Never say never

January 14, 2008

I have a confession to make.  For the last few nights I have been using controlled crying techniques to get Loudboy to sleep a) in his own bed and b) through the night.  Now I was against using CC when he was young, because I didn’t think it was a good idea with young babies (and I didn’t think it would work).  But we got to the magic age of 15 months and rather than his sleep improving it was getting worse.  Not only was he waking lots at night, he was refusing to go to sleep at all, despite the fact that he was sleeping in our bed and I was feeding him down.  No, he was certain there was interesting stuff going on in the other room (probably involving telly and biscuits) and he was going to find out, even if he couldn’t stand up without falling over.  Who needs sleep anyway?  And when he was in bed with us he was kicking and squirming so no-one was getting much sleep.  Changes needed to be made.

If there were one thing to change, I would have tried other methods first.  In our case, we needed to alter several things at once: getting Loudboy to sleep in his cot rather than our bed, stopping night feeds (an increasing problem for all sorts of reasons) and (ideally) stopping night waking.  Gradual changes would take weeks and would still upset us all.  Drastic measures were needed.

We decided to try something different.  I had been reading Toddler Taming by Christopher Green and his suggestion that CC could give us more sleep within a few nights was an extremely tempting one.  My main objection to CC for babies was that if Loudboy cried during the day, I would find out what was wrong and deal with it, so why not at night?  Dealing with a toddler, I discovered, is rather different.  There are times during the day when I ignore his crying, usually when he is throwing a temper tantrum because he isn’t allowed to play with knives or chew the power lead to the laptop or other child-friendly activities.  I can also tell the difference between angry and upset.  So with great trepidation I re-read the relevant chapter, did our usual bedtime routine and then instead of feeding Loudboy to sleep (and preventing him from escaping), I put him in his cot, said goodnight and left.  He was not impressed.  I had pegged myself as a wuss, so I left him for only two minutes at the beginning, went back, cuddled him until he was quiet, and left again.  It took just over half an hour of tears before he was asleep.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t upset crying, it was ‘Why am I in this ******* cot? Get me out!  Getmeoutgetmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout nownownownownownownownownow!’

We’ve done this for about five days now and guess what?  It worked!  Loudboy now takes five minutes or less to get to sleep and the protest has reduced to ‘Great.  The cot.  I’m sure this is infringing my human rights.  Get me out zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…’

Not only is he going to bed at a reasonable hour (and it’s an earlier bedtime than usual, which means we have some adult evening time again), he’s only waking briefly at about 11 and again at about 1 or 2.  Each time, he settles himself in a few minutes.  Then he goes through until about 7am, when we have a feed and a cuddle.

I always said I wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to sleep training and I’m glad I tried this method.  Of course, he may have improved on his own.  Many babies do at 15 months, but for us it was a good window to nudge him into better sleeping habits.  The problem with sleep training is that it isn’t a permanent fix: when the next teeth come through or he gets another cold he’ll be waking up again.  For now, we are actually getting some sleep.


Ask SIFTW: toddler sleep problems

January 8, 2008

Just as we’re dipping a shivering toe into the shark-infested waters of Toddler World, along comes a question from Jasi:

We’re struggling with sleep (among other things) over here.  We have a wonderful 22 m/o daughter and another child due in June.  We’re panicking a little. 

I’ve breastfed and co-slept our daughter since birth.  It was amazing for the first 9 months but has since tumbled into complete chaos.  Child really does not want to sleep… ever.  She cries if I place her in her single bed, she cries when I take her to mine, she cries if the night-nursing stops at all, she cries even when she asks for her father to walk her down.  She screams and tantrums wildly more nights than not and then wakes anywhere from 6 to 9 times thereafter.  She has taken to nursing TONS since I have become pregnant, when she was nearly done with it on her own.  My husband wishes she slept in her own bed (and he in mine), but supports any arrangement that would make baby and I happy.  Sadly, this current situation makes no one happy.  How do you gently put a passionate 22 m/o to bed?  How do you avoid tears and drama? 

On the aside, she nurses down to nap beautifully every day with minimal fuss.  Though I’d prefer she didn’t nurse to sleep, I’m grateful for the break.  The same routine does not work for nighttime, however.

Any ideas?

Crikey.  My first thought is that you are (counting on fingers) 4 months pregnant with a demanding toddler and broken nights.  I think you need to address getting some rest yourself.  It’s great that you have a supportive husband: my suggestion is get him to take over the night duty completely for a night or two (or three if you can manage it), invest in some earplugs and get some sleep.  Or rope in family to help.  You might need to express some milk if your daughter is really dependent on her night feeds and for your own comfort.  Yes, she may be upset, but from what you are saying she’s getting upset anyway so I don’t think a couple of nights with her Dad is going to cause any long-term trauma.

The best-case scenario is that your husband works out a fanstastic routine of his own and your daughter starts sleeping better of her own accord.  I know on the few occasions I have been away overnight Loudboy has slept like a dream with his dad.  Most advice on night-weaning involves getting someone else to take over the night wakings, so it might be the answer.  If not, at least you’ll feel better able to cope.

On the tantrums (and I’m not sure whether this is 100% a sleep issue or a toddler tantrum issue), this is a confusing time for children (and their parents).  How is your daughter at communicating?  Loudboy isn’t talking yet and I think a lot of his frustration comes from this communication gap.  If she is communicating well, I’d recommend this book: How to talk so kids will listen… which has some great ideas on getting your kids to do what you want communicate well.

There are lots of things that could be going on here: changes in the taste of your milk due to pregnancy hormones, night terrors, developmental changes.  I don’t think there are any easy answers in Toddler World, unfortunately.  Can anyone with more experience of these strange beasts help?

Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad things

December 3, 2007

So I made a start on night weaning.  Then stuff happened.

Things that are bound to mess up your well-meaning efforts at sleep training:

1. Illness (me).  When you’re struggling with a cold, cough and other unidentified bugs, you are not in the mood for spacing feeds, checking clocks and all the rest that goes with sleep training.  Feed the baby and go back to sleep.

2. Illness (him).  If your partner is ill as well, you’ll definitely be taking the easiest route.  He will also not appreciate an exposition of baby sleep habits at 3am.

3. Illness (baby).  Colds are not good for sleep.  Neither are coughs that wake the baby up 30 minutes after he’s reluctantly gone down for the night.  The worst one is the tummy bug that leads to 3am baths and much swearing when locating the last clean sheet in the house. (Tip: if you can’t face changing the bed, small amounts of vomit can be dealt with using baby wipes and a clean muslin over the damp spot).

4. Immunisations.  I forgot to mention that Loudboy had his MMR last week: the effects should start kicking in, ooh, tomorrow or the next day.  Fun.

5. Temperature.  Room too cold? Bung baby in pjs and a vest.  But then he’ll be too hot if you’re co-sleeping so you have to take off some layers when you go to bed (if you think you can do this without waking the baby up you’re on the wrong blog).  Then when he’s kicked his way out of the duvet in the early hours he’ll be cold again.  Have you tried searching for those pj bottoms at the end of the bed at 3am?  In the dark?  The sooner they invent automatic retractable baby clothes the better.

6.  Teeth.  Molars.  No need to elaborate.

To sum up: winter is BAD NEWS.  Or maybe just November.  Or maybe just me.  At least December holds the prospect of time off work and presents and sherry and the possibility of family babysitting.  Roll on Christmas (and the hope, some time, somewhere, of a good night’s sleep).

 In the meantime, put your feet up and have a listen to the man himself, Fela Kuti.

Goodbye sleep training, I’m 15 months and learning to sleep!!

November 19, 2007

I’ve talked before about my attempts at sleep ‘training’, particularly using Gradual Retreat; which I still have a soft spot for, but am just too lazy to implement at the moment, hmm….

Anyway, I’m going with the method of least resistance and am laying down beside the buddha bubs until she arrives at the land of nod, then creeping away to leave her to it. And you know what?… seems to be working. I have managed to night wean her recently (you’ll get there swizzler!) and I’m sure that has helped. Knowing that if she wakes, she won’t be greeted with a soft, warm boob, has deterred her a little,  I’m sure, but I also think that she’s just getting older and is maybe learning how to sleep.

This is not to say that we don’t have bad nights, those when she wakes several times, or even just once, but it lasts an hour, arrrrrrggghhhh. I’m just hoping that she remembers that sleep is a good thing, that we like sleep, that we want more of it!!!!

Planning and scheming

November 17, 2007

As suspected, my last optimistic post was a bit previous: Loudboy decided to go back to feeding all (and I mean ALL) night, very unsettled and refusing to eat during the day. It’s partly teeth, but partly that he just wants to feed all the time. So we decided to try cutting down on the night feeds. Loudboy is 13 months now, so we figured he was old enough to guide (gently) in the ways of righteousness (or the ways of sleeping at least a couple of hours at a time). I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding either, having read up on the benefits of breastfeeding after the first year.

Of course I consulted my SIFTW sisters, many of whom have successfully night weaned already, for cunning tips. This is what they came up with:

1. Increase the gap between the bedtime feed and the first feed of the night
2. Get your partner to take over some of the night wakings
3. If you’re co-sleeping, try wearing a top to make it more difficult for the baby to get a feed
4. Expect a bit of crying (sometimes a LOT)
5. Go slow and expect things to go backwards with teeth/growth spurts/immunisations

So Day 2 into The Plan and it seems to be working so far. I’ve gone for option 1 to start with, so not feeding DS for at least 4 hours after he’s gone to bed. If (when) he wakes up, my husband goes in to settle him. Instead of a feed, he gets a cuddle and the Gruffalo (again). So far, the longest it’s taken is about 10 minutes, which is less time than it usually takes me. He’s still waking later on in the night, and I’m still feeding him, but SLOW is the name of the game here. Last night he slept from 11pm to 2pm without a peep. Progress!

Night weaning = Night mare

October 30, 2007

So I’ve had a long standing wish now to stop feeding the Imp at night. Now that I dissect that wish, I realise I’d been making a fatal assumption that if he stopped feeding, he would stop waking. WRONG! In fact, not feeding makes things worse. I have been desperately trying to feed the Imp back to sleep for a few nights now and he won’t have it. He won’t feed. And he won’t sleep. I have realised I have no other tricks up my sleeve. Feed or nothing. And so, the Imp has been awake. Why was I in such a hurry to night wean? The Imp doesn’t wake for milk. He wakes simply because he wakes.

Night time boob or not?

September 11, 2007

Last night, I was determined to try the bubs with her bottle when she woke, to see if she was waking for the comfort of the boob, rather than for food.

It didnt start off too well, when she fell asleep at 5.50pm, an all time record of an early night. I had an inkling that I may be in for a bumpy ride, but nothing like the reality…..

She woke at 9.30pm, but settled with a ssshhhh and a pat, ditto 10.30pm. When she woke again at 11.15pm, I decided that she may well be hungry/thirsty, so presented her with her bottle which she duly took, albeit only a few ounces. When she awoke again at 2am, I tried the bottle again and she took it, great, ‘this seems to be working’, I thought…………how wrong was I? …… TWO HOURS it took me to get her back to sleep. Ok, so it may have been because she had such an early night, and in the end, I resorted back to old faithful, the boob (worked a treat and off to sleep she went)

 I cant help wondering if she would have stayed awake that long if I hadnt been so bloody stubborn and had breastfed her straight away, or whether it was just because she’d gone to bed so early?……..

 One thing’s for sure, it’s a later night for the bubs tonight, without a doubt.