Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Today I’d like to touch on the somewhat controversial topic of sleeping. Or more specifically getting your little bugger to sleep.
Squirt was still not napping for more than 30 mins, one, two or maybe three times a day. By the time 2/3 o’clock rolled around he was a crabby nightmare. I was trying to avoid hours of exhausting crying and complaining by dragging everyone around shopping malls most afternoons. I knew it wasn’t good for him and it was a worry.
During the week WW, hardcore supermum that she is, takes care of Squirt’s nighttime awakenings while I attempt to sleep and pump. Then on Friday and Saturday night it’s my turn. I’d like to insert here that I do not function particularly well with less than 8 hours sleep. OK, that’s an understatement. Picture a hunched over, cranky old crone snapping at everyone around her and in danger of scaring her family members away.
So after awakening three times to feed Squirt, uncountable times to replace the dummy and then sitting up pumping for 45 mins, I decided to blearily look into sleep training.
Jeez, I thought breast vs. bottle was a hot topic but it is a gentle discussion by sane mothers who don’t have strong opinions compared to sleep training.
I was able to cross off a few approaches straight away that were not going to work for us. Co-sleeping was out as I had already given myself a stiff neck and sore back lying in the same position all night, terrified to roll over in case I crushed Squirt in my semi-comatose state. Co-habitation wasn’t working as every time Squirt sniffed, coughed or wriggled both WW and I woke up. Neither WW nor I was up for rocking, walking or jiggling him to sleep multiple times a night.
So the options I found myself with left with were ‘Cry-it-out’ or ‘Extinction’. It is my (definitely not expert) understanding that with the extinction method you basically leave to baby to cry for limited periods of time while sitting in the corner of the room ignoring him. I could easily imagine the scene- Squirt screaming as if being subjected to a particularly brutal form of torture while either WW or myself sat PTSD rocking in the corner, desperately sitting on our hands so we didn’t pick him up and undo everything.
So the hardcore, incredibly judged Ferber method it was.
We tried to create a schedule around when Squirt usually napped, which wasn’t that easy as my darling boy isn’t big on napping. He woke up for the millionth and last time at 7am. We decided nap time would be 9. WW and I moved his crib into his bedroom, fed him, changed him and lay him down with his dummy, drowsy but awake. Then we turned on the monitor on and tiptoed out. The door closed and the crying started.
We checked on him every 10 mins. It was tough. Both WW and I rambled about downstairs, trying to distract ourselves from clock watching until we were able to go up and comfort him. When one of us reappeared during the checks and turned him over from where he’d rolled over onto his tummy he immediately stopped crying. And then we left and he started again. I battled with relief that there wasn’t anything physically making him cry and guilt that I was making him upset.
After 45 minutes he finally, heartbreakingly sobbed himself to sleep. I felt awful. I decided maybe this method wasn’t for me. And he slept for one and a half hours. That’s right. Squirt, who hasn’t napped for longer than 30 mins since he was two month old, slept for one and a half hours.
We put him down again at 1 and after 20 mins of crying he slept for another hour and a half. The clouds parted, the sun shone down and gospel music started playing. That afternoon he was a different boy. None of the unsoothable fussing and crying that had become part of our daily routine. Just the happy, playful boy who normally only made an appearance in the early morning.
Then, as the icing on the cake, after his usually bath-massage-story-milk routine, he went to sleep with a mere 4 minutes of gentle whimpering at 6pm. I ‘dream fed’ him at 12 and got up when he woke at 4 and fed him again. He made it to 6.30am without anything worse than a whimper. Hooray!
Since then we’ve had our ups and downs. Nights continue to be better. He puts himself to sleep in less than 5 mins without crying and eats twice during the night. Two feeds is more than I’d like but I and WW can live with it. The naps are still tough but I’d say he’s averaging about 2 and a half hours overall, compared to the one hour before and he’s a much happier boy generally. I am more rested and a better, more patient mummy. I haven’t noticed a change in WW as she manages to keep an even keel despite crummy sleeps, but she reports feeling better.
So there you have it. Not for everyone. Not easy. I do believe the best thing for our little family. I’m sure some of you are reading this with thinly guised horror. In the words of Todd Parr ‘It’s OK to be different’. Good luck to everyone out there trying to get your eight hours.