Back in April 2011, as a first-time mummy-to-be on the brink of giving birth, I had done what most expectant mothers do: I’d read the books, practiced putting a nappy on a teddy (maybe that was just me..?), recited to my husband how often we should feed/bath/burp the baby, prepared for breast and bottle feeding (just in case), tried to practice swaddling the cat (didn’t go down too well) and made sure I washed all the baby clothes on a delicate cycle (non-bio, of course). I worried about how I’d know if a dummy was properly sterilised, what if the bath water was too hot, and I can’t even tell you how many hours I wasted on worrying about how many blankets to wraps him in at night time.
The one thing I hadn’t accounted for was sleep training. There was me feeling victorious that I’d survived the first few weeks/months, adapted to functioning on broken sleep, managed to successfully keep my baby boy alive and not overheated him with too many blankets at night. I then hear that I’m supposed teach him to self-soothe and be able to fall asleep by himself at bedtime…this was a shock to the system – why did no one tell me?!
Zach resisted the whole fall-asleep-by-myself thing from around 6 months (even with a good bedtime routine in place). An angel during the day and a monster at bedtime. Ok, that’s a little unfair, but let’s say he was very ‘spirited’ in his attempts not to happily go down in his cot alone. I spent hours researching, reading, scanning sleep forums, speaking to health visitors; all in the hope of finding a method that suited us both. I understood the science, I just needed to put it into action.
Over the last year, I’ve tried letting him cry it out (stalemate – he has the determination of a warrior); sitting on his floor while he settles (he thinks this is a game); playing baby white noise in the room (he gives me a look of “play it all you want lady, I’m not dropping off anytime soon”) and continually going in and out of the room to re-settle him, repeating my mantra of “night-night, sleepy time”. We’ve had tears (his and mine), cuddles, infectious giggles, cot acrobatics, silent-ninja-creeping-out-of-the-room style manouvres and everything else in between.
So 18 months on, a new house, his first big-boy bedroom and a whole host of amazing developmental changes in-between, we’re still battling bedtime (oh and night-wakings I might add, but that’s another post). On the rare occasion he has gone down without a fuss, I think “wow – is this what life could be like?” But even after a 2 hour battle to get him to sleep, I wouldn’t swap him for the world. I know that when he’s 13, won’t get out of bed and just grunts at me, I’ll miss these precious early years, bedtime battles and all. I’m informed on good authority that there is light at the end of the tunnel and friends assure me that I’m not alone, but for now, this is just how it is. And I think I’ve made my peace with that.
When he wakes in the morning and flashes me that special smile, somehow the angst of the night before is all but a distant memory – gift that only a child possesses. I’m sure sleeping from 7pm – 7am is overrated anyway…