I haven’t had to say this in a long time, but man, last night was tough.
It was 10 pm when we called it a night and as we started to tuck the daughter into her little bed next to ours, we heard the son started crying in his room. It was difficult trying to get him back to sleep so we took him into our bed. However the daughter wanted to sleep with the bed light on (because she is now suddenly afraid of the dark) so that woke the son up. And of course he then wanted to go sleep in her bed with her, and they both took that as an opportunity to cause some ruckus. Ten minutes later he was starting to get tired so he wanted to climb back into our bed and to turn the lights off, to which she screamed in protest. And so on. And so forth. This went on about an hour before somehow we were all able to miraculously drift back to sleep.
Sleep. The word that scares all to-be parents, and the word most googled by parents of children aged between 0-2.
Before my first one was born I often wondered about how I was going to cope with the sleep (or the lack thereof) because I used to cherish my sleep time a lot and could not function on anything less than 8 hours a night (or so I thought). After she was born, I went through months and months of very bad sleep because she was a difficult baby came night time. I still remember the nights of lying next to her in a crampy small bed in her room, nights of breastfeeding her until she fell asleep only to have her wake up again when I gently put her back onto the bed, nights of listening to her scream and cry as I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to train her to sleep. Then my son came along and he is a much better sleeper, but we still had a few rough nights especially when the two of them decided to take turns being difficult.
However we survived it and most nights now we do get a full night’s sleep. Occasionally I get asked by other parents about how we dealt with the sleeping issue, so here I would share my own top three tips:
- The cry-it-out method is not the only method to sleep-train your baby. It is one that works for many parents, but if listening to your baby crying makes you want to bawl your eyes out yourself (like me) there are other gentler approaches that can work. It takes patience and determination but eventually you will find one that works for you and your baby. Cry-it-out did not work on Maya because she was a stubborn baby who would cry for hours until I gave in. What I did in the end (and she was about 10 months at that time) was to use something like a phase-it-out approach, where I would slowly replace her breastfeed-to-sleep routine with something else which in our case was rocking her to sleep while singing. It was not any easier in the beginning but what it did was break her association between breastfeeding and sleeping. I started off by having to hold and rock her for at least half an hour before she would drift off to sleep but it got better over days up to a point where I could put her in her cot just as she was about to fall asleep, and I would pat her until she did.
- As I mentioned my son is a much better sleeper, and this might have been because we were a lot more disciplined with him from the beginning. My daughter is the first baby in the family so she received a lot of attention; everyone was fighting for turns to hold her to sleep from when she was born. However with Maxy, we made it a habit to let him fall asleep in the bassinet by himself from when he was a newborn and if I was breastfeeding him I would always detach him from the moment I noticed that he was about to fall asleep.
- And most importantly be kind to yourself and be flexible to accommodate whatever the situation may be. There will be set-backs, sickness, teething, over-tiredness and generally just bad days and bad luck sometimes. If all your meticulous planning fails, be prepared to do what you need to do to give yourself the rest you need. After having spent weeks training Maya to fall asleep in her own cot, her room got infested by rats so we had no choice but to sleep her in our bed. That seemed like the worst thing to do at the time but it gave us sleep and rest and that did wonders to my well-being and sanity.
In case you are wondering she is still in our room these days but it is not the worst thing in the world and we are starting to transition her to a separate bed (just another part of the journey ahead of us). One of the greatest joys in my days today is still to be able to go to sleep with my child’s face next to mine, to wake up in the middle of the night to kiss those cheruby cheeks and to wake up in the morning and just lie there watching him or her in peaceful slumber. I realise that these moments are numbered and that I will not be able to bring them back as the kids get older, so I am starting to cherish them just as much as I would cherish my sleep.