My children are good at many things. Sleeping, however, is not one of them. Both of them drove me to the point of desperation before sleeping through the night (at 12 months in The Boy’s case, and nine months for The Baby – but only after hourly wakings led me to consult a sleep expert, the wonderful Hannah at Yummy Baby Group). Even now, an average night will see me confiscating books and bedside lights from The Boy at gone 9pm (he’s six) and waking up with The Baby somewhere between 5am and 6am.
Despite their night-time sleep evasion, both The Boy and The Baby became good little nappers in time. Once they’d dropped their morning naps, at around the 12-month mark, they could be relied on to have a solid two hours, maybe even three, in the middle of the day.
As long as they were in their cot. Put them in their pram or car seat to nap? Forget it!
While I’m entirely thankful to have a baby who has a decent daytime nap at home, I can’t help being envious of people whose children will nod off within seconds of being installed in the car or buggy. Because they have their freedom. Freedom to go out for a whole day without worrying about when or where their baby will sleep. Freedom to go on long car journeys knowing that they won’t be whinged/screamed at the whole time. Freedom to go to weddings, on holidays, to friends’ houses… You get the picture.
As soon as he hit six months, The Boy decided that he would not, repeat *not*, sleep in a pushchair. And from that point on, until he dropped his nap at approaching three, we were housebound every day between noon and 2.30pm. Vast chunks of holidays were spent sitting in silence in a darkened hotel room. And I remember one particular car journey where, despite setting off in the dark, at bedtime, with The Boy in a travel Grobag and surrounded by his regular collection of comforters, he was still awake at midnight.
The Baby has followed in his footsteps, and has refused to nap on the run since she was six months old. She’ll sleep in the car – briefly, and usually only at the point where I’m tearing my hair out – but never in the pram. And second time round, this is more of a problem. With a six-year-old to entertain, it’s simply not fair that outings have to be limited to a couple of hours max, either before or after The Baby’s nap. It’s not fair that he’s spent two hours of almost every day of his Easter holiday watching DVDs while his sister slept.
So, today, I did an experiment. I decided I’d take both children to Whipsnade Zoo, on my own, for the entire day. The Baby would *have* to nap in her pushchair – wouldn’t she?
The day didn’t get off to a good start. I was woken at 5.41am by The Baby, who then fought against sleep – and against me – for the next hour. As I lay there pinning her to the mattress, it occurred to me that if she didn’t nap after her early awakening, she was going to be seriously ratty by 2pm, and our day out would be over.
Sure enough, come 11am, she was rubbing her eyes and yawning expansively. Fortunately, the sea lion show revived her, as did the sight of the meerkats (‘Cat! Cat! Cat!’).
I knew there was no point trying to settle her for a sleep until well past her usual 12 noon naptime, so we had our picnic first. By the time we were done, it was 1pm. So out came the dummy (in public… ugh, the shame!), out came the comfort muslin, back went the pram… And believe it or not, within five minutes, this had happened:
Success! No, more than success; a miracle.
Okay, so it didn’t last long – an hour, rather than her usual two-and-a-half – but it was enough to get The Baby through to bedtime in good spirits. More importantly, it gave me an hour of quality time to spend with The Boy, without my attention being taken up by his sister. And most importantly of all, the discovery that The Baby *can* actually sleep in her pushchair means we can have a life again, without being restricted by her naptimes. Day trips, meals out, visits to friends who don’t have cots… Suddenly, the world is our oyster.
Right, where shall we go next weekend, then…?