I have been absent too long. Elodie is now nearly 6 months old - a fact both shocking, scary and wonderful. It also means I have a little more than three months left before I have to be dragged kicking and screaming back to work.
Unsurprisingly, much has happened. At about 3 and a half months, my daughter laughed for the first time. She is now among the smiliest, chuckliest little people I have ever seen. At about the same time, we taught her to fall asleep being rocked, as opposed to feeding to sleep.
Then at four months, she forgot how to sleep and woke every couple of hours or less for nigh on a month. This was interspersed with refusing to go back down in her cot and insisting on being nuzzled up against me and my boobs in bed with the snack bar permanently open. It resulted in one memorable morning on Boxing Day when I had spent from midnight until 5am feeding her, putting her down, then picking her up again, putting her down, feeding her and repeat ad infinitum. At 5am I burst into tears and ended up bringing her into the very perilously squashy bed where we were staying at my parents house.
It did gradually get better, after about a month of rubbish sleeping. Also at 4 months, she learned how to nap in a stationary pram accompanied by white noise and now she has something of a daytime 'routine' - something I didn't particularly strive for but which she just got into all by herself, with minimal help. Now, if she is late for or misses a nap, she gets mega grouchy.
As we emerged, blinking and rubbing our eyes from the depths of the hellish four-month sleep regression, we had a lovely hangover where Elodie would no longer really be rocked to sleep or sleep in the evening. We currently get somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes at around 7ish, then she won't go back to sleep until I can convince her to feed properly again, usually sometime between 9pm (on a very good night) til midnight (that is fortunately rare). Tired of her messing around in bed with me and not feeding, I started putting her back in the cot and telling her she was only coming in with me if she was upset or hungry. Miraculously, that first time, she then fell to sleep on her own at about 10.30pm, and has done so a number of times since. Never before 10pm though.
At not quite 5 and a half months, we started giving her solid food - ooh, naughty. Now, she has a selection of random pureed vegetables at lunchtime, and baby rice with fruit at tea time. She LOVES butternut squash but appears not to have a massive sweet tooth as is not too fussed with fruit. Since starting on solids, she has self-settled for naps in her cot several times. Probably a coincidence.
For a long time (and still to some extent) I was treating Elodie like a puzzle to be worked out, but I've come to realise there are just too many variables. During the sleep regression, we experimented with more light or less, mummy cuddles or daddy cuddles, longer or shorter naps at different times of day, getting up earlier, white noise, but it's always impossible to tell what had the magic (or tragic) effect. The biggest variable, I have found, is the baby. What works one day may well not work at all two days later. I found the four-month sleep regression much harder than the newborn days, largely because she was so difficult to get back to sleep. I really don't mind nightfeeds (all that much) as long as baby can be plonked back in her cot without any fuss afterwards.
We've toyed with the idea of sleep-training and I spent one hour doing 'pick-up, put-down' once - before my lovely husband threatened to call the police if I continued. I took the side off the cot and pulled it up against the bed for a couple of weeks to make night feeds no harder than snuggling half into the cot and rolling away afterwards, but put it back to make sure it didn't get to be too much of a habit - and because it was giving me a bad back.
In about a week and a half Elodie will be six months and at that point we are planning to try moving her into her own room. We may also dip our toes into the murky water of sleep-training and whisper the evil words 'controlled crying'. But there has been spontaneous improvement so we may decide it's not necessary - by then she will have been eating solids for three weeks and hopefully won't be so hungry. But we shall see.
Elodie is an absolute joy, who giggles for no reason, grabs my face with a smile and screws up her nose in the most enchanting way. Sometimes, when I know I should be being a little more hardline and putting her back into her cot/leaving her, she looks up at me with giant eyes and my heart melts. Angel baby.