It’s safe to say that when I was pregnant with our first child I was expecting a bit of sleep disruption.
Yes, there’d be sleepless nights but it would be manageable, I thought. After all, I was the kind of person who was up by 7am at weekends. I’d always been a morning person. It would be fine. And babies slept through at around six months, right?
Then I had a child and realised that the sleep deprivation thing was so much harder than I imagined. There was the day when an all-night feeding frenzy meant I had an hour’s sleep. That day is burned into my brain. It was so hard to function that I wanted to weep.
Our son woke at least five times a night until he was 17 months. I was exhausted and it felt as though I’d never get a good night’s sleep again. He’d also get up at 5.30am every day, something he still does at the age of five.
But then, as though by magic, he grew out of the frequent night waking. By two he was sleeping through pretty consistently and I felt human again. There were a few months of disruption when he moved from a cot to a bed but then he settled down.
When it came to having our daughter eight months later, I felt more equipped with what to expect. And although the early weeks were incredibly hard and exhausting, by 10 weeks she learned to suck her thumb and started to sleep through.
A baby who slept! Suddenly I realised why I’d get odd looks from other parents when I said our son was not sleeping because our daughter did it as if by magic.
And, until a few months ago, we’d rarely hear anything from her when she’d gone to sleep at night. I’m not going to lie – it was awesome. Having been through months of sleep deprivation with our son, I was very aware of how lucky we were.
Then, the dreaded thing happened. She learned to escape her cot. We had no choice to put her into a toddler bed instead. I worried it would disturb her sleep.
The early days were tough. We spent hours every evening sitting by her bedroom door and ferrying her back to her bed.
After a few weeks, I cracked and insisted on putting a stairgate on her bedroom door. That way she could play safely in her room without roaming around.
It worked a treat. Until she figured out how to climb over the stairgate and how to remove it from her bedroom door.
So we’re now a fortnight in to very late bedtimes. On a good night she’s sleeping by 9.15pm, on a bad night it’s 10.20pm. I usually crash out not long after.
And she’s still up bright and early each morning.
We’ve tried putting her back to bed and trying to get her to fall asleep in ours. We have tried reward charts, new night lights and bedtime stories. We have tried taking her for a walk in her pram too.
Our latest approach is to bring her back downstairs after bath time and try to carry on with our evening as normally as we can. It meant she was watching Eurovision with us until 9.45pm last night.
Two weeks in, we’re exhausted. We look after her in shifts to make sure we each have a little bit of time to do what we want such as go to the gym, but we don’t get much down time together while we’re contending with this.
So, fellow parents of non-sleepers, you have my upmost sympathy.
And if you have any bright ideas for techniques and tactics to break this habit, I’d love to hear from you!