Sleep? Ja, we still don’t know what that is

About two months ago I started seeing all these posts online from friends with kids around Fletcher’s age about a “four month sleep regression”. I joked that Fletcher had never progressed to sleeping in stretches longer than 4 hours, so how much could he realistically regress? The answer was a lot. After two weeks of him waking every one to two hours, we introduced solids, hoping that would help. It didn’t.

When we felt we couldn’t take it anymore, I reached out to friends who had successfully parented their little ones into (and in some cases, beyond) toddler-hood for advice. The advice was varied. One mom suggested sleep training. Another suggested bringing him back into our room, or even our bed, until he was more settled. Yet another said she didn’t have a clue, her four year old still wasn’t sleeping through. She did however suggest shifts – one night on, one night off – so at least you’re getting a less disturbed sleep every second night, meaning (in most cases) you can continue to function and (in some cases) make a valued contribution to society.

The friend who suggested sleep training shared the book she’d used to sleep train her little boy and I immediately immersed myself in it. Having read the pertinent sections, one Sunday evening after an exhausting weekend of very little sleep we decided to bite the bullet. We’d always been pretty good with Fletcher’s bath time / bed time routine, so that was fairly well established, but the biggest thing we were doing wrong was rocking him to sleep, meaning he was reliant on being rocked to fall asleep. This was a two-fold problem: 1) it meant we had to get up and settle him every time he woke during the night and 2) he was now so big that it was uncomfortable for him (and bloody difficult for us) to rock him.

That night we gave him his bath, his massage and his nighttime bottle as normal, but this time instead of rocking him to sleep, we put him into his cot, swaddled him (yes, we were still doing that), switched off the light and left. He was not happy. He cried with varying degrees of fervor for what seem like an age. We regularly went back into his room, as the book said to do, to reassure him that everything was fine, to soothe him a bit and repeat the catch-phrase, “it’s night-night time.” Eventually he did fall asleep and we rejoiced! It was, however, short-lived. When he woke a few hours later, we made sure he was comfortable, swaddled with his dummy in and duly repeated the process of letting him “learn to settle himself”.

It’s now about a month-to-six-weeks later and things are (mostly) going better. We’ve finally managed to ditch the swaddle, and that happened entirely organically and literally over night. One night he was fine being swaddled, the next night when we tried to swaddle him, he resisted, vehemently. So we left him unswaddled and he slept. Some nights are better than others. On Monday night he slept from 6pm until 3am and only really niggled once, early in the evening. Last night he woke at 10pm, 11pm, 1am, 4am and 5am, and at 5:45 he was awake for real.

Every night is different and I suppose that’s the challenge. As soon as you think you’ve got it waxed, life throws you a curve ball and you have to reset your entire process. I can however tell you that the addition of solids did sweet FA for his sleeping, so anyone who tells you that giving them solids will help them sleep better is filling you with false hope. Fletcher eats his body weight every day in vegetables, fruits, yoghurt, Kiri Cheese and lentils and still does whatever he feels like at night. The only thing solids has done is increased our nappy requirements because he’s gone from being a one-a-day poo’er to three, and sometimes even four times a day.

Honestly, the best advice I can you is this: when you’re bouncing through parenthood’s uncertainties, rely on your support network – whether it’s your partner, your parents or siblings, your friends or a bunch of strangers on a Facebook group. Use those people for advice, tap into their knowledge, vent your frustrations to them and lean on them when you need it, because – trust me – you’ll need it.

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