What I battled most with having babies was the lack of sleep and constantly being woken up. It makes sense that sleep torture has been common practice to torture people since World War II. In an ideal world I’d sleep a good 9 blissful hours every night. My favourite time of the day is that moment right before you drift off to sleep. Whoever coined the term ‘sleep like a baby’ clearly never had one. Every parent has their views on sleep training and co-sleeping – these are mine.
Seven months rolled around and Oli was waking every three hours to finish off half a bottle of milk. Seriously? In my mind he should have been sleeping through the night for months by now (how wrong can our perceptions be)! One morning after a particularly rough night I jumped online and ordered two different sleep training books and a white noise cd from Baby Sense. A week later my order was delivered to our home in Limpopo and I read those books from cover to cover during his naps. I decided on the method from Happiest Baby on The Block. I was petrified of ‘damaging’ my child by attempting the ‘cry it out’ method (CIO), but on the other hand, was desperate for a solid night’s sleep. I chatted to one of my best friends, Solange, who had been through sleep training, and she promised me the reward of a sleeping child would far outweigh the few tortuous nights to get there.
Dyl agreed, but said it was up to me to do the tough love. I moved into the spare room on the first night so I could be closer to Oli’s room and set his ‘Womb to World’ cd on repeat. Dr Harvey Karp’s book came with me. I lay in bed waiting for him to wake up. Like clockwork, three hours after going to sleep I watch Oli waking up on the baby monitor. My heart stopped and I had to catch my breath. Time to put on my big girl panties. Armed with the knowledge I had read I stood at his doorway, out of reach, but where he could see me and said “It’s okay Oli boy, go to sleep”. Rinse and repeat at minutes 3, 6, 10, and extended intervals He sobbed his little heart out, but at minute 21 he was out like a light and slept through to 7am. He slept, but I don’t think I did. I anxiously waited for him to wake up and dreaded having to hear his sobs and snivels. The second night I traipsed through to the spare bedroom once again, and waited for him to wake. Except I fell asleep waiting and slept through the night, just like he did. The next morning, I literally felt superhuman.
Sleeping a full night, Oli would wake up happy and well-rested. That makes two of us! I couldn’t believe it had taken all of 21 minutes to sleep train my child! The next two years of bedtime sleeps were amazing. His transition to a move across the country, and into a big boy bed was effortless and I felt like I had won the lottery having a child who slept a solid 11 hours a night. When I got so ill carrying Sophie, Dyl tried to make up for me being absent by lying with Oli until he fell asleep at night. While it was the right thing to do at the time for a child who now only had the affection of one parent, he soon relied on this way to sleep every night.
Fast forward to the birth of Sophie and we were hit by a double whammy. Oli all of a sudden began waking up. Not when his baby sister woke up crying, but once she had just gone down. His crying was inconsolable and all he wanted was one of us to sleep with him in his bed. Trying to stop a second child waking up from her milk-drunk daze we conceded and so began the routine of him waking up, walking through to fetch his dad and the two of them returning to his room to sleep for the rest of the night. I was on Sophie duty, and Dyl was on Oli duty. This was close to three years ago. Sophie, unlike her brother, was a little champion in the sleep department. The white noise cd played at every nap and sleep time, I loved it so much at one stage I had four of the cd’s as backup! At two months old she learned how to roll onto her tummy and would sleep for hours like that. By four months old she was sleeping a good (no, GREAT) 12 hours straight. I didn’t even have to consider sleep training.
My husband, up until recently, worked in an industry and job where there were often unavoidable late nights. Once I began blogging, my only time to do this with a full-time job was to do it once I had fed, bathed and put the two kids to bed. At the exact same age that Oli started waking up (after his sleep training) Sophie did too. In case you hadn’t worked out what was waking my kids by now, it’s something mother’s around the world dread – night terrors. Less than two hours after going to sleep my previously angelic sleeping beauty would wake up screaming and shouting “Mommy! Mommy!” until I went to pick her up. Paralysed with fear I’d bring her through to the lounge where I was working and perfectly content to have me in eye’s sight she would go straight back to sleep. The bedtime routine went, put Sophie to sleep (awake) in her bed at 6pm, spend 45 minutes with Oli and then take him to bed and lie with him until he fell asleep (generally by 7.15pm). 8pm, cue Sophie’s wails. Out of shear desperation one night I suggested to the kids that they sleep together. Amidst great excitement I extended her bedtime by and hour and the two of them giggled themselves to sleep. No having to lie with Oli until he was asleep, and Sophie only woke after 10pm.
Sounds, pretty okay, right? Well, then the little Bugs decided she would climb into our bed for the rest of the night after her 10pm wakeups. More often than not, her big brother follows shortly after. Every night. Musical beds. This is currently still our reality. It’s not ideal by any means, but it’s what gives us all the most sleep – and I’m okay with that. I don’t care how many people judge us for it, we sleep, that’s all that matters. People will always judge you for co-sleeping and/or sleep training, what works for you might not work for someone else, that’s what’s important to remember. One day when our children are grown I’m going to miss being kicked in the spleen, miss shushing my kids back to sleep through their bad dream, and miss more than anything the feeling of a little arm flung over my neck or a sweaty little hand creeping into mine for reassurance. Sleep – who needs it!
*Excuse the grainy pictures – they’re taken with very low light!