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.
My favourite book is aptly entitled ‘Go The Fuck To Sleep’ by Adam Mansbach (narrated by the eternally cool Samuel L Jackson). Youtube it, you will feel better about life. It completely epitomised the frustration I felt with Leo, who I swear must be the original source of pro plus. From birth to 19 months he 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 2 week old slept for 8 hours a night.
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 3 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.
He would scream in a pitch that each time convinced me that he was on fire. 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 little things helped me cope (apart from coffee).
Baby. 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.
Toddler. Have a loose routine, bath with calm music, lavender body cream, stories, a glass of warm milk… I made sure Leo had a snack so he would not be munchy. 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 protector, the little buggers replicate Cirque du Soleil in their sleep. I put my nursing pillow in to cwtch. Leo got less upset with a nightlight.
Pre-schooler. I never managed the cry it out technique and enjoyed co sleeping, it was hard to get him out of my bed though! 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 wilst child induced sleep deprived?
P.S. Leo my darling. Love 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 your kids to sleep check out: Once upon a time: Reading, for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. What we can do as parents to encourage our mini book lovers.