There’s a chill in the air. The nights are drawing in. Everywhere you look are pumpkins, ghouls and all things Hallowe’en in preparation for the end of October. So it seems an appropriate time to address a topic that strikes horror in to the hearts of all parents. SLEEP REGRESSION!
I did I it. I cursed myself. I uttered the words – “he’s a great sleeper.” It’s akin to feeding Mogwis after midnight (80’s Gremlins reference for those Young Mums and Dads) – YOU DON’T DO IT! I jinxed those blissful, settled nights where he went down straight after a bottle and woke at 6-7am. We were now faced with forty-five minutes to an hour to get the little pickle to bed and then awake three to four times where, dependent on the level of exhaustion, he would either be cuddled back to sleep or end up in bed with us. After four months – we were both beginning to resemble an extra from ‘The Waking Dead.’
My evenings were a thing of the past. He only wanted me (massive for the ego, shite for the downtime). First came Dark Overlord of the Bottle. “I will hold it but not sup from it.” Excellent delay tactic. Screamed if I took it off him, screamed if I put him down and screamed if I started to drink from it or offered it to cuddly monkey. This kid is savvy. At two he’s already got me on my toes.
Like all phases, he began to take his bottle again but then it was screaming like a vampire being lowered in to a garlic bath every time I tried to put him in the cot. It meant an hour of laying there, waiting for the optimum moment to slide off the sofa (babe in arms), cross the room (avoiding the squeaky floorboard) and lower him on to his ‘Hey Duggee’ pillow with speed and grace of a dancer (which I am not). If you ever find that optimum moment – give me a shout. It was like spider senses – the second I went to move, ping! the eyes would open and the wails would begin.
Until last week. I’d had it. On a whim, I took a deep breath and went for it. His mind games would no longer work on me. He would go down straight after his bottle. This was it – controlled crying. It’s not everyone’s bag. Many see it as unnecessarily distressing. Some would say I’m downright evil. But it has worked for us in the past and as much as it breaks my heart, I knew this was the only way I was going to reclaim my evenings.
The first night he cried for ten minutes. When I say cry – wailed. He wrenched on my heart strings with a plaintive cry of “Mummy hug!” I went in every two minutes and calmly reassured but within ten minutes he was sparko and I was enjoying a cup of tea and Location, Location, Location. The second night: forty seconds. FORTY SECONDS. Why had I waited four long, painful months. The third night: six minutes – Okay Hazza, we’ll let that slide. The fourth night: went down with no complaints. With all this time on my hands, I managed to start a blog, drink four cups of hot tea and generally reclaim my life!
The nighttime waking has been a whole other horror story. I really have tried to avoid him getting used to snuggling in with us, as he generally sees it as ‘party with Ma and Pa’ and takes half an hour to get back to sleep, whilst jumping on us and chatting away. Equally, it’s as hard to play the ‘cuddles on the sofa before repeating the process for cot deliverance’ game at 1:39am.
So this week I went fully hardcore and opted for the Gina Ford approach again. Ironically the strategy is outlined in ‘The Complete Sleep Guide for Contended Babies and Toddlers.’ Personally I think Possessed Toddlers may have been a more appropriate title as I swear the neighbours must be thinking we are going through a nightly exorcism. Twenty-two minutes last night. Not of wailing. Of screeching and guttural screaming when I wouldn’t pick him up. It was not too unlike the scene in ‘The Lost Boys,’ (in my humble opinion one of the best vampire films ever, despite its firm 80’s roots) where Laddie, the half vampire child, unleashes hell on the two Coreys – watch here. “Holy Sh*t, it’s the attack of Eddie Munster” they cry. That was my night. Twenty-two minutes doesn’t sound too long but believe me – when you are crying at the desire to just go and give him a cuddle and praying he will sleep so as not to wake next door’s little lovelies – it’s the longest twenty-two minutes in the world. But sleep he did after that – right through till nearly 7am and both Daddy and I woke with a veritable spring in our step.
So here I am, tapping away to you, after another successful bottle and bed. We have our mantra in place that I repeat to him like some crazed zen master: MILK, CUDDLES, COT, KISS GOODNIGHT, SLEEEEEP. Who knows what tonight will bring? I am hoping the Gina magic has once again been weaved and he will sleep like the contended little toddler she spells out. Whether you are for the method or against, I think you’ll agree that we all have a common aim – a good night’s sleep for everyone. Fingers crossed. Sleep tight – and don’t let the bed bugs, or anything else bite. Woooooohhoooo!
Have you had nightmare sleep stories? Any amazing hints or tips for the witching hour wake-ups? I’d love to hear them.