What to do if your child does not sleep?
1) If you haven’t already done so, take up drinking.
No, no, don’t do that. The morning hangover cannot be more pleasant when it’s middle of the night hangover. Or several times a night hangover.
2) Take sleeping pills. Or give some to your kid.
No, no, don’t do that either. That shit is addictive.3) Hail an Uber and leave your partner to deal with that screaming angel of yours and never turn back.
Don’t do that either. What if the Uber driver is a psycho killer?
This should be a universal fact that babies do not sleep like a baby. We have all heard of the nightmarish stories of colicky newborns, screaming for hours on end, bewildered parents running around like headless chickens and just a whole lot of exhaustion all around. We were the blessed parents who experienced this for a full two years.
If you are a new mom with a less than 3 month old baby and in the throes of sleepless nights, close your eyes and ears; you don’t want to know how this could go down.
The first time my daughter slept through the night was after her 2nd birthday. Or it’s possible that I started sleeping through the night and haven’t realized yet that she still wakes up four times in between. While she was a fairly normal newborn and woke up every 3 hours for a feed, after she hit the 4 month mark, she decided this closing her eyes and tuning out of the world thing wasn’t for her.
(She’s now three and recently when my mom was trying to put her to sleep and asked her if she wanted to nap, her response was, “No I don’t want to waste my time on sleeping”. I suspect this is how she has felt since birth).
The. Child. Just. Would. Not. Go. The. Eff. To. Sleep.
The following were the things people advised us to do, and we in our infinite desperation, tried every single one of them, bless our soul:
1) Put her to sleep earlier
2) Put her to sleep later
3) Give her more milk/formula before bedtime
4) Have a bed time routine including bath, massage, bottle, reading time, rocking, nursery rhymes, white noise and then inevitably passing out stone cold next to her as she sat there sticking her fingers up our nose.
5) Put her to sleep in her crib in her room, put her to sleep in our bed, move her crib into our room, move our sleeping arrangements into her room
6) Put her to sleep in the car and then move her to her crib (this was always a heart breaking bitch. She would pass out in the car and gently settle into a sweet slumber and the moment would take her out of the car seat, she would be wide awake, recharged, and ready for another three hours of fun)
7) Wean her off the night time feeds and give her a pacifier instead. This just meant that instead of waking up screaming for a bottle, she now woke up screaming for a pacifier. At least half a dozen times a night.
8) Put 5-6 pacifiers in her crib. This didn’t work as she decided that finding one of the 5-6 pacifiers was too much effort, she’d rather wait for us to come give it to her. By the time we would get to her, she would be wide awake, recharged etc etc.
9) Give her an extra snack right before bed time (by this time she’s 18 months)
10) Give her a snack well in advance of bed time so as to avoid any tummy aches and nightmares
11) Play soothing spa music. I did this only once because after I left her in the room with the music playing on my phone, I heard the music changing through the baby monitor, went into her room to find her sitting on her bed, surfing through the playlist.
12) Take her to the doctor (he just mocked us)
13) Let her scream it out (our neighbor showed up at our door at 3 am)
14) Get her tested for allergies (negative)
15) Read every freaking blog online on children’s sleep issues
16) Give her homeopathic medication to soothe her the eff down (on my mother’s recommendation). That worked amazingly for about 4 days and I was happy, so happy, like the happiest I had been since my wedding day. I saw God in the homeopathic doctor. I treated the little white pills he had given us like the last McDonald’s fry in the bag. That is till my child reverted to her old evil self on day 5.
17) Just let her stay awake till she runs out of gas and drops to the floor herself. This didn’t work. We were up till 2 am and then we couldn’t stay up anymore.
18) Curl into a ball and cry into my knees when my alarm went off at 6 am for work after I had stayed up with the child from 1 am to 4 am. This did actually happen.
19) Every time I saw a mom on the street with a sleeping toddler in her arms, I would go up to her, eyes all wide (think “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black) and ask her, “How’d you do dat?”
20) Take half a dozen books I owned on children’s sleep issues, tear them apart, start a bonfire in my living room and then dance around it like a crazy person.
When a colleague suggested that I have a second kid because ‘You know you are already awake with the first one’, I wanted to call in the employee help line and report her for discrimination, harassment and for touching me inappropriately.
My husband and I don’t remember much of those first two years. It was all a haze. We were in survival mode. I once brushed my teeth with lotion instead of toothpaste. My husband ate a tuna sandwich without actually putting the tuna stuffing (which I had packed separately for his lunch) between the pieces of bread. My coworkers looked at me like I was dying of a terminal illness.
In any case, eventually there was light at the end of the sleepless tunnel. And the solution was as unique as our child.
You are supposed to wean your child off of nightly feedings when they can live without food at night. We began weaning her off at five months, but she had such a strong personality (read: ability to scream her head off with an unbelievable stamina) that no matter which method (ferberizing or no-tears, gradual weaning, switching to water instead of milk) and no matter how long we tried, she would still wake up for the damn thing. She would stay awake for hours at end if we refused her the bottle and eventually our resolve would melt, because you know we had to go to work and stay alive.
After months of trying and failing, just before her 2nd birthday, we decided enough was enough. But what had changed by now was that she could talk. An intelligent, strong-headed child who just needs to be explained things for her to accept them. She can’t be disciplined; she needs to be reasoned with. So we explained to her that our friend’s new baby needed her bottle, and she was a big girl now so she didn’t need it anyways. Then we decided to go for it. I gave my neighbor a heads up and a gift from Bodyshop. My husband and I tightened our belts and turned on the coffee machine. “Eye of the Tiger” played in the background. And this time it took only 5 nights. On the 6th morning, I woke up to my body being well rested and promptly dropped to the ground, praising the heavens.
She’s still a light sleeper and announcing “It’s bed time!” any point in the day makes her break out in a cold sweat. It takes her hours to fall asleep at times. She wakes up at the lightest disturbance and never, ever, passes out anywhere no matter how late it is. But at least she sleeps at night now. So in conclusion, what works for one kid doesn’t work for another. Use online resources, books and other moms as a means to educate yourself, but determine your own solution. And don’t be a Bottle-Betsy like me. Whatever habit you introduce to your child for your own convenience is guaranteed to be a pain in your behind when you try to get them off of it.