Sleeping with the enemy

Type in ‘sleep deprivation’ into Google and you get the following results:

What are the signs of sleep deprivation?

How many hours of sleep do you need to be sleep deprived?

What lack of sleep does to you.

And my personal favourite;
Can I die from lack of sleep? (Spoiler alert: It’s possible that given enough time, sleep deprivation can kill you. While no human being is known to have died from staying awake, animal research strongly suggests it could happen.)

It’s widely accepted that when you have a baby one of the biggest things you have to get your head around is the lack of sleep. Mentally you’ll be ready for the night feeds, the nappy changes, the milky vomiting-like-an-exorcist episodes. It’s all part of the baby gig.

As they get older there’s a whole new series of shit storms  adventures to navigate, but you’re hoping that by now the sleep issue is sorted. Unfortunately, for us, there was one very small person in the household who hadn’t got the memo.

This was a typical night:

Bath, milk, stories. Kiss everyone goodnight, then up to bed (this is E, not me BTW).
E ‘Just stroke me mummy’
Me: ‘OK, but just for a min’
I go to leave……E then clamps on to my arm in what can only be described as something akin to a boa constrictor.
M: ‘E, Mummy has to go now, she needs to have a wee/dinner/work/gin/conversation with Daddy’
E: ‘OK, You’ll come back ok?”
M: ‘Yes, in a bit’

6/10 he’d fall asleep.
20 mins later the screams from E’s room for me were enough to make your blood run cold. It was like someone was murdering him. T would go in and that would make things worse. ‘I WANT MUMMY’ over and over again. So, I’d go in. I’d then stroke him until he was asleep. I would then have to try and navigate my way out of his room, avoiding the creaky floorboards, the squeaky toys and possibly changing the biodynamics of how the oxygen was circulating in his room. One slight change would result in an Armageddon-style meltdown and the whole process would have to be repeated. I wonder if one of his earliest memories of me will be of one hand stroking his arm and the other hand alternating between a glass of Pinot and me with the phone in my hand.

Some nights were better than others. After collapsing in bed at night he would sense that I was in a deep sleep and once again kick off. A quick and easy fix was to put him in bed with us. He’d sleep, I’d sleep and even T, pivoting on 2inches of the mattress, would sleep. However, as with most quick fixes this behaviour carried on for way longer than I’d admit to.
Something had to be done. I wasn’t keen on the whole idea of controlled crying. It sounded like something Daniel Day Lewis would do, so instead, I’d explain that I’d leave him but sit on the stairs and slowly try and extract myself from him. It still didn’t make any difference to the nighttime appearance. I was beginning to wonder if we should just get a bigger bed.

Enough was enough.

Armed with Jo Frost’s ‘How to Kick Your Toddler Into Shape’ Book I used her technique to the letter. I wrote notes, made a sticker chart, used a timer, dug deep even after the 5th time of putting him back to bed (hilariously he shouted ‘not again’ as I left the room) and we are now on our fourth night of sleep training success. He goes to bed straight away. He has woken a couple of times but we’ve stuck to the plan and he goes straight back to sleep. In the morning he burst through the door to tell us that he ‘slept in his bed all night!’. He couldn’t be happier. He’s not the only one.

Of course, I’m annoyed that we didn’t do this sooner and I’m sure that there was a small part of me that did like the night time squishy cuddles. But when those cuddles turn into a foot in the eyeball and a near loss of sanity then squishy cuddles can do one.

Here’s how we did it

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Congratulations to everyone who has children that sleep through the night. To anyone that might be struggling, please use this technique and don’t be afraid of messing your kids up. There are so many other ways, on a daily basis, for that.

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