Monday, December 28, 2009

Good night, sweet prince, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest...

Alex has never been a tremendous sleeper. He has only slept through the night possibly three times in the last twelve months. Compared to other babies, though, I wouldn't consider him a problem sleeper. Until recently.

Up until three weeks ago, I felt like we had hit our stride. Alex was having two good naps during the day, settling himself to sleep at night at about seven pm, waking at eleven for a quick breastfeed, and then sleeping through until about seven am. It was fantastic. And then, all of a sudden, he stopped settling himself to sleep at night. He has been waking and refusing to go back to sleep for hours on end. Waking up at four-thirty or five am, and staying awake.

It's not just waking though. When he wakes, he screams hysterically. After he is picked up, he will generally fall asleep, but will wake up and resume screaming as soon as he is returned to his cot. We have also developed the technique of gently tickling or stroking his tummy or back and singing Christmas carols. This sometimes works, but more often than not, he wakes as soon as you leave the room.

I can only hope this is a phase. A phase that disappears very, very soon.

There is nothing worse than having your child scream and cry and refuse to sleep, and having no solution to deal with the situation. In today's society, we're used to the "quick fix". There is, however, no magic solution to your baby not sleeping properly. There is no switch you can flick. And quite often, when you do find something that works, within a week, it stops working and you have to find something new.

It's frustrating, exhausting, debilitating. It is incredibly confronting to be in your child's room at two in the morning, and fighting the temptation to throw them out the window. Anyone who has spent hours, sleep deprived, with a baby who just won't stop crying, and who won't sleep, could tell you that they begin to understand how someone could shake a baby. Sometimes you just need to put your baby down screaming, leave the room, get a drink, and give yourself a break before you go back.

A lot of mothers, particularly those who are successful in their career, find the sleep issue difficult. When they're used to being able to control what happens in their world, succeeding at everything they try, and then all of a sudden, this little person doesn't do "what they're supposed to". This can be really hard to deal with for some mums. And dads. It's almost as if you've failed.

I remember joking with Kel a few weeks ago that I needed to return my little one. His sleep function is faulty. Surely there's some kind of warranty for defects?

All I can take from this, though, is that it's a reminder that this little baby is a little person, and they will do what they want to do, and sleep when they want to sleep, and you cannot control that. It's a reminder of how amazing it is that not that long ago, this little individual was nothing more than biology, and now they have their own personality.

There has to be some positive that comes from sleep deprivation...

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