Here's the thing - I think parents are responsible for whether or not their children are good sleepers. Maybe on a very rare occasion a child will just be a early riser no matter what a desperate parent tries - but on the whole I think from day 1 you carve out the kind of sleeper your baby is going to be.
Why do I think this? Well, Sproglet slept for Britain. By 12 weeks he slept from 11- roughly 7am and kicked his 11pm feed at 4.5 months when he started to wean. He regularly slept until 9:30am (I remember one particular bitter friend staying at my house declaring that if I ever had another child it would be a 'screamer who never slept' for sure - when she rose at 9:25am and discovered Sproglet was still slumbering) and on one occasion after we had been to a wedding he woke at 11:30am. Bless him. I actually read over this blog and found myself complaining that he woke at 8:30am one morning after I attended a hen do - which makes me want to go back in time and slap myself, as now-a-days he bounds out of bed at 7:30, occasionally 8am. He goes down between 7:45 - 8pm every night after his clockwork like routine of bath/shower time and two stories...
So I figured that I just got lucky with Sproglet and it was with much fear that I sprogged Sproglette - as I am someone who is quite simply insane, if I don't get my 7-8 hours nightly. I am grumpy, irritable, weepy - like PMS on acid, if I don't spend long enough with the sandman. What if she was a bad sleeper as folk predicted?
Sproglette has a bottle now at about 10:45pm (having hit the hay before 7pm) and then sleeps until 7/7:30am every day... As she begins to wean she is sleeping longer and will soon kick her 10:30pm feed I am sure. My dear friend who has had twins threatened to ship me in, so convinced was she of my baby whispering skills in the sleep department.
But I don't think it is any special skill - I think it is down to 3 things:
1. I practised controlled crying - with my son in particular, my daughter didn't really need it. That meant if they were fed, changed, warm enough, cool enough, not in pain and basically just fighting sleep - I let them cry - going in to rub their tummies and soothe them every ten mins - but crucially not picking them up. They fought, they gave in, they slept.
2. I woke both my kids for feeds no matter what. So they got into a routine of eating and dream feeding from day 1. I also didn't breast feed for long, although I did express - and as bad as this sounds, this proved good in that the heavy dense formula made them gain weight and sleep like, well, babies. They didn't wake endlessly feeding, ravenous all through the night. I admire breast feeding women more than anyone - as it is so exhausting and relentless that it takes an amazing woman to do so. I hated it, maybe because my chest was so enormous both babies struggled to latch on and rejected one breast entirely. Expressing was a good alternative until it became too time consuming - but that whole breast debate is for another post - and anyway - my theory is 'what works for you - do it. A happy Mum is a happy baby - end of.'
3. I established a routine with feeding as soon as possible. Even if nap time went a bit haywire depending on the day's activities/car journeys etc, the feeding remained the same time daily. They got in their grooves. A book called 'the baby whisperer' helped when I had Sproglet, but as for Sproglette - I just kinda did what I had done before - and wrote most stuff down for the first 6 weeks (as she had reflux I needed to work out what she had eaten etc.). That made me remember what was what when I couldn't even remember my name.
All those parents who couldn't bear to hear their babies cry and insisted on picking them up - making an already tired and fretful baby even more so - made their own beds. The kids knew which buttons to press and just kept on pressing them. You get the sleeper you deserve in a way. Obviously kids teeth and have wind and all kinds of things can disrupt their sleep - buy by and large I think if parents got a bit tougher, their lives would be much easier. Giving in to a child's every whim teaches them a lesson early that they are in control - when it should be the other way around.
I'm far from smug by the way. I make enough mistakes as a parent on a daily basis to know that I am Crummy Mummy for many reasons. A quick read of Gwynnie's new cookery book about how her kids love brussel sprouts and kale and all things organic and healthy makes me feel like a shit Mum when fish fingers and oven chips feature once a week in our house... But the sleeping thang - I have down. I worked hard at it and it took a lot of biting down on something to keep from picking up a squealing baby. But the results are worth it. And whilst my daughter is uber feisty, a mini diva and the most strong willed bundle I have encountered, she is no screamer who doesn't sleep. And that, I can cope with.