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Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

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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Apologies in advance for the rather odd, inevitably disjointed post today. I have had, approximately, 7 hours broken sleep over the last 2 days leaving me in a rather strange, slightly hysterical ohh look there’s a monkey holding my brain type mood. 

For those of you that missed my frantic, endless tweeting in attempts to stay sane over the last few days, here’s the deal. I recovered from my throat infection just in time for Kai to start crying. Something he has continued to do, on and off (though mostly on it seems), for the last 48 or so hours.

It started witha bit of a fever Tuesday morning. By evening every time he moved his mouth, or coughed or yawned he would yelp in pain. Trying to eat made him wail. He refused ALL breastfeeds AND banana. Those of you that know Kai well will know that these two things just.do.not.happen and are my two ‘time to sound the alarm my son must be dying’ indicators. ESPECIALLY the refusal to feed. Even lovely snuggly under the duvet just before bed type feeds. Something must be very, very wrong.

 At first I thought, generous mother that I am, that I had given him my throat infection but a trip to the doctors confirmed that his throat is fine and that it is, in fact, our old friends the Evil Torturous  Tooth Army, specifically the Diabolical Molar Division, in their unrelenting campaign to force their huge blunt edges through my poor child’s gums.

I cannot begin to describe the extent of his agony the last couple days. He has moaned, he has wailed, he has sobbed, he has hysterically screamed. He has NOT slept, except very lightly and for the first night only if being carried around in the dark in his sling. He has NOT eaten more than a few teeny mouthfuls and NOT fed apart from the odd very ginger little nuzzle. So consequently I am left in an almost catatonic state of exhaustion with a very sore back and boobs like frickin’ boulders.

Now I don’t know whether you, dear reader, are familiar with sleep deprivation (and no I don’t mean you with your child who wakes up a whole ONCE in the night who then moans to everyone about how they may just drop dead from exhaustion – you can go jump off a cliff) but SERIOUS sleep deprivation. I mean the kind of ‘being woken up at least every two hours and then getting up at the crack of dawn every single blessed day for over a year’ variety. Because after a while THAT kind of sleep deprivation starts doing some seriously messed up things to your mind.

Take last night for example. Kai had woken up again for probably the 8th time that night and having tried all other tactics to get him back to sleep (including my tried-trusted using breastmilk as a legal baby tranquillizer – I’m lost without that one),  I was now pacing my little route round the bedroom that I must have done 10 gazillion times before. And as happens when exisiting on such little sleep and pure adrenaline I found myself in a kind of waking dream having a conversation in my head with a loaf of bread. I don’t remember what was said. All I can remember is that it was the loaf of plain white Hovis I had brought that day and that it had arms and legs and a face and that in my mind we talked quite seriously for several minutes before I realised what I was doing.

This sort of thing happens to me quite a lot.

(I had also obviously been spending too much time on Twitter that day too because I distinctly remember later on in the night Kai waking up crying AGAIN and me absent mindedly looking for his ‘unfollow’ button so I could ignore him and go back to sleep. If only hey!)

It’s such a weird feeling. You’re awake, wide awake, with every sense on hyper-alert and yet you’re asleep at the same time, the barrier between your rational mind and your unconscious completely broken down. It’s exactly what I imagine being on some very heavy, trippy drugs must feel like. And you have to picture it too. It’s dark, completely pitch black apart from the eerie green glow of the digital clock. The only sound is either Kai moaning and crying, or if I’ve managed to settle him, the soft sound of his breathing or the little snuffling sound of him nursing, all accompanied by my lovely husband’s rolling rhythmic snore. Nothing but me and the thoughts in my head. For hours and hours and hours.

It’s no wonder I go a little nutso. 

Sometimes it’s conversations with imaginary bread people, sometimes it’s a line from a song in my head going round and round and round. Once it was thinking that the top of my head had come off and worrying my thinking might be too noisy and wake Kai up. One particularly bad night some months back I realised I had been muttering “I want to go home” over and over. I was home, obviously. Occasionally the crying, clawing, writhing thing in my arms in the dark has taken on monstrous proportions in my mind and I’ve had to switch the light on only to have a poor, confused Kai blinking up at me, reminding me there’s no monster at all but just an exhausted little boy who can’t get back to sleep.

All in all it’s not been a good year for my mental health.

Anyway I should go. The mother-in-law has returned from taking Kai for a nap and he’s looking distinctly grumpy.

Oh look he’s starting to cry again.

 And here, right on schedule, is the giant purple rabbit come to take me to a happy, silent place with white walls.

Thank god for that.

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