You get to the point after about 6 months or so where everything calms down a bit. You’re feeling more confident, more in control. The nappies aren’t as brutal, you aren’t as afraid about dropping them as much, they aren’t waking every 2 hours for a feed and everyday tasks are becoming a bit more manageable. This carries on and steadily improves as the mini you starts to interact, eat real food and show signs of being able to entertain themselves for short periods of time.
You may also be one of the lucky few who’s little one starts sleeping through the night. (Damn you!) There is a theory that you either have an eater or a sleeper. We have an eater, he eats a lot. I can’t understand how a small human a quarter of my size can eat so much. Up until recently he didn’t like sleeping, or like us sleeping so it would seem.
Our usual routine would be bath – change – story – milk – bed. The only way we could get him to sleep was to sit in a chair with him until he fell asleep. Then came the next step of getting up and putting him in his cot, without waking him up. Simple right? WRONG!! Here’s the usual outcome – you get all the way to the cot… all good so far… lower them in… nice and gently… thats it…. almost there…. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! BAM! Just as their head touches the mattress they wake up and you have to repeat the whole process again and again and again for a couple of hours. You have to become some kind of ninja dad (see our Ninja Training For Dads Post for help on this) or a diamond thief to really master this and get them into bed without waking them. Then 2 hours later they wake again, then again in another few hours.
Sound familiar? Yes of course it does. Nearly everyone I have spoken to has had this same issue. This is where sleep deprivation starts to hit you and make day and night tasks so much harder. It’s the hardest part of parenting I have come across so far. Fortunately there are lots of books, blogs and experts out there to help you through this difficult phase. Unfortunately they don’t all work with all babies. It’s a bit of trial and error, but with sleep deprivation it can feel like torture. We got to to the point where we thought we really had to do something. We were tired, grumpy hadn’t watch an episode of Sons of Anarchy in months and needed a solution. So here’s the bit where I pretend to be some kind of professional baby putter to sleeper.
We needed him to start settling himself off to sleep. We had tried the cry it out method, sort of, but it seemed to wind him up so much that he ended up nearly choking himself and getting into so much of a state that he couldn’t settle. We tried another approach of lying him in his cot and sitting next to him but without looking or talking to him so he would eventually get tired and go to sleep. So far it is working.
Here are some pointers:
- As you put them into the cot use the same words every night, like ‘night night’ or ‘time for sleeping’, do not use what your brain wants you to use, e.g. ‘get to sleep you little ****’ (insert favourite expletive here).
- Placing them on their side seems to work best.
- Gentle shushing, singing or rubbing their back/head can help calm them at first.
- Sit next to the cot but don’t face them.
- Don’t talk to them or look at them. You need to be as boring as possible. Smartphones are a lifesaver here, but make sure the screen contrast is low so they can’t see you looking at cats and what people had for tea on instagram.
- If they stand up and don’t settle, lie them down and repeat the process for the first step – this could take a while before the start to stay down. Eventually if they sit or stand up they will start to lie back down themselves.
- After a few nights of doing this they may stop crying and start playing in their cot, again ignore this and repeat the lying back down process if they are up for a while.
- Once they are asleep DO NOT move them even if they are in a strange position as they will wake up. You do not want this to happen. They will shuffle around in their sleep and correct their awkward position.
- If all is clear go downstairs, punch the air like you are in an 80’s adventure film and have a cup of tea and a biscuit of your choice – you’ve earned it.
This isn’t as harsh or immediate as the cry it out method so could take a couple of weeks. But even after the first 3 or 4 days we could notice an improvement. Stick to it and eventually you will be downstairs enjoying some down-time watching New Girl and sipping on your favourite celebratory tipple.
Oh, just to bring you back down to earth a little bit, this method does have its glitches. Bouts of nasty teething, colds and other night time irritants are there to spoil your sleep training and night time relaxing. Sorry. But chin up, good luck and let us know how you get on or if you have any other tips or techniques!