While a glass of Merlot and half an episode of Newsnight might have us nodding off, we wouldn’t recommend it for your little ones. Here we were looking at parents’ first hand experiences babies that can’t sleep, today we have more stories from the sleep-deprived files.
Violet was a good sleeper at the start. Then the teething kicked in. I’d comfort her but could never get her back to sleep, so invariably she’d end up in our bed. She’d immediately flake out but if we tried to take her back, the whole cycle began again. In the end, we let her sleep with us every night.
She was—and still is—an early riser, so this meant being up at 5am every day, sometimes closer to 4am. By the time she was two, we’d accepted the early starts and instead of fighting it, just went to bed earlier. It was okay in summer but pretty miserable in winter and I gained weight because I was always tired and craving stodge to keep me going.
When she was three, we started using stickers and rewards. This helped, but things didn’t really get better until Violet started school. We bought her a new cabin bed with a ladder—which she loved—and got sticker charts to encourage her to stay in it. If she managed more than four nights per week she’d get a little toy. Violet’s just turned eight, and we now reward her with 20p extra pocket money for every day she stays put until a reasonable hour. Bribery works!
Words of wisdom: “Some children just aren’t great sleepers. It got easier for us when we accepted this and just worked around it.”
“It was consistency that worked”
Xander didn’t sleep well as a newborn but I knew that was common, so I just went with it. He was in a side-along cot so I could feed him lying down with minimal fuss. When he was teething, his sleep came in 45-minute stretches. I’d end up lying on our bed with him, sobbing together.
It was also hard when he was older as friends’ babies were starting to sleep through. Plus, the co-sleeping had stopped working as he would be so active and noisy in his sleep, it would keep me awake. I started putting him down in his bed but he’d usually end up in with me as trying to re-settle him in his cot woke him up even more. I eventually cracked the issue with a consistent bedtime routine and gradual withdrawal—at 18 months he slept through for the first time.
Ultimately, it was consistency that worked—no lights on at night and no TV or any form of engagement before 6am. I’d bring him into bed if needed, as I felt that if he expected a battle at night, he’d get more stressed and be even less likely to fall back asleep. I know sleep training works for some people, but knowing Xander’s personality, it wouldn’t work for him.
Words of wisdom: “Stop trying to ‘cure’ it and try to be pragmatic.”
So, there you have it. Sleeping problems are clearly a common occurrence; the thing to remember is it happens to everybody at some stage. Speak to your friends and mums and see what worked for them, but the best thing you can do is find what’s right for you.
Good night and good luck.