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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Night Visitors

They come in the dead of night to awaken me from slumber. Although truth be told, nowadays I sleep lighter; waiting, one ear listening out. The first appears some time after 12am and before 3.  A local fox regularly serenades the neighbourhood at 1am, crying like a baby, and I wonder if this is a subliminal trigger - inciting the involuntary motion of small feet; magically causing them to rise from the bed and climb the stairs.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Not so light of foot these days.  He appears in the bedroom doorway, silhouetted by the light from the landing. Usually he wears the guise of a superhero (minus his cape - superhero pyjamas don’t have capes.)  Always the same direction around the bed. Always the same creak of the same floorboard; a warning (if we weren’t awake) - I’m coming. He completes the obstacle course - climbing over the sleeping mountain that is his father and burrows deep into the middle of the bed between us. 

A small voice in the darkness.

“I want milkies”

I nudge Husband; shake him awake.  Within moments they disappear. Pip clings like a monkey to his father, head buried into his shoulder.  The floor board creaks again as they depart.

I am alone in the bed.  I can stretch out luxuriously, I can savour the stillness of night.

Ah... *ears prick up*

No. I can’t.

Downstairs I hear Pip wailing, resisting his father’s attempts to put him back into his own bed in his own room. The novelty of his Octonauts duvet cover did not last long.  Alas, neither did the novelty of being four and a Big Boy. So much for big boys staying in their own bed all night long.

It is quiet. I hear a ping from the microwave downstairs. I lie still, acknowledging that Pip will now be glugging a cup of milk, his eyes already shut, drifting off to sleep in the spare bed next to his father who will already have returned to the land of nod.

Waaaah.”

Goodbye silence.

My second visitor.  This one has been invading my sleep all night.  This is the fourth time.  It’s now 4am. I’m starting to feel desperate.  I am exhausted. Tonight I cannot settle him. I think I can feel a tooth trying to push it’s way through his bottom gum.  He is also trying desperately to crawl, even in the cot, when waking at night. Frustration is his middle name.

I lift EB from the cot, plump up the pillows behind me. He latches for my breast instantly, wanting to suckle himself for comfort. I know he doesn’t need feeding, but I am too tired to care. It’s the path of least resistance.  I just want to get to sleep.

As he gets older he seems to be spending longer on the breast at night.  It is not milk he wants though, I know that. I have become a human dummy.

The hazy light of dawn outlines the bedroom blind. The world outside is coming to life; ready to start a new day.   I’m not ready for the day to start. I have barely been asleep. I look at the empty space in the bed next to me and I feel alone. I wish Husband was next to me, for moral support.  I envy him sleeping downstairs in the spare bed with Pip.

We can’t go on like this.  We have to fix it. 

Pre - EB I put Pip’s bad sleeping down to coincidence. 'Just one of those things' I’d say;   'Some people get good sleepers, some don’t.'  Now I’m not so sure.  I think it must be something I’m doing.  Doing wrong.  I look at EB’s current sleeping habits and the sense of de ja vu is remarkable.  Will EB still be waking in the night at age 4?  Please no.

I’ve tried hard with both my boys to give them a good bedtime routine.  Give clear cues - ‘It’s bedtime in 15 minutes’. A bath, a story (or two). Then; “Lights off. Time for sleep. Night Night.” Pip at least, will go to bed without too much resistance. EB right now, has to be coaxed.  As for being through the night sleepers - forget it, on both counts.

When Pip was eighteen months I called a sleep consultant.  He wouldn't go to bed (without Mama) and he wouldn't stay in bed. I reached rock bottom. Controlled crying was not an option, but I found someone who used gentle methods in dealing with sleep problems.  It took a little while to get results but Pip’s sleeping improved considerably. 

Why didn’t I put her number on my speed dial? 

How have we regressed to giving him milk in the early hours of the morning? My NCT friends would be horrified if they knew. 

It’s like a dirty secret. One that makes me feel I fall short as a mother.

We’re caught in a circle of sleep deprived hell. When you’re really tired, all you want is to find the yellow brick road to slumbertown - as quickly as possible. I know what I’m doing wrong, and I tell myself when I have more energy, I’ll deal with it. But that time never seems to come, there’s always something that means the status quo of night milkies, bed hopping and interrupted sleep continues.

Husband thinks that EB needs to leave our room.  That being in the same room as us is not helping him to settle himself.  He is probably right. EB is 7 months now. Small things; the creaking floorboards, Pip coming and going, me - getting up to go to the toilet, wake him.  I don’t want to let him go. I like the reassurance of having him close.  Come morning, when he wakes for the day at 5.30 or 6am and peeks at me through the bars of the cot, his face is like sunshine; bright, radiant. He has the biggest beaming smile.  Whatever has befallen us the night before, however many hours he has had me awake, he has my instant forgiveness.  There is nothing that his smile and Touche Eclat cannot solve.

Is there?

I’m not sure.

Right now I am a lactating zombie.  My words are becoming muddled when I speak, I keep getting people’s names wrong.  I cannot read more than a few paragraphs of a book without forgetting what I’ve already read. Yesterday I took the dry washing off the line and put it straight back in the washing machine. I can’t function. No amount of make up is going to change that. I have to do something.

The sleep consultant’s book has been retrieved from the bookshelf. We have to commit ourselves to a plan and stick to it.  It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I can see no other way. 


All words of wisdom on getting night wakers to sleep through the night (especially 4 year olds) are gratefully received.



22 comments:

  1. Oh this sounds awful my bad night last night doesn't even come close to this-Ifeel bad complaining about now. Is it too early to pull out the santa card out yet ;) I expect you've tried it but do reward charts work?

    Another type of rewarding thing you could try is get a jar and put a marble in each time he sleeps through, once full he gets a treat> Sorry I don't have any actual sleep training advice though-good luck xx

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    1. We tried a reward system before EB was born and it did improve things, I will try it once again. Thanks.

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  2. I let TC have milk whenever she wants, its mostly before I go to bed and sometimes none, its comfort thing, Pip & TC are still young, I'm happy :) I was the human dummy too, it did pass but took time. TC has always slept well (from about 10-12 weeks) & our routine is set and she goes through it herself every night (mostly because she is so tired by 6.30 she knows the bath is the prelude to bed at 7). We don't read stories at night yet, we have a cuddle and she goes to bed & is asleep in seconds - book reading is during the day for us, when she starts school I will introduce it then if she can stay awake long enough!
    This too shall pass are words to live by, with my first child I saw the sun rise every day for years, maybe EB will follow a different route like TC has, fingers crossed xx

    ps doesn't matter what your NCT friends think ;^)

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    1. Pip will not go back to sleep without the milk - it has definitely become a habit. I feel that if we can break that habit, he might stop waking for it. He has never been a good sleeper, I put it down to the hospital making me wake him every 3 hours to feed him during the first week of his life because of jaundice. Then it continued when we got home, because he was fragile and we were worried about him so I did that till he was 3 months, and thus, his whole life, he's been a light difficult sleeper.

      It will pass. I know. Eventually! Thanks MLM. x

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  3. My guy didn't sleep through the night until 4 or 5, when he started 'big school' and conmtrolled cring didn't work for us either! Follow your own instincts, you're their mum and you know best ;-)

    xx Jazzy

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    1. Thanks for commenting Jazzy - reassuring to know that someone else out there had a boy who didn't sleep through until starting big school. Maybe that'll be us.. if so, there is hope - he starts school in September!

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  4. I feel your pain - eldest was a terrible sleeper for over a year. I'm not sure I have much advise for EB other than to leave him and not pick him up straight away - he might go back to sleep -you never know!
    With Pip I would maybe not give him the milk he wants - I know this sounds bad but it is very true that the less attention you give them when they wake up the less they wake and bother you. He may well protest at first but be firm (or get your OH to be firm!) - return him to his bed with as little fuss as possible and keep doing this. At 4 he will be fine and he will cope - maybe combine this with rewards such as stickers - bigger reward if he doesn't wake you for a week etc. I would concentrate on Pip first before you worry about EB as 7 mths is still very young and maybe as you say if Pip doesn't disturb you then EB may wake less! Mine have both been promptly put back to bed when they woke from about age 2 or 3 and now sleep pretty well - we do get lapses - 5yo kept waking me every night a few months ago so I explained it wasn't acceptable - used stickers and we were back to normal pretty quickly. It will end - honestly.
    Sending you some happy sleep fairy thoughts x

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    1. Thanks for your helpful advice. I think you're right about Pip and the milk - and concentrating on him first. Husband can take more of a role in that project too! Thanks for commenting. x

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  5. Oh blimey... this sounds awful, and you are right, you need to take action now before it gets worse for you. Sleep deprivation is unbearable...

    Okay so here are a few of my suggestions (probably will be similar to the above).

    1. Pip. I think as soon as he comes into the room you need to take him back to his bed straight away, and keep repeating it until he is fast asleep in is bed again, no matter how long it takes (I know, it's going to be painful). But after a few nights he will get the message. Also no milk. He can have a sip of milk or water before bed/ or water in the night if he is thirsty. Promise him milk first thing in the morning. The first few nights and week are going to be painful... also promise him with a reward... eg if he stays in bed the whole night all by himself he gets a special treat/present at the end of the week & a reward sticker. Sounds like Pip is waking up through habit - his brain telling him in the night, 'time to go into mummy and daddy's bedroom now'. Also, start your new 'program' with him on a Friday night, so you will have more support from your husband. Also one final thing, how is the lighting in his room? Do you have a proper black out blind? Early morning light is a mare at this time of year. And, finally, finally do have a Gro sunrise clock - a little sun comes on when it's time to get out of bed and a story book comes with it emphasising that you get out of bed when the sun comes on. So far, its worked a treat with little A. ..... and it could be that back ground sounds are waking him up at the moment - since Little A was a baby (and I still do this, until she doesn't need it any more)I play wave music quietly on repeat through out the night which drowns out back ground noise. The sleep consultant I spoke to said it absolutely fine to do this until they are ready to give it up when they are older. Right now you want a boy who sleeps through the night.

    2. EB. I reckon don't do anything with EB until you have sorted Pip, or at least in a much better situation with him. You probably know this already but babies only need milk through the night until they are about 6-9 months old. It maybe he still does need milk, and like Little A did (and all babies do) is becoming very attached to the breast for comfort, that's just habit and normal. When you are ready with EB, and if you are comfortable, transfer him to another room, and then do your gentle approach to 'sleep coaching'. I think the important thing is to get Pip sorted first, which will make it slightly easier with EB, and then you can decide the timings with EB.

    And none of this is your fault!!!! I wanted to give you a big hug when you said that. You are not to blame at all. All you are being is a very loving mother, and all that's happened is that EB has formed a very natural and normal association with the breast - that's what they are supposed to do. And Pip, all he wants is to be close to his parents who he knows love and care for him - all totally normal!!! It's just a few habits that need breaking. Please, please don't blame yourself!!!!

    Ps. Foxes make the most awful racket at night - they wake me up to!

    XXX

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you re: Pip and I think starting on a Friday night is an excellent idea. We do have the gro clock - but he completely ignores it. Will try to reinforce - no getting out of bed till the sun comes up. We do have a good black up blind and very thick curtains so I don't think it is the light waking him - I think it's probably thirst (habit!). Think you're right, I need to tackle the Pip situation first and then EB. Onward and upward then...x

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  6. Oh this sounds so difficult. Lack of sleep is horrendous - it takes its toll in so many ways. And with all the house / building stuff going on through the day this must be such a tiring time. I'm sorry I have no sensible advice, I just hope that someone else does and it gradually gets better for you all xx

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    1. Thanks Helen. I guess the silver lining is..it can't go on like this forever! x

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  7. Oh big hugs, sleepless nights are awful. When I have the kids I don't sleep well at all. My littlest is a darling and sleeps right through, but my eldest is a nightmare and without fail he's up every night. He did keep crawling into my bed, but he's starting to get the message that he needs to stay in his own bed and it's just a case of being consistent and I have to keep returning him to bed whenever he wakes (which can be a number of times during the night). I got a really good sleep chart and I think it did help. I stopped using it but think I'll start again. There's a link on my blog somewhere... http://glasgowmummy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/fabulous-finds-sleep-training-for.html and we've also been reading bedtime stories that are about staying in bed! Good luck, it's not easy but it's most certainly not your fault. Sx

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I have had a look at your post and the reward chart looks really good. I think I will order it. x

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  8. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today. Yes it was Featherdown Farm we were at - is that where you went too then? Which one?

    For sleep tips, go to blog Childcare is Fun and use the contact form to contact Fi Star Stone. She has been a childcare expert for 28 years and uses gentle methods.

    Liska xx

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    1. Yes, we went to the Featherdown in Devizes. Loved it. I will check out the blog you mention. Thanks. x

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  9. Argh, I feel for you. I have no idea what you could change. It seems that you've done everything right. Yes, not giving Pip milk in the middle of the night would be a start but I'm the same as you ... find the quickest way of getting back to sleep. It's so hard in the middle of the night to do the right thing - the lure of bed is too hard to resist. Good luck, my dear. Hope things improve.

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    1. Thanks. I've just got to get stuck in and get on with it. It's just so hard when you're already feeling so tired! x

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  10. Oh gosh, poor you :( I do feel for you in this situation - the sleep deprivation is a form of torture and the whole 'not being able to function' is still a horrible memory for me. I'm quite a hard mummy so none of mine have had a chance to be like this! Sometimes though, I think you do what you have to in order to get some sleep - we've all done that. My advice would be to move your little one out of your room, he is probably disturbed by you and you may even go to him quick than you might need to. As for Pip, he has obviously just formed a habit that needs to be broken. He is now 4 and so any sticker charts/reward systems would work brilliantly for him :) Good luck!

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    1. I think EB does need to go into his own room now. I am definitely guilty of pouncing on him every time he stirs so he isn't getting a chance to learn to settle himself really. As for Pip, well, I think it is going to have to be sleep boot camp for him..but at least he might get a reward at the end of it. Every cloud and all that :0). Thanks Suzanne.

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  11. Night time is so lonely - I really feel for you. Hope it starts improving. Have you read French Children Don't Throw Food? They seem to have a knack of getting their little ones off to sleep (as well as eating all sorts of interesting food!). Best of luck. xx

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  12. oh honey I really feel for you. My first was a good sleeper but can now occasionally wake and just cry out, we go in settle her in two minutes and she's asleep again. However we are then awake lol! My baby girl is capable of sleeping through but every month or two wakes once a night and needs a bottle before settling again. I am putting it down to growth spurts?! I have done controlled crying (or a form of that anyway) and although really hard does seem to work in the end for me. I'm not really sure what else to suggest? I hope you find some salvation soon as sleep deprivation is a nightmare xxx
    http://amummysview.com

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