Confessions of a Sleep Consultant: The Jett Diaries; Five Months

For young babies, symptoms of developmental leaps, teething, and illness (and their affect on sleep) can be frustratingly similar, blurring the boundaries of which point each one begin, and where they end. Often confusion sets for us as parents, and how we *should* respond to them at these times. This sums up my experience of 5 months rather perfectly!

For us, I feel the only way to get through (what sometimes feels like the daily grind) is to go with the flow… and accept that we are not always supposed to have the answers. Life can be painful, uncomfortable, and challenging at times. It is not our job as parents to constantly mask the pain for our kids (as this also doesn’t do them any favours in the long term). It is however, our duty to ensure they feel safe, secure, loved, understood and supported at times of unrest. I have found time and time again that baby wearing (and/or skin on skin), extra cuddles, and validation (though at times can be exhausting, frustrating, and time consuming for us and our ‘want it now’ mentality) is the most effective and sustainable solution to ease the pain (for everyone!).

So… what can you expect at 5 months?

Awake time between 1hr 45 min -2 hrs 
Whilst the average awake time for this age is 1hr 45min, some may still need to keep to 1.5hrs for their morning nap, and not every 5 month old will be capable of stretching to 2hrs at a time. Being honest, as a mum of three young kids, I can miss this mark a little more often these days (poor little mate). At the times I do miss this timing, and Jett is notably overtired, he usually needs more intervention from me; either feeding to sleep, or me stroking his head in his cot until he drifts off. The alternative is persisting with re-settling in his cot for a maximum of 30 minutes, before getting him up and trying again after another 30 minutes of having him up. Atypically this is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ scenario! Neither of these options are ideal, highlighting the importance of following a routine and adhering to optimal sleep windows where possible!

Transitioned from co-sleeping to his own cot in own room
I usually recommend having your baby sleep where you intend them to be long term somewhere between 4-6 months. At 5-6 months, our babies begin to learn object permanence, which can make transitions increasingly difficult!
The main decision to move Jett into his own room, was to improve sleep for us both. Jett is an independent, adaptable, and easy going baby (essential temperament traits for survival as a third child!), which has seen him sleep more soundly on the nights resides in his bassinet (in my room), and not in my bed. However, having recently outgrown his bassinet, we have been co-sleeping, and as much as I love the closeness, this arrangement has resulted in more frequent night wakings for us both. In addition to this, during the day, we would constantly disturb him from naps, or interfere with him getting to sleep by coming in and out of our bedroom, using ensuite (toilet and shower), and general noise due to our bedroom being next to the thoroughfare for kitchen, entrance, kids play area, and outdoor renovations! There is always a limit to what white noise can block out! 

Transitioned out of the swaddle
The reasoning behind weaning him from the swaddle this early (although 4-6 months is standard), was so he could have his hands free to self soothe. He absolutely adores his comforter (bunny), and drifts off to sleep at each bedtime running it through his fingers, and draping it over his face; it’s no wonder, as I am frequently wearing it down my top and expressing milk on it for added comfort! Next step: dummy weaning (once he has adjusted to his new sleeping arrangement and, more importantly, once mum is ready to commit!)

Feeding:
I have not introduced solids regularly yet, as he is not really interested (still very much a boob man for now). I have been following his lead, so at times where he is trying to grab my food, I will give him a small taste of whatever I am eating, baby-led weaning style (fruit, vegetables, fish, toast, grains etc.). Watch this space, as I am sure by 6 months he will be well and truly ready!

Self settling:
This is an acquired skill that babies learn over time. When and how often your baby can self settle, will depend on how much influence you have had in getting them off to sleep in the early months (e.g. rocking/holding/feeding/patting to sleep), and the amount of space you allow them at sleep time before intervening. I am not talking about crying it out, but it is healthy to allow our babies some time to grizzle/offload any stresses whilst remaining close and responsive to their needs (so long as all their primary needs have first been met; cold, hunger, pain, comfort/discomfort). Remember – not all cries are a need to be fed, held, rocked, or patted, and crying can in fact be essential for healing and stress relief! At 5 months, if your baby is self settling 50-60% of the time when going to sleep – this is a great start. Be patient. By 6 months, I would encourage this percentage to increase to 70-80%, and will remain at 80% for most of the first year (the 80/20 rule accommodates for illness, leaps, teething, transitions, and missing the sleep window – all times at which they may need more help from us getting to sleep).

Sleeping:
With all the recent change, it is not unexpected that there is still some room for improvement in the sleep department (100%  resulting to fact that consistency can often take a back seat – as I cannot always follow a routine to the letter with two other young children to attend to 24/7). Admittedly, I can regularly miss his sleep windows, resulting in him becoming progressively overtired = resisting bedtimes, being difficult to settle, catnaps, and more frequent night wakings. Typically, during the day, naps are anywhere in length from 45 minutes to 2hrs (usually with quick re-settles at the 45 min mark for longer naps). Stretches overnight can be anywhere 2-4hrs (attributed to a combination of over-tiredness, recent illness, teething spells, developmental changes, and co-sleeping). At 5 months, many babies are capable of sleeping for at least 5-6 hours overnight, and 1-2 feeds are still normal (e.g. dream feed with one other overnight feed is average).

Developmental:
Mental Leap 5 is currently in the house. Physical changes I have noted recently are; his increased capability to grasp objects in his hands, his improved long distance vision and focus, increased engagement and responsiveness (giggling, smiling, babbling, cooing), and attempting to roll. It is important we adopt a baby-led approach to milestones, and having faith in our children’s innate ability to reach these milestones according to their own inborn timetable, with our limited interference. Sometimes the more we ‘help’, the more we hinder; so trust, observe and provide a safe space for your child to explore their new skills freely during the day. It is also important to acknowledge that our babies can become increasingly exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed and excited at these times as they learn new skill sets. Extra wind downtime (with consistent sleep associations) before naps and bedtime, encouraging healthy expression through crying, and patience can ensure sleep stays on track as much as possible.

Teething:
No teeth have cut through just yet, although days come and go where he will drool a river, and chew on anything and everything with fury; usually the catalyst for increased irritability, fussiness, grizzling, and disturbed sleep. I have found Wrenn and Co. homeopathic teething remedy has worked wonders in improving sleep at these times without the use of pain relief.

**I always recommend consulting your healthcare professional before administering any pain relief to your child, or if you are concerned about their health

If you have any other experiences at 5 months you are willing to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,
With love,

Sophie & Jett xoxo

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