Gabe is 22 and a half months old, and I don’t want to shout to loudly about it, but his sleep seems to finally be improving. In fact as I write this he has slept all night, in his own bed, until at least 6:30 am for four nights in a row! Unfortunately he didn’t make it to five nights but this is very much new territory for Gabe. Everyone expects a lot of sleepless nights when they have a new baby, but when that baby gets to 6, 12, then 18 months old and they still aren’t sleeping it gets harder and harder, so how do you cope if your toddler doesn’t sleep?
I’m going to start this post by saying I only have one piece of advice to give you, and I pretty much guarantee it will work. It may not be the advice that you want to hear but after having two babies who became toddlers who didn’t sleep it is the only thing I know that will help. Read more
We’ve all seen those signs on the motorway, warning of the dangers of driving when tired, but what if you’ve only had four hours sleep because your son was up half the night and you’re already late for work because he had a tantrum when you had to get him dressed this morning. I would love to take a break, but who is going to take over while I do that?
Toby is now almost 17 months old and I can count on one hand the number of times he’s slept through the night since I went back to work full time and he started nursery in August. What’s so frustrating is knowing that he can sleep the whole night. When he was about 10 weeks old and he started sleeping from 7pm to 8am (or later!) every night I have to admit I was one of those smug parents who was getting a full night’s sleep every single night. That carried on for about two months, until Toby had his last set of immunisations. He also caught a cold the same night and was awake on and off all night. Not long after that he started teething and since then it’s just been one thing after another. If he’s not teething he’s got a cold, or is going through a growth spurt, or learning to roll, or crawl, or stand up, or walk. I’m convinced that if we could actually have a night where there was nothing wrong with him then he would sleep just fine. But since this time last year we have never been able to say with any reliability whether he will sleep through or not. Occasionally he does, or quite often we just have one wake up and after a bottle Toby will go back to sleep. Those nights aren’t too bad but there are plenty of other nights where he can be awake two, three or four times, sometimes taking ages to stop crying and calm down enough to go back to sleep. We’ve even resorted to bringing him into our bed if he won’t settle but even that doesn’t always work (although at least nobody is crying!)
The other major disturbance to night time sleep is of course day time sleep – or lack of it. Toby’s naps at nursery are erratic at best. He still really needs two naps a day, and they do try at nursery but too often we pick him up to find he’s slept for less than an hour in the morning and has been awake since. This then makes for a very grumpy hour before bed and a very increased likelihood of waking up again within a couple of hours of going to sleep. I really don’t know what the answer to this is – he definitely still needs those naps. Last weekend at home he napped for nearly three hours in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon on Saturday and did the same again on Sunday. He can sleep at nursery if he wants to – when he was ill with a cold the other week he had a three hour nap there too. They have a separate sleep room and he’s usually there on his own. He has his sleeping bag and his teddy from home… other than being there myself I don’t know what else I can do.
The thing is I could cope with the sleepless nights when I was at home all day and I didn’t really have to do anything except look after Toby. If we’d had a really bad night I could have a nap myself when he was sleeping. But now, I try and go to bed early but there are some nights that I need to wind down, to eat dinner, to speak to my husband and I need more than two hours after Toby is in bed to do that. Then I have to get up at 6am (which is usually more like 6:15am) to get Toby to nursery at 7am so I can drive the 25 miles to work. Then I teach all day and have to drive the 25 miles home again, in the dark, on roads packed with thousands of other people. And that commute scares me every day. I am so tired I struggle to keep my eyes open; my reactions are definitely slower than they should be. And it’s not just me, how many other people on the road are sleep-deprived too? I reckon I’ll be incredibly lucky if I make it through the year at this school without having some sort of accident on the road. Because tiredness can kill. But I’m a parent and don’t get to take a break.
I first published this post on my other blog We Must Be Bold on 5th September. I know copying it over here is cheating a bit but it seemed relevant to what I’m starting with Toby Goes Bananas so I decided it was allowed! I haven’t edited the post at all, so here it is…
…So, since last time I wrote our baby boy arrived in the world and unbelievably he is already 8 weeks old! In a way it’s flown by but equally it’s hard to remember what life was like before he turned up. He’s amazing and he makes me smile every day but they weren’t kidding when they said being a parent is hard. Looking after a newborn baby is singularly the hardest, most frustrating and stressful thing I have ever done. I think I have probably cried more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 8 years. I might have read a dozen parenting books, gone to all the antenatal classes and listened to advice from everyone who gave it but nothing prepared me for the sleep deprivation, the worry (What’s wrong with him? Am I doing it right? Why is breastfeeding so bloody painful?) and sheer amount of effort that a newborn baby needs. The health visitor said to me the other day ‘everyone loves their baby but it can take a while before you actually like them’ and I reckon she’s right. Apart from looking at his beautiful face and wondering how we managed to create this tiny, perfect human there is very little reward in looking after a new baby. You feed them, change them, hold them, sing to them, rock them, feed them and change them some more, and in the beginning the best you can hope for is a baby that isn’t crying! But already our little one is starting to smile, starting to really look at you when you’re talking to him or feeding him and it’s starting to feel like a real relationship. I can’t wait to see him continue to grow and develop and turn into a wonderful, walking, talking little boy.
Which sort of brings me to the point of this blog. Watching a baby grow and develop is amazing – I’m so proud of my little boy when he does something new, or just looks particularly cute, and I want a record of that. So I take pictures and I post them online with little updates about today’s progress. I do this for me and for my husband but also for our baby’s grandparents who all live over 300 miles away and don’t get to see him that often. And I admit it’s also just to show off a bit to all my friends – ‘look at this tiny human that we made, isn’t he amazing!’. But I’ve seen a few different people mention recently that there is perhaps something wrong with filling the Internet with photos and information about our children – are we robbing them of the option of privacy in the future? I do think a bit about what I’m doing when I post yet another photo online…but while our little one is still a baby I don’t think I’m really doing any harm. I don’t think I would be bothered if there were baby photos of me online – photos of my dodgy perm and massive glasses when I was 13 might be a different matter and by the time my son gets to that I’d age I’d like to think I’ll give him the final say about what, if anything, I post about him on the Internet. There’s no question that this issue is something we should consider in this new digital age – it certainly isn’t something our parents had to think about. But are we creating a massive problem for the future privacy of our children? I’m not sure…