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Posts Tagged ‘co-sleeping’

It’s probably about time I tackled a theme that underpins a lot of what I talk about on this blog, but that so far I’ve managed to avoid talking about too much.

Yep, you’ve guessed it. It’s the big fat horrible Sleep Monster.

Those of you that know me well will have had to listen to me drivel on about most of what follows for the last 12 months so can be politely excused to go and do something more interesting. Those of you that don’t know me quite so well but have often wondered why it is I look like an ageing zombie with a slight hysterical edge to my voice when you bump into me in the street, you’re about to find out. And those of you that don’t know me at all? Well then I guess this is all going to be a treasure trove of new delights and excitement.

You see, Kai is a bit of a problem sleeper. And when I say a bit, I mean a rather extraordinary large bit. Continent sized. Small orbiting moon sized.

Now before we continue I don’t want you to hold it against him. He is probably the loveliest (albeit slightly odd and hyperactive) child, you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. He does lots and lots of things very, very well.

It’s just that sleeping isn’t one of them.

It has been from day one, which is my one small comfort that I haven’t done something horribly wrong to make him this way. It started out with colic – 12 weeks of screaming punctuated only by marathon breastfeeds, with any little sleep achieved solely through repetitive motion and/or holding and copius amounts of Infacol suspension. Once the crying stopped, the sleep battles continued for long months during which I desperately tried to find a way that Kai would fall asleep without a great deal of assistance and failing miserably. At it’s worst, Kai would wake every three quarters of an hour (the length of one sleep cycle) all through the night. On average it was every one to two hours, at best maybe three or four (and I can still count on two hands the number of times he’s slept longer than a four hour stretch). Each time he woke he would need a great deal of help getting back to sleep, no matter how hard I tried to encourage him otherwise, and even with help, would find it almost impossibly difficult.

Just for the record (and because if you mention the fact that your child is a poor sleeper, people feel compelled, no, OBLIGATED to bombard you with advice and I’m sure you’re eagerly waiting for you opportunity suggest one or more of the following), here’s what we’ve tried that hasn’t made a blind bit of difference:

  • Not feeding Kai to sleep
  • Feeding Kai to sleep (well, works to GET him to sleep, just not to keep him asleep)
  • Putting Kai down awake and encouraging him to fall asleep on his own. Featuring the torturous ‘pick-up-put down’ technique. I’m not kidding I stuck at this one religiously for months and all it did was give me a bad back and made me ill to the point of collapse.
  • Putting Kai down only once he was in a deep sleep (thanks Dr Sears for that one)
  • Music (featuring every bad pun of a baby album known to man – Baroque a-by Baby was my fave)
  • A hammock cot (seemed to be working for a month till Kai steadfastedly refused to go in it again)
  • Leaving an item of my clothing with him
  • Dream feeding (that’s when the baby’s asleep right? It doesn’t count if he just wakes up wanting milk)
  • Introducing a comforter (just becomes another thing to play with or throw in the middle of the night)
  • Sleeping in his own room (no improvement in sleep, in fact it got WORSE! and quadruple the work for me)
  • Black-out curtains
  • A variety of assorted sleep wear and coverings
  • Changing his nappy half way through the night
  • Not changing his nappy and instead padding him out like the Michelin Man
  • Starting solids (they told me this was the key when he was 4 months old. Guess what…it wasn’t. The boy eats like a horse and it STILL hasn’t made a difference)
  • Giving him more milk during the day (seriously? Have you seen how often this boy feeds?)
  • Cutting down breastfeeds in the night
  • Working on his day time naps
  • Wearing himself out more during the day. Learning to crawl made no difference. Long sessions in the pool made no difference. In fact you’ve probably never met a more active baby than Kai. He just doesn’t do still.

And before you say it….

  • a bedtime routine. I could win awards for my bedtime routine. It is flawless. It includes a long wind-down time and all the right sleep cues. It just doesn’t work.

Two things I haven’t done:

  • Forced him to night-wean.
  • Left him to cry.

Yes I know, you’re now all sitting back with an air of smugness thinking “well, what does she expect!”. Don’t judge me for it. Maybe it worked for you and your child. But it’s not for me. Because Kai doesn’t just moan for a bit. He sobs. And he sobs. To the point of hysteria. For hours and hours. Till he chokes and is sick.

I can’t do it. Not to him and not to me. And the night feeds? Well I think he’s the best person to decide what amount of milk he does and doesn’t need. And I’m convinced that the night feeds are what have allowed me to carry on producing milk for so long and grow such an incredibly healthy chunky boy. So we’ll leave those two things alone thank you very much.

Moving on…

So why does he have so much trouble staying asleep? It’s a mystery to be honest. On any one night half a dozen or more things seem to be the culprit (and wanting to feed is by far in the minority here for reasons why he wakes up). Separation anxiety is a biggy, teething another (this boy teethes like you wouldn’t believe). He gets tummy ache. He gets nightmares. He sleep crawls and climbs about his cot. He gets distracted by the tiny line of light from between the curtains or from the digital clock and decides that must mean it’s time to get up. He thinks 3am is a very good time to be wide awake and practice singing and jumping about on mummy and daddy. And sometimes, yes, he seems to get genuinely hungry and need to down gallons of milk before being able to go back to sleep. But not by any means every time he wakes up.

In short, he’s just hopeless.

In short, it’s been a complete and utter nightmare.

A turning point came when I gave in. When I threw all the sleep books out the window, bought a co-sleeper crib that allowed me to deal with Kai without getting out of bed, and stopped trying to fix it. Because by the looks of things I was going to burn out loooong before Kai got the hang of things. I HAD burned out, in fact. I’d lost weight, I was exhausted, I was making myself ill.

Enough was enough.

We’re now a few months down the line of the ‘No Try Sleep Solution’ (haha that was a sleep training  joke – you won’t get it unless your name is Elizabeth Pantley) and do you know what? Giving up was the best thing we could of done.

Because at the end of this long dark tunnel there is emerging a tiny little glimmering light of hope. Since I’ve given in and just gone with it, there have been some improvements, small ones but significant ones none the less. Kai’s waking up less. He’s feeding less. He’s even falling asleep on his own and re-settling himself when he stirs (well… sometimes). Twice this week I’ve managed to have an entirely uninterupted evening.

Yep. He’s actually getting better.

Ok we’re rather a long way off him sleeping through the night but we are definitely moving towards maybe only 2 or 3 wake-ups a night, at least on a good night anway.

And that my friends, is MORE than good enough for me right now.

Thanks for listening. And if you see me in the street looking slightly frayed? Well now you’ll know why.

And buy me cake.

Foot Note:

Did I mention that I was an appalling sleeper as a child? that I didn’t sleep through the night till I was three? That my poor mother resorted to drugging me so she could get some shut-eye?

Yep. Karmic payback is a bitch. At least it proves that the Universe has sense of humour I suppose.

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Welcome to mine and Kai’s morning ritual! It goes something like this…

At a stupidly early hour (5.50am this morning) I become aware of little fingers poking me repeatedly in the eye, exploring the inside of my nose and ears and prising my mouth apart to try and forcibly insert a soggy dummy. Kai is awake. We co-sleep so when he wakes up it’s pretty much game over as far as sleep is concerned – the mummy/daddy climbing frame/play aparatus is too much of a temptation and when Kai’s awake he’s AWAKE. I’ve always loved the myth of the ‘good’ baby who gurgles and plays quietly in their crib till a reasonable hour. ‘Ha’ is all I can say to that one.

A cuddle, some Kai singing and round of ‘lets see how much of daddy’s chest hair I can pull out in one go’ later, I take pity on my sleepy husband and wrestle Kai into a dry nappy. I will then announce that we are going ‘downstairs’ which will be greeted by squeals of excitment and leg pumping and frantic pointing at the door. Bless him, he does love to point as you will discover. We wave goodbye to daddy and the digital clock (don’t ask me why, he just loves it) then it’s off downstairs to play for an hour while I sit bleary eyed at the computer, periodically untangling Kai from whatever mess he’s made, and breaking for frequent cuddles and kisses. This morning Kai has decided that despite nursing all night there is room for just a little more so is curled up on my lap simultaneously nursing and watching Tweenies on tv. I’ve become rather adept at one handed typing.

We’ve had added excitement lately as Kai has become very good at pulling himself up to standing holding on to the furniture. This has opened up a whole new world of discovery for the little man and consequently means nothing is safe from his destructive grasp. He’s still getting his confidence and balance so I need to keep one eye open to get ready to catch in case he overreaches himself, and to remove whatever object he has discovered and decided to try and eat.

Speaking of eating, it’s time for breakfast. Be back in a min…

 Right, Kai is just finishing off his mini-weetabix and blueberrys (and doing stirling work this morning I have to say – the boy can’t half put it away when he wants to) and the cat is in her usual position under his highchair to catch the droppage. Occasionally she will get lucky and Kai will decide it’s more fun to feed her his breakfast rather than eat it himself – this involves carefully dropping it onto her head. De-weetabixing a cat is not an easy task I can tell you.

Anyway, next on the agenda is getting washed and dressed – well Kai anyway, me if I’m lucky but that will probably have to wait till nap time. My hair is doing a good Ace Ventura impression this morning much to my husband’s amusement, so that’s going to take a bit of attention. After a restless night and an early start, Kai is looking little weary already so it won’t be long before he’s ready for his early nap. That’s the cue for me to jump into action. Kettle on, nappies in the washing machine, floor cleaned (well, sometimes – I’m not going to pretend to be mother of the year here…by ‘cleaned’ I may mean a quick run over with a baby wipe…).

The last of the weetabix are now getting thrown at me so I better go. See you later – thanks for joining us! x

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