Watching children sleep every parent feels a profound upsurge of pure love.
They look angelic, they are quiet. You remember that you like being a parent; savour the memory, you croon, and think you should have more. They smell like gummy bears and warm milk. Then, they move in their sleep and you think, ‘oh god no please don’t wake up you little bugger.’
From birth to 19 months my son woke every 90 minutes. I am not flip-flopping with you. I cried more than him.
It was sometimes a blissfully brief stir, to check I was still devoted and gritty eyed besides the cot. He would feed, sigh victoriously and doze back off. Other times all toys needed to be evicted from the toy box. Or the apocalypse would happen if we didn’t go check that Mr Tumble was still on Cbeebies.
I almost took out a mother who told me her two week old slept for 8 hours a night. Sometimes I don’t like my child.
Why do they wake so much? To be sick again or think about being sick?
From 2 -3 he would wake 3-4 times to leave disgusting squishy surprises by the side of the bed. From three it would be once, but sustained between 3-5am. It seems sleep is actually a critical element to human existence. I was exhausted, often hysterical. Don’t Google your symptoms. I considered leaving him on the number 6 bus. One night I watched an entire series of Criminal Minds and then felt the need to lock all my windows.
Tired is what you write on forms where ‘name’ should be.
I would attempt to tire him out before bed. Essentially this just makes your little one as hyper as if you had fed them a lorry full of Smarties. You think you can keep them up later so they will sleep in. Incorrect. Welcome to 4am! If 90% of life is you in pyjamas you will survive and you are doing an awesome job. Advice you get will be contradictory. Pick what works for you.
Some tips that helped me cope with sleep deprivation (as well as coffee!)
Try not to overly beat yourself up on not creating bad habits when they are new-born. Put something of yours where they sleep, pick soft blankets, use a sleep sack and pick a tog that best suits the time of year. Dream feed. Don’t keep all the exciting shiny toys in the cot; no one wants to nap when Mr Octopus is around. Keep days light and nights dark so they can start to notice the difference. If your baby goes to a childminder are they letting them sleep to much? Why not check out our tips on choosing the perfect type of childcare for your family.
Have a loose routine. Have you though about trying yoga with your toddler? Bath with calm music, lavender body cream, read together, a glass of warm milk. Look at signs for tiredness, rubbing eyes etc and lie them in bed before they are asleep. Toddler day naps are important, overtiredness reduces quality of sleep. The dreaded move from cot to big bed. Buy a rail, the little monkeys replicate Cirque du Soleil in their sleep. I put my nursing pillow in to cuddle. My boy got less upset with a nightlight. I was saved by the Midnight Mother club.
I never managed the cry it out technique and enjoyed co-sleeping with my son. It was hard to get him out of my bed though! Consider if the bedroom is too stimulating for the child, we have a gallery wall for our daughter and she used to spend hours talking to the bear picture! I brought a Gro-clock and make sure there is no TV before bed. My nightly speech is;
‘You are not too hot. Or to cold. You have drank three litres of apple juice already. You can’t have a jam sandwich now. Spiderman is not talking to loud. There is no ghost in the cupboard. Liar.’
Has anyone else got any tips they want to share? Or particularly hilarious things they have done whilst child induced sleep deprived?
P.S. Leo and Norah my darlings. Loves of my life. One day you will hit 13, and then I will get my revenge. It’s called ‘early morning paper round’.
If you liked this post and want to know some of our recommended night-time reads check out our post Reading, for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.