I’ve always been a lover of sleep. My bed is one of my favourite places in the whole world, but I can quite literally sleep anywhere (two wicker chairs pushed together in a marquee outside an airport anyone?) and woe betide the person who has to wake me from my slumber. When I found out I was pregnant I prayed my child would inherit this from me, he didn’t!
Luckily Luca seems to be the only person who can rouse me from my slumber and come away from it unscathed, that’s unconditional love for you.
However, Luca’s sleep has become a real challenge for us as a family recently. He has been waking numerous times a night requiring one of us to go in and soothe him back to sleep. We tried a few things, changing from a sleeping bag to a quilt, buying him a firmer mattress, even moving him from his cot to a bed. Nothing seemed to work. Unlike most children Luca doesn’t have a comfort toy or blanket, instead he likes to touch eyes, in particular eyelashes. This comfort seems to have increased over time and everytime he was stirring in the night he was searching for someone’s eyelashes to touch. We were all ridiculously tired, tensions were rising between all of us and I was fed up of feeling a true sense of dread everytime I heard the monitor go off. More importantly though Luca’s disturbed sleep was starting to have an effect on him, he was grumpy all the time too, very clingy towards me and tired all day. As sleep is so important to a child, never mind the parents, I decided enough was enough, something had to be done.
Personally, I am not convinced by sleep training of young children. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, in fact I know it does and as part of my job I know a lot of sleep training techniques, but for young children, I’m talking under 2’s, I don’t really agree with it’s use just to get your child to sleep through the night. I could go on for ever about the reasons why but I will very quickly say that children instinctively feel safe with their parents as their survival depended upon it during our evolution. We never leave small children alone for long yet hope we can leave them alone for 12 hours on a night without needing to give them reassurance if they wake and finally all small people will eventually learn to soothe themselves and sleep alone (in theory, there are many variables which can hinder this though).
Luca’s disturbed sleep was having such a detrimental effect on him that I decided we needed to stop the face touching all together. If he didn’t need to touch a face everytime he stirred then hopefully he wouldn’t fully wake from his sleep. So we went cold turkey. We began a whole new bedtime routine:
5:45pm: Go close curtains in Luca’s bedroom and get pj’s ready.
6:15pm: Get out of bath and brush teeth.
6:20pm: Get dry and put on pj’s.
6:25pm: Choose a book to read and get into bed for Mummy or Daddy to read it.
6:35pm: Give kisses and turn off light.
The first night was awful, he cried, screamed, lashed out at us, refused to come anywhere near me for comfort (even though I never left his side) and threw everything I gave him across the room. Eventually after nearly 3 hours he exhausted himself and lay down beside me before drifting off to sleep and not waking once for the rest of the night. The second night started similarly but only lasted 30 minutes before he gave in. I had to go into him a few times, lay with him and direct his hand to his own eyelashes and away from mine but overall he had a good night. By the third night he didn’t even try to touch my eyes and settled straight away.
After a few days I’d even managed to move out of his bed when putting him down on a night and just sit beside his bed whilst he went to sleep. It was at this point he also started to sleep through the night and I have never felt so good since I became a mummy. More energy, more patience with Luca and generally just felt more full of life. It feels amazing.
We have gone a few steps backwards lately but I’m putting it down to the lack of routine around Christmas, sleeping in different places and bedtime being at different times. Then colds, teething & tummy bugs. This last week has been awful and last Saturday he woke seven times during the night, seven!!!
We are tightening our belts though again and strict mummy is back in action, hopefully the sleeping through will follow.
I would love to welcome Mr Sandman back into my life fairly quickly as I have missed him so very much! Fingers crossed eh?