Sleeping · Toddlerhood

The Toddler Bed Experiment

Objective: To (one day) have our toddler sleep in her own bed in her own room.

Method (initial hypothesis): Sleep was good. Maybe one or two brief wakings but it was consistent (barring illness). However, someday soon the cot is going to be too small and kid will need a bigger bed. So we bought a toddler bed and put it in the kid’s unused bedroom in the hope that she would find it interesting and we could move towards getting her to sleep there. But no rush, it’s pretty clear she’s not in any hurry to sleep alone at night. Hardly surprising, I don’t like sleeping alone at night either. We’d just go with the flow, as ever.

Method (actual): Aba got a cold, and the snoring was bad. The kid and I were both being woken, up to 5 times a night. The only one getting any sleep was Foghorn Leghorn so something needed to change. Very abruptly, one Monday evening, I decided to do the bedtime routine in the kid’s bedroom. The idea would be that I would put her to sleep in her bed. Sleep in my bed until she woke and then spend the rest of the night with her on the newly acquired air mattress. This was bought at the same time as the toddler bed because I’m not stupid and had envisaged that any move of this nature would involve me sleeping on the floor for a period of time.

Results:

A promising start. The first night the kid slept for over 6 hours in her bed. When she woke she wasn’t distressed but equally wouldn’t settle back in the bed. Instead, instantly passed out when I brought her back to my bed.

From then on the time spent asleep in the toddler bed got shorter and shorter and the level of distress upon waking increased. To the point where by the end of the week she would wake after 2.5 hours, point to the door, sob “this way” and only be content if laid on our mattress between both of us. Apparently sleeping alongside Foghorn Leghorn is preferable to sleeping alone (for what it’s worth kiddo, I concur).

By the start of the next week, the kid would be sobbing “this way” whilst her pyjamas were being put on, just in case my tiny little mind was stupid enough to continue battling with her and the bed.

At this point, we reverted to co-sleeping in the main bedroom. Only now, even the sidecar cot would not be entertained.

Over a month since the start of this experiment and the little one will start the night in her cot but if she wakes in the middle of the night (which she inevitably does), she’ll have a quick feed, dive out of my arms and face first onto our mattress, wave her arms, like she’s making a snow angel to mark her sleep space and promptly pass out.

Conclusion:

1. There are no quick or magical solutions. One excellent night does not (necessarily/usually) mean the beginning of  a new normal. Ha! You wish!

2. It is entirely possible to sleep on a sliver of mattress whose width is considerably smaller than the width of your arse.

3. Consider alternative sleeping positions. For instance, sleeping horizontally at the foot of the mattress is not as bad as you think it might be. It is certainly more comfortable than being woken by a toddler sized foot in your face.

4. Nature is cruel. For the time she did spend in her bed, I would wake hourly wondering why the monitor was quiet, and would check it was still working (not that I actually needed a monitor – there are precisely 12 paces between my bed and hers.)

5. I’m not at all upset about the failure of the experiment. Truth be told, I kind of missed the munchkin when she wasn’t in the room. 

6. For now, everyone’s sleep is better together.

7. No teenager still sleeps in their parents’ bed…. right?

 

Breastfeeding · Sleeping

Negotiating with a Sleep Thief 

I’ve been considering night weaning. It’s been a bad week. The kid’s been sick, so waking frequently at night. Nothing unusual in the circumstance but I thought I’d finally reached the end of my breastfeeding rope the other morning when from 5am to 6.30am she refused to be put down and kept swapping from side to side to side. This was after having woken four or five times earlier in the night. I was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep, just one more hour. Clearly it was time to night wean – wasn’t it?

She must have sensed something as the next night she woke only twice and went back to her cot relatively quickly and I even got a stretch of almost six hours sleep. Maybe the pain of night weaning would not be necessary, but was that a fluke?

Luckily the local ABM breastfeeding support group met yesterday so I went in for some advice. It was suggested to me that it’s really hard to night wean and continue to co-sleep – unless I want to go to bed wearing a polo neck catsuit. I think we can all agree that’s not a good look, regardless of whether you’re carrying baby (toddler) weight or not. And I know she’s not ready for her own room just yet.

I mentioned that I had started to negotiate with her in the middle of the night, in much the same way as I negotiate with her in the day about the number of episodes of Paw Patrol she gets to watch. That usually goes like this when we’re at home:

Me: Two episodes and then we go outside.

Her: Grunt of acknowledgement

Two episodes later I switch off the TV and she quite contentedly jumps down from the sofa in search of her shoes.

As an aside, negotiations never go that smoothly at Nana’s house. For some reason, the kid feels the need to turn into screeching howler monkey instead of keeping her end of the bargain. Thanks kid…

The breastfeeding support counsellor suggested that because the kid is so verbal, that perhaps continuing with night-time negotiations might be the most gentle way to get her to understand that night time is for sleeping.

Last night was awesome – in terms of comedy value. Well, I thought it was funny but it’s probably one of those things that the kid’s parents find funny, so please forgive me if you don’t actually laugh out loud. She did a 5 hour stretch of sleep before waking at 1am in search of mook, had a quick drink and then back to her bed within 15 minutes. So far so good.

[3am – in our darkened bedroom]

Her: Mama? Mook? Mook? Mook?”

Me: Ok baby [lifts kid out of cot, and feeds]

Her: *Side? [Translation: “Other boob please mama”]

Me: One more side, then bed

Her: grunt of acknowledgement

[Mama puts kid back in cot. Kid screeches and howls “no,no, no”]*

Repeat pattern between * three more times

Me: One more side, then bed

Her: Two more sides?

At this point I laughed out loud. Firstly, because of the sweet cheekiness at which the kid countered my offer and secondly because I think that was her first three-word sentence. Needless to say, I was impressed by the kid’s attempts at negotiation at 3.30am.

Me: No baby, nice try, one more side then bed.

Two more sides later I lay the grumbling toddler between me and the husband in the hope that allowing her to sleep in our bed would soothe her. It did not. She thrashed around, tried to get comfortable, and even though it was dark I could see the side eye she was giving me. I think that was my first “I hate you mama….”

After a couple minutes, she settled into a perfect child’s pose and was still. Ten seconds later the husband emits an almighty snore. She raised her head in the same way she used to when she was a baby practicing “tummy time” (I genuinely dislike that phrase) – but it gave me the nostalgic feels, then this happened to remind me she’s no longer a baby:

Her (to her Dad): Wake up Aba-aba

Her: (turning to me): It’s sleeping….

Me: Yes baby, “it’s” sleeping – maybe you’ll be more comfortable in your own bed [places kid in cot]

Kid thrashed around  some more, got comfortable and drifted off within five minutes. It was a whole 2.5 hours before I heard “Mama? Mook?” again.

Breastfeeding · Sleeping · Working

How will I know? 

I couldn’t sleep properly last night . Amazingly, the baby could – but the husband decided to put on a nocturnal nasal symphony… how thoughtful….

So here’s my brain activity from approximately 3.30am today:

How will I know when and how to stop breastfeeding?

How will I know when will be the right time to potty train? 

How will I know when to move her into her own room? 

How will I know when will be the right time to start her in pre-school?

How will I know when will be the right time to go back to work? 

Lying in the semi-dark thinking of these things and wondering what the timeline may be and also about the fact that in the last week I’ve heard the phrase “you’ll just know” at least five times from five different people.  Now, my intuition is pretty good (I’m a Pisces, so really, what d’you expect) but I had hoped there’d be a more scientific basis for figuring these things out. 

The first is really the least of my troubles. I don’t actually care when she stops breastfeeding. I know my life would be a whole heap easier if I did, but I’m still puzzled as to how I will get her to sleep at night with any efficiency without it. 

I had pencilled in Christmas as the time to potty train but she’s showing some signs of readiness now. But you don’t want to do it if you’re going away soon, which we are next month so… Christmas it is… sorted.

When to move her into her own room… hmmm… the other night she woke whenever I rustled the sheets in my bed. So I figured I must be disturbing her – time to move? The night after, didn’t follow the same pattern at all, so keep things the way they are? Last night she slept really soundly but we were at my mum’s and her cot was 6 paces from my bed (same room) Her room in our house is 12 paces from my bed (I have actually measured). So again, time to move? I don’t want to dismantle the cot and rebuild it only to find I’ve made a mistake…. I think this one requires further data collection… that might mean a few more bad nights… or at least a few nights where I try not to move a muscle… awesome, can’t wait! 🙄

Pre-school. She’s signed up to go from next September, just after turning 2.5. Judging from the way she’s really starting to enjoy other kids’ company I’m fairly happy with that decision but it sort of ties into the last question. 

Returning to work. This and the breastfeeding have quite easily been the two topics on which I receive the most outside pressure.  I will literally scream in the face of the next person that tells me my daughter, at this age – which is less than 21 months – doesn’t need me. I need to go back to work. I’m wasting my brain by spending my day looking after a child (a brat addicted to Paw Patrol and music on the iPad). That I’m being a stay at home mum for my sake, not hers – after all, she doesn’t need me. Children of working parents are self sufficient and marvellous whereas children of stay at home mums are indulged, entitled brats… and so it goes….. on and on and on… 

I will go back to work at some point (if anyone will hire me). I want a job that I’m passionate about but one that also allows me to be present for my kid, just on the off chance she needs me at some future date. So whether it takes a week, a year or three years to find that holy grail of employment, I’ll continue to enjoy the time I have with my little one…. Because once this time is gone, it’s never coming back and I’m never going to regret taking a few years away from the hamster wheel.

Feeding · Sleeping

It’s not ideal but just roll with it…

Apparently, I say this quite often. I’m considering having the phrase tattooed somewhere on my person – perhaps in mirror image on my forehead…

My kid keeps lulling me into a false sense of security. Last week, after coming back from holiday she slept for 6-7 hours straight at night, waking only once. This was a miracle. Then she did it the next night too and the idiot that I am thought this was the start of a new normal. Well, she called bullsh*t on that and for the past few nights I’ve been up with her between 3-5 times. Last night she was up almost every two hours. It’s not ideal, but just roll with it, everything’s a phase.

Then there’s naptime. There I was thinking we were getting in the habit of having one midday nap in her cot but no… lately I’ve had to hold her, keep her on me. That’s why there hasn’t been a new blog post in a week.  In fact, in the last few days, the only time she’s napped elsewhere was when she was in the pram and even then she wouldn’t go to sleep unless she was holding my phone. It’s not ideal, but just roll with it, it’ll be different next week.

The constant feeling of “I’m doing this all wrong” which normally sits in the back of my mind has been creeping forward, presumably because of the lack of sleep. And just because the universe is REALLY FUNNY, it chose this time to send me the latest Baby Centre email entitled “Milestones: is your child on track?”

The functioning part of my brain said “don’t open it,” – after all, nothing good ever comes of reading such emails but clearly the communication pathways between brain and hands were malfunctioning and I clicked on the link anyway. I know, I’ve only myself to blame when I read that by 20 months most children have mastered the following skills:

  1. Can use a spoon and fork – weeellll…. I suppose technically sometimes she manages to scoop a little onto a utensil and maybe that will find its way to her mouth, but generally no, no she does not use a spoon and fork.
  2. Can run – Yup.
  3. Can throw a ball underarm – she manages to launch a ball using her hands, whether it would be considered underarm or overarm, I’m not sure…
  4. Will pretend to feed a doll – fairly sure that she saw a doll for the first time last week and was entirely puzzled by it.
  5. Can take off own clothes with help – sort of….
  6. Will throw away on object such as rubbish, in imitation – yes, I guess? I can’t think of a situation when the above has occurred…

One out of six – not ideal but just roll with it. Of course my brain has fixated on the above instead of thinking of all the other milestones she has reached, like jumping, kicking a ball, fairly clear speech, making a tower of 4 blocks (oddly specific  ) and naming several body parts. Might have shot myself in the foot with the latter as I discovered that singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes would stave off changing table tantrums caused by those evil buggers – sleeves…. Only as a joke I added “and bum” after toes and now she shouts “AND BUM” if I don’t add it myself when singing the song.

Am now concerned that mine will be the first kid to be thrown out of pre-school when she insists on singing her own version of said beloved childhood song. Or if not that, she will be thrown out for not using a spoon and fork. Got a year to work on it all – not ideal but I’ll roll with it….

 

Sleeping

My first post about sleep…it won’t be the last….

I’m trying to write a post about sleep. In fact I started writing the post over three months ago. It’s too long, the middle drags. Hey – maybe I should read it to my kid at bedtime, she might sleep better.

Sleep and feeding, the two subjects on which I find EVERYONE has an opinion. Have you noticed how people will ask you if you have a “good” baby and will then immediately ask if they “sleep through the night?” By that measure, my kid must be a total jerk. As it happens, it’s just that she is not always able to connect her sleep cycles, thereby needing help from me – and by help I mean boob (gasp!).

Sleep is one of those very contentious topics and I’m too soft to properly take it on. I did however come across this article which I think sums up the matter perfectly*. I don’t feel remotely qualified to discuss the matter other than to state facts about my own experience.

My daughter’s sleep in her short lifetime has gone from “pretty reasonable actually” (being one stretch of at least 4-6 hours at night) to “oh my god, why does she hate me” bad (that would be waking every 1-2 hours) and back again. Three nights ago, I was awake with her from 2-5am. I was breastfeeding her most of the time, because that’s our go-to comfort object/sleep aid but she also threw in a tantrum when I didn’t go get my phone so she could listen to music. Of course – as you do.

One of the best pieces of advice I received before my daughter was born was that everything is a phase – both the good times and the bad – everything comes to an end or changes. I do my best to remember that when I’m up at 3am.

*Incidentally the author of this article, Emily Writes, has written a brilliant book called Rants in the Dark. I read it in the dark, once baby is asleep and let me tell you, it’s really hard to laugh silently.

Breastfeeding · General thoughts · Sleeping · Working

If I knew then what I know now…

It won’t come as any surprise that my intentions for maternity leave and life as a mother differed wildly from reality. I intended to breastfeed my child for 6 months. I intended to switch to a bottle thereafter (cos that’s what you normally do, right?).  I intended to have a freezer perpetually stocked with delicious Annabel Karmel approved food. I intended for my child to only ever sleep in her cot, preferably in the beautifully decorated nursery after the age of 6 months. I intended to go back to work after 8 months. I intended to be able to leave her for a weekend by 9 months. I intended to be creative and constructive during my maternity leave – starting an incredibly witty blog was of course number one on that list.

What a muppet!

In fact, of all the intentions and promises I made to myself before my bundle of joy arrived, the only one I’ve stuck to was to have a shower each day. [Pats self on back]

An NCT friend of mine once said “we were all perfect parents before we had the babies.” No truer words were ever spoken. The information available to expectant and new parents is vast and often overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, then reading and gathering information provided comfort. I felt armed, I thought I was prepared, I thought I had a clue.

What I hadn’t foreseen, that in my case at least, the ability to make decisions based on reason and informed judgement would be replaced by emotion and intuition.

Here’s the reality, my daughter is 19 months old and continues to breastfeed up to 5 times a day (and that doesn’t include when she wakes at night).

She does eat homemade food most days of the week but I also have an entire shelf in my pantry that holds pouches and other pre-packaged baby food. Convenient for when out and about and for those evenings when you just. can’t. be. bothered.

There is a nursery, it is tastefully decorated with a “fly me to the moon” theme complete with glow in the dark star curtains. My daughter does not sleep there. She does however sleep in her cot… mostly. I took the side off and attached it to our bed, a recent development after months of co-sleeping (more on that in another post).

I loved my job, I loved my colleagues and the camaraderie, but I have a secret. Before I became mama I never expected to like being at home with the baby. I didn’t think there would be much to enjoy. I’ve always worked and before now I’ve never not wanted to. I thought I would be lonely. I’m also fairly sure I’m not supposed to admit that out loud. But I do enjoy it, I love it. Not every minute of every day, I’m not a bottomless pit of patience but this is probably the biggest surprise of all. So when the husband got offered a new job which would leave me no choice but to quit mine, I was relieved and elated that the new job also afforded us the amazing opportunity for me to not have to go back to work. Looking back, I know that I would have spent every minute at work wishing I was with my baby but I’m not sure that I would have spent every minute at home wishing I was at work.

I haven’t been apart from my daughter for more than 4 hours. Partly because of the breastfeeding… partly because it breaks my heart.

As for creativity? I’m an accountant, I’m a scientist.. It was always going to be a big ask…. But here I am, having a go – better late than never….

So the take away from all this? Read, plan – go ahead. But plan on being surprised.