Sleep is for the weak

Whoever coined the expression ‘sleeping like a baby’ clearly didn’t have much experience with children. Or at least they didn’t have much experience with *my* children. When I was pregnant with The Baby, I assumed I’d get another bad sleeper, but I also assumed that she couldn’t be much worse than The Boy. Turns out I was wrong.

Last night, for example, went something like this.

At 7pm, The Baby went to bed after a nice long feed.

At 10.20pm, she started snuffling about. This is actually not bad for her; often, her first waking is around 9.30pm.

At 10.23pm, I plugged the dummy in.

At 10.25pm, I plugged the dummy in again.

At 10.30pm, I fed her.

At 1am, she woke again. Repeat as above.

At 2.53am, she woke again. I lay there ignoring her until the rustling and grunting turned into, ‘Hello, I’m wide awake’ cooing.

At 3am, I fed her again and put her back to bed.

At 3.15am, she started cooing again, so I fed her some more and put her back to bed.

At 3.50am, she cooed a bit more, so I fed her for the third time in an hour.

At 4.06am, I put her back to bed. She finally seemed to be asleep, so I lay there awake, hardly daring to breathe in case I disturbed her.

At 5.07am, just as I’d dropped back off, she started thrashing around so I plugged the dummy in.

At 6.04am, she thrashed a bit more. Sensing imminent waking, I put her in my bed, where she did indeed sleep like the proverbial baby for the next hour until the alarm went off and I woke from a restless doze with a pounding headache, gritty eyes and a stiff neck.

That’s pretty much an average night around here.

They say that sleep deprivation is a form of torture. If that’s the case, I think I’d cope rather well at Guantanamo Bay. Okay, by mid-afternoon – just about the time that I have to collect The Boy from school – few things seem more appealing than retreating to my bed for a siesta, but on the whole, I seem to be holding it together. It helps that The Baby is so easy during daylight hours; no doubt my patience would be hanging by a thread if I also had to put up with her screaming all day long. But given how much I love sleep, I’m surprised by how little I can manage on.

I have no idea why The Baby’s sleep is so bad. The Boy was fairly terrible, too, but he had undiagnosed reflux and screamed day *and* night. The Baby also has reflux, but she’s been on medication since she was six weeks old, and it seems to be keeping it under control. During the day, she is the happiest, most contented baby ever. So why won’t she sleep?

The irony is that at first, The Baby wasn’t too bad a sleeper, and would do at least one stretch of five or six (or even seven) hours at night. When she was only nine weeks old, hubby and I went out for the evening, safe in the knowledge that as long as we were home by 11.30pm, she’d be okay. There is absolutely no way I’d get away with that now. In fact, I’m going out tonight, and fully expect a phone call from hubby at 9.30pm.

I’m not unrealistic about these things. The Baby is exclusively breastfed, so I know she’s not going to sleep as soundly as a bottle-fed baby. I’m not asking her to sleep through the night. I don’t mind feeding her twice, even three times, as long as she sleeps between those feeds. But at five months old, her sleep is worse than a newborn’s. I can’t help but envy those mums whose babies spontaneously learn to sleep through with no stress or sleep training required.

As for how we solve the problem, well, who knows? When The Boy finally slept through at 12 months old, it was the result of Controlled Crying: a process that worked after just one night. But when The Baby wakes, she isn’t distressed – she’s just awake. If I leave her alone, she’ll chat away for an hour and a half or more before finally going back to sleep, having woken everyone else up in the process. How do you do Controlled Crying with a baby who doesn’t cry?

As The Baby approaches six months, I’m clinging to the hope that one of her upcoming milestones – whether it be starting solids or moving to her own room – will improve her sleep. I suspect I’m clutching at straws. I suspect that by her first (second? Third?) birthday, I’ll still be mainlining caffeine and bulk-buying Touche Eclat to hide my under-eye bags. But while right now, I’d sell a kidney in exchange for three hours’ unbroken sleep, it’s hard to be cross with my little bed invader when I wake in the morning to her gurgling and gently patting my cheek. It’s a good job she’s cute!

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4 thoughts on “Sleep is for the weak

  1. I can certainly sympathise with you, I have 3 children under 3 ( have 6 in total) all the 3 babies were fantastic sleepers until we moved home, then they became ill with tonsillitis, ear infections, teething, it has been never ending and I am lucky to get a full 2 hours sleep some nights, its a never ending fight of trying to shush one waken child before they wake the others, can be a nightmare 😦

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