I knew what I was doing when it came to babies, well yes in theory for the first few days but a 2 week old fractious baby, I was bloody clueless and to be honest a little afraid to ask. So I googled something like ‘help me my baby won’t stop crying I need an amazing sling’ and bought this I also bit the bullet and bought a dummy which is a bit of a no go area as a midwife as there a lot of research to suggest that introducing a dummy can interfere with breastfeeding. But to be honest I was so knackered I was beyond caring, I then bought a pack of these and my screaming, unsettled, fractious new-born turned into a (very tightly) swaddled settled baby! Really those 3 magic S’s changed my life and not only did I reinforce this rule of thumb when I went onto to have my second baby, I spread the word like it is the gospel to anyone who would listen when I hear of unsettled and disrupted evenings.

So this poor bloke at the end of the phone got to hear of my ramblings (I could hear him scribbling down the name of the sling and swaddling blanket) and I put down the receiver feeling happy and hopeful that his evening will be transformed. What I did forget to mention to the new father was a book which my Aunt gave me for Christmas one year, profane, affectionate and refreshingly honest, it captures the familiar and unspoken tribulations of getting your baby to sleep, but I think I would forget the golden rule of this book stated on the back ‘You should probably not read this to your children’.

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11 thoughts on “Sleepless in South London

  1. Go The Fu*k to Sleep. Was there ever a better title for a book?
    Sounds like you’re giving great advice to the sleep deprived of south London – above and beyond the call of duty! And now a great blog too! If you’ve got any sleep advice for a 2 year old and a four year old, I’m all ears!

  2. This is brilliant keep writing…you have 2 dedicated followers in our house.

    I haven’t read ‘Go the Fu*k to sleep’ but I’ve certainly sang it

  3. – great post. I wish I’d known Kings had an after sales hotline in those early weeks of sleep deprivation!

    My problem 11 weeks in is that Nancy is becoming increasingly dependent on her dummy. At first she only needed it occasionally to fall asleep and she’d spit it out once asleep and then continue to sleep. Now in the day and early evening she needs it to settle and fall asleep for every sleep. About 30 mins in if she’s lost it she wakes up and can’t fall back to sleep for the next sleep cycle. It’s driving me crazy! At the moment it’s not a problem at night as even if she loses it she manages to stay asleep from 10pm to 7am (with a 3.30am feed) but knowing how quickly things change I’m worried this will change and I’ll be in there re-inserting it every 30 bloody minutes. Do I wean her off of it and hope she finds her fingers (worried this is worse than a dummy cos you can’t take them away) or do I carry on with it and hope she grows into sleeping through sleep cycles? I’ve been putting her to sleep awake but drowsy (with dummy) hoping this will help her link the cycles, but it’s not really cos of this damned falling dummy. PLEASE HELP! xx

    • Hi Kirsty, firstly I would like to say that I am not against dummies I used one with my first and I think they are very useful with a unsettled newborn. Unfortunately at the age Nancy is now she’s too smart and has only learnt to fall asleep with it. If you said she spits it out once she goes into a deep sleep then stays asleep I would recommend you keep using it but as she’s waking once her’s out of her 45 minute sleep cycle then I think you should cut the tops off all the dummies and stop using them. I did this around the same time with Marnie and we had a few bad nights but I introduced a comforter (her muslin) she cried for the first few times then started putting her fingers in her mouth with the muslin which eventually led to her now sucking her muslin. Ok so I’ve still got a ‘prop’ but it meant when she woke from the sleep cycle she found her fingers/muslin and settled herself so more more putting the dummy back in, and I can honestly say she has been such a good sleeper since then I’ve only had a few nights al related to teething when she woke up (unlike her sister who still can be difficult). She will be much better at sleeping for 2 hours for all her naps, and definately no rocking/pattin or shushing
      x

  4. I wish more advice was available on the bit after you leave the hospital! The focus on labour means you never really think about the 2 wks later screaming baby issue! I’m on my 2nd colicy baby and to be honest any suggestions are worth a try! Dummies are a god send at this stage!!
    Great advice as always mrs hooper 😉

    • re visit my post about the 3 S’s
      Swaddle, suck and sling, it worked a treat for Marnie and got her into a routine much earlier than with Anya. Congratulations by the way she looks gorgeous! x

  5. Pingback: Baby Essentials – That every new Mum needs for under £50 | Gas And Air

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