As some of you may know, last week was a really tough week where it came to sleep (or the lack of it!). I was suffering from severe holiday blues, jet lag and a baby that made himself a little too comfy in our bed! On top of that, he had this new found energy (perhaps it was the vitamin D overdose from holiday!) which I was really struggling with. I felt really low and felt like a terrible mum – I didn’t understand why I was finding it so difficult to be around Arjun alone. I felt like a stranger when I looked in the mirror, but at the same time I recognised the person I was. I’ve felt like this before and I end up in a wallow of self hate. I don’t think my tiredness caused by the co-sleeping helped my mood or confidence so I decided to attempt to nip the issue in the bud.
I’m writing this post as my darling angel sleeps peacefully … In his own room again … Finally!!! It’s been a long few days but a few of you messaged asking what my plan was/how I’ve tackled it. In short … Patience. Lots of it.
How did we end up even having Arjun in the bed you may ask. Before we went to the Maldives Arjun had his first proper cold. His nose was so bunged up that he was struggling to breathe through it and his mouth was so dry that he was gasping when he did wake which was pretty frequent. We decided to co-sleep just because we were worried about him being poorly and because it was becoming exhausting getting out of bed to tend to him on the hour every hour. He was in our bed for a week before we flew.
Whenever we go on holiday, because of my OCD, Arjun sleeps in our bed with us. Pretty silly given I’m sure the bedsheets on our bed are washed with the same shizzle that the cot sheets are washed with but anyway. I’m far from rational when it comes to most things! We were on holiday for a week so by the time we got back, he’d been co-sleeping for two weeks. Yikes. That’s definitely long enough for a habit to form.
It didn’t stop there though. As we were so jet lagged and tired and also quite used to having Arjy cuddles (and kicks and slaps and the odd baby fart in your face), we ended up letting him sleep with us for a bit longer. A bit longer turned in to another week. Three weeks. I didn’t realise how long it’d been at the time and assumed it’d all be fine as he usually bounces back quite quick – usually though he hasn’t formed a habit of sleeping with us!
I’m totally open to different ways of sleeping and understand different things work for different people and situations. However, I didn’t feel co-sleeping was for us because of the following reasons and hence wanted to move Arjun back in to his own space as soon as possible:
1) Not enough space in bed: my height is 5’7 and Preetam’s is 6’4 and there’s just about room for the two of us in a king size bed. Having a little bugger that insists on sleeping horizontally meant we were both waking up with backache due to clinging on to the edge of the bed for dear life all night!
2) Mental space: I feel like a really bad mum for saying it, but I liked having a little bit of space at night to be able to enjoy my sleep in peace. It gave me the opportunity to rest mentally as well as physically. I found that having Arjun with us, probably because of point 1, meant that I was waking up mentally exhausted – my brain wasn’t getting the rest it needed.
3) Quality of sleep: Arjun, like me, is a pretty noisy sleeper. When he stirs, boy does he stir. When he’s agitated, boy does he make a song and a dance out of it. So any tiny sound he made, or movement he made, it meant I was awake. It meant we had very broken sleep. I’m also guessing he preferred not having two huge beings in his bed cramping up his space.
So for these reasons, I decided it was time. I honestly felt so low and drained last week that I had no idea where I was supposed to find the energy to tackle this “issue”. I decided to wait until Thursday night knowing that Preetam was working from home the following day so disturbed sleep wouldn’t be as much of an issue and he could also help. I was totally aware of the fact that it was going to be a long night but didn’t realise just quite how long!
We did his usually routine at 7.30pm which is bath, bottle (usually in our bed) in his bed (this wasn’t something we’d tried before). He finished his bottle and immediately kicked off. I stood by his cot and held my hands out (even with my tough love, I’m too soft to not offer comfort), but he didn’t want to be held. He screamed and cried and tried to make himself comfy. I noticed he kept biting his blanket too. After about thirty minutes, he fell asleep in a position he was comfortable in.
Woohoo I thought.
By 3am, he’d woken up 6 times. I was absolutely knackered. I spent up to an hour rocking him back to sleep (my back is still feeling it) but I didn’t want to give up.
When it got to 3.30 and he was up again, I asked Preetam to settle him. To my dismay, Preetam bought him back in to our bed and I didn’t realise till I woke up later. A combination of frustration, tiredness and feeling deflated led me to be really mad at Preetam the next morning. My efforts and lack of sleep felt like wasted energy. I understand Preetam was tired as he goes to work and I think I often forget that, but equally I’m tired too. We needed to work together on this.
On Saturday evening, after his bath, I decided to try a new tactic – to feed him his bedtime bottle in his cot by propping him up with a pillow. I also decided to close the curtains (we don’t usually do this) and switch on his sensory light (I’ve found it’s often calmed him down). As soon as he finished his milk, he began to ball his eyes out. It was a shrieking cry and one that I struggled with – suddenly I felt a familiarity and calmness overcome me. After struggling so much since Maldives and feeling so frustrated, that moment was my turning point (for now) – it gave me a new boost of energy and my maternal instinct kicked in. I am his mother, he is a part of me and I couldn’t stand seeing him in that state. I held my arms out to him to see if he wanted to come to me, he didn’t. He tried to find himself a comfy spot, but kept fighting his sleep and crying. Eventually, I ended up breaking down too. I hated seeing him in that state. It was traumatic. I tried to pick him up against his will, he kicked and screamed to go back in his cot. I put him down and stood by his side so he knew I was there. He kept trying to bite his blanket – it seemed like his teeth were causing him pain. Great timing! I offered him a teether (Razpberry) which he didn’t part with the whole night. This confirmed to me that his teeth were hurting, so I applied some bonjela to his gums, he seemed a little calmer after.
I decided to pull out Ewan the sleep (it’s been a while) as it helped him settle lots when he was younger. I thought that familiar sound may help with calming him down. After about half an hour, he managed to find what seemed like a comfortable position and I patted him to sleep whilst doing paat (reciting bedtime prayers).
Although it felt like a really traumatic half hour, I felt so proud and like together we’d accomplished something – Arjun was asleep. In his cot. In his own room. It felt really good. I was prepared for the night ahead of me. I knew it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing.
Arjun woke three times that night, each time, I went in to his room, cuddled him and “shh’d” him back to sleep and put him down. I was awake for a maximum of 10 minutes each time which wasn’t too bad compared to the night before. I decided to do it by myself as I didn’t want to feel let down again and I figured Preetam also needed rest from his working week.
Sunday evening followed a similar pattern to the night before – lots of tears after Arjun’s bottles, except I felt stronger. Because the experience from the night before dictated that eventually he would be ok and I also knew that he’s going through his next round of teething so ensured I applied bonjela right after his bottle. Again, he fell asleep about 30-45 minutes later.
As you’ve probably gathered, the bedtime routine has a bit of a pattern but I’ve learnt to remain cool calm and collected and this definitely rubs off on Arjun. Before Preetam was doing bedtime routine, but since “the switch” I’ve decided to take over as I think Arjun’s separation anxiety with his dad may make it a little harder (for them both!). We’ve had a few nights where Arjun’s slept right through. It has significantly improved and I’m so pleased to say, it’s been over a week since he’s been back in his own room! I definitely feel Arjun’s getting a better nights rest and I also feel a little more human again now that my quality of sleep is better. I feel a huge sense of achievement that we were able to accomplish something that felt so far out of our reach. I miss cuddles with my little baby in bed but we let him in our bed if it’s past 5am and I still get my cuddles when he wakes.
So for those of you that feel like there’s no hope … there is! It just involves perseverance, patience and plenty of caffeine! 🙂
I don’t believe in the whole “is your baby in a routine yet where he sleeps through the night?” – my baby may sleep through the night for a night, a week maybe even a month, but guess what? till all their teeth are out, I don’t think there’s such a thing! I’ve learnt to live in the moment (sort of) and just deal with the current situation because things are constantly changing. They’re growing at a super fast rate, if it isn’t teething, it’s growing pain, if it isn’t growing pain, it’s a cold, if it isn’t a cold, it’s a bad dream! So I don’t feel bad anymore when I’m asked that question and the truth is “no, right now he’s not consistently sleeping through” because I’ve learnt it’s pretty normal and even if he is sleeping through I can’t promise it’ll be for good!
What worked for you?x