Read Time: This is a longie but worth it – 7 mins or so.
OBB: 4 (newest member to the kitty) – Sleep Tactic: “The Zuma to our Gupta”
Mother of: 1 | Age: 2
We’re one child in and have what you would categorise as a good sleeper, amazing in fact. She started out as a cluster feeding newborn from hell but after those first three months of apocalyptic exhaustion, she settled into being a great sleeper and napper (even once sleeping through our burglar alarm going off but then so does our dog).
For those of you who haven’t already thrown your phone across the room in disgust, I know that there is every chance the next one will be feral or this one will turn feral when the next one arrives one day or that the sleep gods will smite me for daring to put this in writing but, well, this is where we are right now.
We have had patches where she hasn’t slept well (teething you evolutionary fail you) but have managed to get her back on track and here’s how we did it (oh sleep voodoo please spare me).
We decided on a routine and stuck to it from the get go. And you have to be on the same page as your husband with this, don’t let those little buggers divide and conquer. Put your game face on and decide what the rules are before the toddler even starts their warm up.
Now none of it is military level, it’s just so she understands that there are certain steps and they lead in sequence to that holy grail that is bedtime (cue angels singing, personal space, being able to put things on the coffee table…) We also explain to her what step is happening next as we’re going so she’s prepared. Toddlers like to think they’re part of the process and making consequential decisions but really they’re just the Zuma to our Gupta.
First it’s supper followed by a bath because, as you could tell from her cluster feeding roots, she doesn’t mind some grub and it usually winds up all over her. Then it’s pjs, brush teeth etc followed by a story which she gets to pick (see Gupta reference). Then it’s good night kisses and bed. We have a little music machine that we put on so she knows when she hears the music that means it’s time to sleep (thanks Pavlov). Then we walk out. And she sleeps. And we lie on the couch enjoying the sanctity of Peppa Pig-free adult time. Nothing makes you love your kids more than when they’re sleeping.
Bedtime is usually between 6.30 and 7 and she wakes up between 5.30 and 6. And no, putting her to bed later does not make her sleep later. Scientists should be working on that.
If she does fight it or cry or get out of bed, we just go in (calmly, like serial killer level calm – seriously, they smell fear) explain to her that it’s time to sleep and put her back into bed. And that’s it.
Consistent routine works for us but even as I type it I realise it sounds like one of those things parents say just before they’re hit by the 5 ton truck that is the terrible twos or the arrival of a sibling. I’m only playing in the first half here so hold the oranges…
OBB: 2 – Sleep Tactic: “White lies! All white lies.”
Mother of: 2 | Ages: 2 and 3 | Age Gap: 13 months
My first born was literally sent from the heavens; the clouds opened up and dropped a small angel into my arms. She has slept through from 4 months old and, to this day, nearly 3 years old, I can literally say I can count the number of bad nights she has given us, on my hands! Yes, yes … I hear you … “eff off mother with zero problems!” but hear me out …
She set the bar so high and made our other babies who followed, look like such assholes. I 100% stuck to the steps of our OBB4 (*Oh Baby Boss 4 – newest member) above and sailed through the nights, waking up fresh and feeling calm – much to my friends’ disgust. I kept on thinking at some stage this would all change as it was waaay too good to be true! Not even teething made this mamba-sleeper wake up in the night – bliss, pure bliss.
And then the second rat came along! She also kicked off on the good foot and I followed the steps above. Things were going well until … dun dun dun … TEETH. The devil of all that is child-raising.
I was then faced with a “normal sleeper”. Suddenly, my opinion on sleep took a beating and I had to change tactic: –
When it comes to sleeping just do what works and try not over analyse things too much. Don’t fear a future full of kids still sleeping in your bed at 15 years old or worrying about the effects of a dummy making your child’s teeth look like a muscle cracker. Don’t stress about over loving them to get them to kip or, the extreme, letting them cry it out. Hells bell girlfriend, do what you need to do to get that kid to sleep!
Everything is a phase with parenting, nothing is permanent. Just when you think you have it waxed those suckers will mix it up and you’ll be back to square one so try not over analyse.
I am now at the stage where my two rats are kipping in the same room. I must admit I put them there from quite early on against my husband’s wishes. He was of the opinion that they should sleep separately until they were older. I couldn’t admit it to him then and, don’t judge me for this one now, but I was kind of hoping that the angel first born would do some of the leg work for me in the night; maybe help a brother out and put a dummy in once in a while to get ol’knobby-no-sleep sleep trained.
It kinda paid off … when I can actually get them contained and settled in their room.
I heard them the other night chatting away and left them to their own devices because I was so stuck into the series I was watching. Eventually I thought, “No ways, these buggers have been chatting for far too long now”. I marched in there like a matron. A potent combo of Vicks and baby powder hit the ol’nostrils. Fearing the worst, I switched on the light. Holy smokes, the entire room, top to bottom, head to toe, was COVERED!
Luckily for our children, my sister and I were brought up in a home of dealing with most things with a sense of humour, so I laughed hard, lined them up, got out the vacuum cleaner and suctioned their beds, linen, hair and pjs, wiped down the walls and tossed them back into their beds.
So here is my advice for kids that fight going to sleep …
You know we were brought up to feel like dickheads if you told a lie?! Well, I have to believe in the exception to every rule and this is how I use this one. A little false sense of hope on a few more minutes of being awake, should have you back on the couch, watching series and sipping on vino in no time.
Just as you are about to get asked for one more back tickle, one more story, one more nursery rhyme – gooi this tactic at them.
- The key is to tell an Exception White Lie (EWL) with conviction. Don’t EVER forget that these little bastards can sense fear so confidence is the name of the game.
- Give them some options on what you may be returning with. Toddlers love to feel like they are in charge.
Then for the EWL:
- “Cool night, night you guys. Can I call Dad for you to come and scratch your back?”.
- Daddy ain’t coming girlfriends – he is busy drinking a beer and catching up on cricket.
- “Would you guys like a bottle?”.
- Leave the room and go make yourself some tea.
- “I’m going to call Dad now to read you guys another story”.
- Moonwalk outta there and go put your feet up.
It is a win win; you go and relax at the end of the day and they fall asleep waiting for something awesome.
OBB: 1 – Sleep Tactic: “I say f*ck it”
Mother of: 2 | Age: 2 and 3 months old | Gap: 20 months
Oh my sack, as per my previous blog with my shitstorm of a sleeper all of a sudden (the 2 year old), I am of the opinion that children are relentless so lower your expectations and this, in itself, becomes one of the best sleep tactics you get.
Kids sense when they are unwanted and being hurried into doing something that, in their minds, is completely unreasonable. On that note, it TOTALLY pisses me off that we have to try and convince these things to sleep. What the actual F. That should be built in to their systems; end of the day comes … whoop there it is … off button … she be gone … night night child of mine whom I love and adore and sometimes could easily strangle and smile about it.
So the added pressure to my panda eye balls and blurry vision (from no sleep) is my little newborn. I have decided not to over complicate this one. He sleeps when he is tired, he sleeps in noise and he goes places. I bundle him up in the car seat and whip him off to socialise. Some nights he wakes once and I feed him, love him, change him, stick him back in his bed. Some nights he wakes up every two hours and seriously I just roll with it and try and fill the need e.g. Are you hungry bugger? Have a boob!
I know this doesn’t really sound like much of a sleep tactic but hear me out; with two kids I have realised that the acceptance of the lack of sleep makes your lighties that much more enjoyable. When you are lurking in their room like a bad smell at 2am just accept that they are waking up because something isn’t hundreds and the more you fight it, and resent it even, the more they feel that rashy, needy urge to want to destroy your life.
** If you are at the boobing stage, midnight feeds are the hardest but if you put your back into a little bit longer and they get that extra bit of a top up, it will save you having to wake up sooner.
I’ve tried it with my toddler, the tactic not the boobing, and she has got a gazillion times better, waking up once every third night or so. When it comes to bedtime, I don’t rush her, I just start the bedtime routine earlier. Bad genes … she suffers from FOMO like her mother so an earlier start gives her a sense of ‘burning the midnight oil’ and you get her into bed at a reasonable hour. When she calls in the night, I leave my bed saying “oh for f*%k sakes” and by the time I get to her I have taken a couple of breathes and it’s all “yes my baby, I’m all yours”. So far so good, the sleep struggle has definitely lessened.
Maybe we shouldn’t have ended with mine … maybe pop up to the top and read that section again and stop reading when you get to “I say f*ck it!” or when you have a bad night and you are up … think of me, take a few breathes, smile at your offspring and whisper “God help you if you are a dick tomorrow because this is love of the highest degree!”.
Sleep be with you.
The things you think are kiff to do with a toddler but end up as a total f*%k up. Watch this space – it is coming seriously soon and trust us … the list is loooooong. Break out the baby wipes.
A friend of ours sent us a brilliant book “Go the F*%k to Sleep” by Adams Mansbach. Read it. You will love it!
Pre-baby we had a dip at it and killed ourselves laughing. Post-birth we found ourselves saying the catchphrase on such a regular basis that it starts to become part of your everyday chitchat. It is like the cheerful “good morning” when you greet your friends and family but only through your teeth, at your child who just wants to jol over normal sleep hours.
Karma is an absolute bitch that bites you in the ass with genetics. If it hasn’t hit you yet … it is coming for you!
Just when you thought you could never experience more rage then what a button-pushing-sibling brings on … you go and have a child. My sister and I once had the biggest, and most embarrassing, fight on the planet, in a campsite to make matters that much classier. It was such a ‘badie’ that our mom had to just pretend we didn’t belong to her.
Once described by a school photographer as the sister that clearly “ate all the cupcakes at home”, I knew I had no chance when I made a run it for it from my younger, athletic machine sister. I had just made it to cover to seek asylum, when she rugby tackled me into the center of a neighbouring tent. My only defense was a fly kick to the ribs, run like hell and just scream “mooooooooom”! Did I mention I was already 17yrs old … blind!
So take that kind of rugby-tackling, fly-kicking, survival-screaming kind of feeling and roll it all into a small explosive package called “My kid just won’t sleep”. It is a combo of terror (will this ever end), pain (I can’t physically pin it down every night), exhaustion (and more exhaustion) and frustration (the teeth-grinding kind).
You soon realise as a parent that when you strip away all the challenges you face with a newborn (wind, boobing, formula, poonamies), your biggest is yet to come … SLEEP! It is your ultimate goal because it is something you can’t function without. It also has a serious knock on effect; your patience dies, you lose your personality and your partner takes the heat for it, which causes them to lose their personalities. And as we limp around like the Walking Dead, we often say, “if your kids weren’t cute … they would be tickets!”.
Our family hit a serious luck with all our babies. There was the odd night where we would be walking up and down the passage shaking the child like a cocktail mix, in the hope that it would sleep. Only to remember that 20 minutes prior, it could have done with a nappy change and been dusted earlier but now you have wound it up so much that it is completely over stimulated.
** Side note: NEVER underestimate the power of a nappy change – it sneaks up on you and sometimes even trumps the dreaded ‘wind’. Read about all this shizzle in our next blog.
Most of our babies were seriously great sleepers and I never really fully empathised with the Walking Dead squad of moms whose rats still hadn’t slept through the night after 10 months… until 3 months ago.
4 weeks to go before our second born arrived, obviously our child decided it would be a great time to dust the camp cot, hit her big girl bed and just never sleep again because now she would be free from the physical constraints of the mozzie net and pen of neglect (camp cot). HOLY EFF … did we shit off.
It screamed, we screamed, it cried, we cried, it called out “mooooooooom”, we called out “heeeeeelp”! I smacked, we over loved it, we left it, we went to it, we ignored it, we rocked it, we shook it, we pinned it down, we gave it a bottle! F*$K … go the f*&k to sleep … tag team with the hubby … he gave it stern words, he smacked it, he hovered at the foot of the bed … shorter period of patience … tag team me back in.
Oh and then of course every blog you read, the highlights package is “don’t blady lie with it! Let it know who is boss”. Don’t lie with it?! … we would never! More so in fear of smothering it in frustration but shit did we fight the urge because lying with it takes 10 minutes while fighting the shitstorm of the free world adds years onto your face like Magda from Something About Mary.
Well, our rat took us down to Chinatown. She showed us who was boss for the first 3 weeks. We nearly lost our minds. I ran out of physical strength eventually, with 2 weeks to popping, and just had to hit the bench and offer moral support; “Hubster; you are stronger than it, you can take it down, good game on Saturday, good luck out there, tight lines!”.
4 weeks into the darkest patch of life, and minutes to the due date, my hubby hit a 20 minute record with putting our girl child down and it was; the light at the end of the tunnel, the quarter slice of orange during a school hockey match, the perfect soft boiled egg.
We hadn’t won yet but shit did it give us renewed faith in the long battle of getting our perfect sleeper back into the game. We even went as far as taking our child to have her ears checked (which incidentally is a good idea anyway) in the hope that it was something we were missing and not her just being a pure asshole about sleeping. With her ears in hundred percent working order (a mix of emotions knowing it wasn’t something to be cleared up with our good old Empaped suppositories), we just had to ‘vys byt’.
What we do want to insist on if you fall into the category of zombie moms and your child is beating you into submission, is that you put your heads down and find a tactic that works and go great guns with. The fix is definitely not over night but the repetition is the trick. Don’t change tactic too many times within a 5 day period, let the game plan sink in with your competitor and if you find you still aren’t winning then try something new for the next 5 nights. Stay friends with your partner at all times and do the 20 minute tag-in so that you don’t lose your cool. As soon as you turn feral, they know they have you and the game is over. Creepy calm and stern voices also seem to terrify them to sleep too.
Oh how we feel for you sleepless mammas. We want to hold you, cuddle and swaddle you and tell you that it will all be ok, all while we pat you repetitively on the back, and it will be ok … “in 13 years when your children go to boarding school”, says our 87 year old gran.
Be mentally and physically stronger than them and just remember while you hover in the dark, grinding your teeth and whispering over and over again “shush shush … sleeeeeeep my baby (in a sweet but creepy calm voice and then under your breathe “you little mother f ….”)” – we are 100% with you and somewhere in a dark room on the verge of losing your shizzle, we will be thinking about the countless mumsecutors in the same boat who have sacrificed wombs for these little assholes and all they can do is fight the best and most natural thing in the world (sleep – in case I had lost you at this point) … we are 100% with you!
We are also working on a list of some solid tactics for you to try with your non-sleeper so we will post this as soon as we get a chance this week or the next.