Welcome back Sleep!Last month was a tough one sleep-wise. The whole family was sick – we all had coughs and colds. None of us was sleeping well, and poor Little Man was continuously woken by his cough. On top of this, he seemed to be sleeping too much during the day, and then taking hours and hours to settle at night. We had a lot of nights where he was awake until 9.30pm or 10pm.
Charlie and I had no down-time in the evenings as a result, and we were really feeling it. The days and weeks were passing in a blur, and I was starting to feel like life was turning into a constant cycle of sleep – work – put Little Man to bed – sleep – work… I think the fact that our sleep troubles started around the time I went back to work full-time didn’t help that perception.
So I sought advice from everyone! And I got lots of great advice – from friends, from my mother, and from readers of this blog through the Mama.ie Facebook page.
And then the weeks of trial and error started. (Why is it never the first thing we try that works?!) Actually, in the end, we had to make a lot of changes to get Little Man’s sleep patterns back on track.
At first, we tried to drop the midday nap altogether. It worked fine the first day – but the second day, he passed out cold at 4pm! Clearly he wasn’t ready to drop that nap just yet. So next we tried cutting his nap back to no more than 60 minutes. Now, he’s over two years old, so you might think this would be easy – but if you think that, you have clearly never seen Little Man during his daytime nap. The child is unconscious, and it takes a LOT to wake him. He would happily sleep up to three hours at a stretch, and has done so plenty of times. Even in creche, the carers have told us that when the rest of the kids in the room are up and running around after their midday nap, he’d often sleep an extra 30 minutes or more, and they’d usually have to wake him at 2pm.
For two days, we tried waking him after an hour. The result was a tired, extremely cranky little boy for the entire afternoon. And then he was too tired to sleep by bedtime. So we upped the nap to 90 minutes, and for a few days it was working. He was going to bed at 7.30pm or 8pm again, and sleeping soundly through the night. Just as we were starting to think we had the whole thing sorted, Little Man changed the rules again.
For about six months now, our bedtime routine has involved Mammy or Daddy reading a story to Little Man while he drinks his milk. Then brush his teeth and tuck him into his bed. And then while he settled down to sleep, either Charlie or I would lie on the double bed in his room. Once he was sound asleep, we’d sneak out of the room and head downstairs. Lots of people told us we were nuts to stay in the room with him like this – but it really worked for us. In fact, it was one of my favourite times of the day. It usually took 10-15 minutes, and it was my quiet time after the stress of heading home from work, picking Little Man up from creche, making dinner, feeding Little Man, clearing up… I’d lie there in the dark and browse the net on my phone, or write my blog post. (I’d say at least half of what I’ve posted on this site in the past few months was written on my iPhone while I relaxed on that bed in the dark waiting for Little Man to go to sleep!)
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, my mother suggested to me that it might be time to start letting Little Man settle himself, and I refused explaining how much I enjoyed that routine. Little Man must have read my email to her! Because within a day or two, everything changed. Instead of settling down to sleep as normal, he started acting up.
“Mammy, Mammy,” I’d hear him whisper.
“Yes?” I’d reply.
“A cuddle. Want a cuddle,” he’d plead.
Yes, he had clearly learned what a soft touch I am.
When he got tired of cuddles, he’d start firing James the Giraffe out of the bed, and then whinging until I picked him up.
Or he’d sneak out of the bed, and tiptoe over to the bed where I lay. All of a sudden, bedtime wasn’t a nice relaxing routine that involved some quiet time for me! It was a stressful battle of wills! I’m not sure why it happened. But after a week, I was getting tired of it. On Sunday night last, it took two hours to put him down. That’s not what I signed up for!
So I told Charlie that I wanted to try a change to the bedtime routine, and we agreed that I’d put Little Man down every night for the week. On Monday night, I read “Sshh Duck, Don’t Wake the Baby” and “Barry the Fish with Fingers and the Hairy Scary Monster”, and then took Little Man to the bathroom to brush his teeth. And then I tucked him in to bed and explained that it was bedtime and he didn’t need me to stay, so I was going to kiss him goodnight and leave the room. He started to cry, but I reassured him that I would come straight back in if he needed me and called me.
I settled myself in the hallway outside his door. He whinged for about a minute, and then I heard him calling me. I went straight in to ask if everything was okay, which of course it was. So then I explained to him that he should only call Mammy if he needed me. And that was it. I went back into the hallway, and five minutes later he was asleep.
The second night went even more smoothly. It took about two minutes from the time I tucked him in and left the room to when he fell asleep. On the third night, I think he realised that this new routine was here to stay, and he kicked up a bit of a fuss when I said I was kissing him good night and leaving the room. But I reminded him that I’d come back if he needed me.
He was asleep before I even made it downstairs. And that was it. Two more bedtimes have passed without incident. We have a new sleep routine.
And we all slept happily ever after…right?