Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Still tired after all these months

Back in the day, you know, B.L., when I used to think being tired was that feeling that hit you around 4pm on a workday, I remember reading that the average new parent lost out on around 800 hours of sleep during that first year of their baby's life. I have a feeling I've blogged this fact before, but to be honest, everything gets a bit hazy after more than a year of sleepless nights. I do, however, recall a sinking feeling of dread at the prospect of all those sleepless nights. And days. 

But thinking about the past 16 or so months, as I was while putting Louis to bed the other night, I started calculating another, far more pertinent figure. I wanted to know how many hours I'd spent actually trying to get him to sleep since he was born. I'm talking about all that time spent rocking, singing, swaying, pushing (the buggy), nursing, nursing, nursing, praying, crying, nursing, walking, nursing, patting, singing, nursing.... You get the drift. 

So, I totted it all up, pretty conservatively I might add, and I reckon I've spent the equivalent of two months trying to persuade Louis either to nap or sleep. Yup, two months. Give or take a day or two. If that sounds unlikely, consider that this is a child who even as a newborn, when most babies apparently sleep an average of 20 hours in every 24, he was getting by with barely 12 to 14. Not for want of my trying, I might add. 

Fast forward 16 months and Louis's (non)-sleeping habits still dominate most of my days - and nights. Every now and then, there's a glimmer of hope that things might be improving. Like tonight, when he miraculously fell asleep about 10 minutes after I switched off the light. But that's forgetting about last Friday, when he had me practically begging him to shut his eyes after he spent a good two-hour stretch of the early hours awake. 

The reason I'm writing about sleep - again - is because I thought I'd link to a piece I wrote recently in the Independent about our travails. It may not have yielded the answer, but writing it was pretty cathartic. I mention it mainly for all the great comments and tips that readers posted at the end of the piece just in case they might come in handy for anyone in my boat. And if they don't, then let me just add one more observation that I received in a letter from a very kind reader. Even non-sleeping toddlers grow up eventually. And that time passes quicker than you might think. Even at 4am. 


danyulo said...

OMG...2months!!! (I am scared to calculate Yoppy's case, so well done Susie for bravely finding this out!) This is one of the biggest reasons I still breastfeed in bed to make Yoppy sleep quicker. But because of that, I am the only one in the whole world who can get her to go to sleep...mmm

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I've got one of those no sleeping ones too. Luke is coming up to 3 and still isn't great (but definitely a lot better than before he was 2). I think I've just got used to not having any sleep. I do find the nights when I get a really good stretch leads to grumpy days after. I think my body remembers what it is missing. My husband is convinced that means I must always get up early with the kids leaving him to lie in.

I guess one day we'll miss these days (and nights). But, I'm now in the zone of trying to keep him awake all day with no nap, so have switched from trying to get him to sleep to trying to keep him awake. I never thought the day would come!

Iota said...

I had a non-sleeper, and in the end, we developed a routine whereby he would go to bed ok, and then I would get into his bed instead of my own when it was my bedtime. That way, everyone got a good night's sleep. (He had a 3/4 bed, not a usual single one, and he was in it soon after his 1st birthday.)

Then when he was 2 and a half, and I was expecting our third so had to get it sorted out, we were going to stay with my mum, and I explained that the rules in Grandma's house were different, and that everyone had to sleep in their own bed. That did the trick.

My 3rd baby was a dream sleeper, if that is any encouragement to you. My 1st was bad until we did controlled crying at 7 months and that involved two nights only, and each time he cried for 15 mins and then slept through. I wouldn't write off controlled crying. Looking back, we felt that he had probably suffered many hours of slight misery from being over-tired (all that grumbling while being rocked, pushed, etc etc), which totalled up to a whole lot more than the few hours that controlled crying normally involves. It feels a lot worse to us as parents, because it is full volume instead of low grade grumbling, and because we feel we are witholding love and tenderness. I'm not sure it feels like that to them though. Who knows? When you add up all the hours (as you have done), it does begin to seem not such a bad alternative.

I agree with the person who wrote to you. They do grow up. You just have to muddle through as best you can, and go to bed ridiculously early yourself. Sleep is worth trading evenings for, I reckon.

Iota said...

Sorry, have just looked back at a previous post you did. I see I suggested the early bedtime for yourself thing there too, and you said it didn't work for you. Sorry. Horrid to have the same duff advice twice! It's just that it was such a breakthrough for me when I twigged it.

The other thing we did, was that my husband slept in the spare room during the week. His payment for that was that he took the 2 boys out on a Saturday afternoon, and I went to bed and had the most delicious long nap to catch up. I used to look forward to it.

Babies who brunch said...

iota - the fact that you've written the same advice twice means that i should find something different to write about!! early nights would be so sensible, but i'm just not that wise. sadly.

b-in-b - i SO agree about feeling worse when you have managed to snatch the odd extra hour. it's a killer! and so unfair!!

and sonoko - for i know it is you and not danyulo who wrote that - for that reason i too am afraid to stop nursing louis during the night!!

thanks for your comments. it's always such a comfort to feel that you're not the only one struggling!!