The prelude to this post is that I have recently ruined my life by introducing my nearly 2 year old to a “big girl bed”. In non public forums I am referring to it by a slightly longer, less family-friendly name involving all the swear words.
When my baby was 7 weeks old smuggins over here knew NOTHING. “My baby is sleeping through!” I’d crow, skipping through the flat noisily at 11pm. In the daytime I’d put her down in her cot for a nap and walk out merrily, revelling in the silence of my sleeping angel child.
Fast forward to, yep you guessed it, teething and holy God were we in for it. At 5.5 months the appearance of The Teething Monster coincided with us packing up to move house and blithely saying to each other “Shall we use her room for box storage?” “Yes she can come in with us” “Oh yes that’ll be no bother”
So The Teething Monster arrived and my formerly awesome self soother transformed. It happened gradually you see, an extra long hand holding here, a night feed there, until at 7 months we’d been reduced to blithering sleep deprived maniacs at each other’s throats at 4am trying to get her to sleep after the 18th time of her waking up. Every time my husband turned over in bed she’d stir, every time she stirred we’d wake up, if we dared to speak she’d be bolt upright trying to pull herself up and if we left her she’d cry like her world was ending.
It gets worse. Our sale fell through. Yep. It took until she was 11 months old before we finally moved. By that time she was waking up approximately 378 times a night and at the stage where naps would only be considered if we attempted them at exactly the right time of day, precise location, hand holding position and astrological alignment. Our daughter had become a complete and total sleep diva.
My husband and I woke up livid, spent the day livid and went to bed livid. It was a dark, dark time.
Then the move happened and because of the angle of the door, the movers couldn’t get her cot into her new nursery. As soon as they left, knackered beyond belief, hungry, thirsty and still traumatised from another night from hell with baby JLo, I got out my screwdriver and got on my hands and knees. Silently, my husband joined me until (somewhat jubilantly) we placed the cot in the nursery, amid the boxes, and shut the door.
Needless to say, after mini Mariah was deposited in her own room that first night, we simply traipsed blearily 375 times into her room, down to the kitchen (now heartbreakingly 2 floors below) and back to bed, lying tensely waiting for the next cry.
It took 2 more weeks before we were mentally ready to sleep train her. One night after a particularly traumatising 4am conversation involving the word “aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh” we decided. Enough was enough.
We looked it up. We looked at each other and we silently nodded in solidarity. That beautiful little insomniac needed taking down a peg or ten.
Night one. A fresh DVD box set ready, we gave her a bath, warm milk, read her a story, and kissed her goodnight, turned on her dream sheep and got the hell out of there. What followed can only be described as intensely traumatic. There’s a very good reason why the sound of a baby screaming is used as a torture method. That shit is awful. She wailed, she screamed, she stood waiting for me to come back with tears and snot pouring from her little red face, sweat slicking her hair back like a Soprano, eyes wide and scared. It was dreadful. There was so much cortisol and adrenaline flooding my body that if a wild lion had walked in on me at that moment, I could have killed it with my bare hands.
Ten minutes later we suddenly turned to each other – the sound, the terrible, awful, gut wrenching sound…had stopped. Now to how check she was still alive whilst avoiding waking her…in a very old house with very creaky stairs (there was commando crawling involved).
She was asleep. Mission accomplished. That night she woke once, one visit from me and she was back down with not a murmur.
The next day we put her down, endured just 5 minutes of the noise from hell and that was it.
I woke up the next morning at 4am in a cold sweat, I ran into her room mentally rehearsing what I’d learned from my paediatric first aid app and there she was, sleeping peacefully like a soft pink cherub.
The next night just 3 minutes of moderate whinging and another full night’s sleep. Thereafter I’d turn her over after her story, kiss her goodnight and skip downstairs like a pilled up pixie high fiving myself all the way (my poor, traumatised husband conveniently had 3 work Christmas parties that week so missed most of it).
Aaaaaaand breathe. Sleep was once again mine for the taking, I could go to bed without a stomach knotted in dread at how long I’d actually get to sleep before she woke up the first time.
After that first week I would have gone on stage in front of the world and extolled the virtues of the so-called CIO method.
All sorted. Life was good again. Job done. Thank you and goodnight.
Except 2 weeks later she got a bug.
Then it was Christmas.
So here I sit after 3 weeks of Sleep Diva’s return, back on day 1 of training. This time I invested in a video monitor which is currently sitting on my lap finally displaying a sleeping baby. This time was worse than the first time with an hour and 50 minutes of repeating the scream-lie her down-shh-exit cycle and I fear the older she gets the harder it will be to re-train her. For now though, it’s finally quiet.
But if a wild lion walks in now, it’s dead meat.
…stay in the world’s worst hotel. Think stifling heat, other kids’ sick dried onto the travel cot, a fan caked in that weird greasy dust that you have to use otherwise you’ll suffocate, and a nightclub downstairs pounding out bass. Forget your No Cry Sleep Solution, throw out that Controlled Crying manual, Baby Whisperer?? don’t make me laugh. No, all you need to do is to book into this particularly grotty budget hotel on the edge of Derby and your baby who wakes every 1 to 2 hours will sleep for 8 hours straight. Not a murmur.
Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either! But it was true. In the 184 days that he’s been alive the longest James has ever slept has been six hours and he’s done that five times. Stupidly part of me was annoyed about the sudden turnaround as I’ve been sleep training him for the last 6 weeks and not had a result as good as this. Ah who cares I’m claiming it as a sleep training victory!
“Sleeping through”, that ever elusive holy grail and maybe the foremost reason people are so vehemently in favour of “routines” whether baby-lead or “parent enforced”. We’ve achieved it in our house – but at what cost?
It’s my wedding anniversary today and while my husband was at work I slept in our marital bed with someone else for the first time. It was Hannah. We both have colds and yet I decided that this would be the week that I would train her (not that she’s a dog) to sleep in her cot (and no she isn’t 6 months old yet) DURING THE DAY. She’s not having any of it, at least not for more than 15 minutes at a time. Anyway, after an hour of bargaining (which basically involved me rubbing her nose and her screaming) I agreed that she could sleep in my bed with me (I SERIOUSLY needed to sleep). I was s***ing myself. I barricaded the edges of the bed with pillows, put her in a low tog sleeping bag, grabbed the bottom of it and wedged it under my backside so that she couldn’t actually move, and stayed awake watching her sleep for about 25 minutes because I was too scared of rolling over and squashing her. I did drop off in the end but it’s fairly clear who won that little game.
The thing is, when I was in hospital the only way that I could get her to sleep was on my tummy. And I did it when I got home. To be honest I grew to love what I call “naughty nap time” – and still do. The problem is so does Hannah, and I need to convince her of the benefits of sleeping on your own pdq – she starts nursery in 2 months! Wish me luck.