Even before I became pregnant I knew that sleepless nights came with having a baby, it wasn’t something that I really gave much thought about, I just knew I would be up at night feeding my newborn baby.
When Alice arrived I was breastfeeding her and therefore all night feeds were done by me and I was ok with that. My nights would be spent feeding Alice and browsing the internet, buying things at 2am and then forgetting I had done it until the parcel arrived…there were a lot of parcels, oops!
After about two months of very regular night feeds, we got into a pattern, I would dream feed Alice at 10.30pm, what a great concept this is, it was my favourite feed of the day. Then she would go through to 5am and then I would give her a feed and back to sleep she went until 8am.
I actually really liked this pattern, and I didn’t feel sleep deprived. Then on Boxing day night, when Alice was four months old, she went through the night. There are lots of different interpretations of ‘sleeping through the night’, this is mine…Alice would have a feed at 7pm, I would dream feed her at 10.30pm and she would sleep until 7am/7.30am.
I didn’t do anything to make this happen, she just dropped the 5am feed and would wake up slightly earlier in the morning. This became our normal and yes, there were nights where she would randomly wake up and we would be walking around the house with her trying anything to get her back to sleep. But, generally we didn’t hear from her.
Alice loved to sleep, before she could talk, she would point at the stairs asking to go for her nap or to bed at night. She just knew when she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. I know I was lucky!
This was her sleep pattern until she was 2 years and nine months old and then everything changed…
By now, our little Holly had arrived, she was nine months old at this point and had never slept through the night. Holly would wake up once, have a quick feed and go back to sleep. It was manageable and I didn’t feel too sleep deprived with it.
So, what changed? Alice started waking up at night and would come looking for me and she did this more than once a night and she did it every night.
Why? I don’t know for sure because that is the thing with children sometimes you just never understand why things are happening. I believe it’s because we went away on a short break and at bedtime Alice was a bit unsure about being on her own to go to sleep and she asked me to sit with her. Which of course I did, what mother wouldn’t sit with their child if they were a bit scared in a new environment.
Alice went to sleep within minutes and it didn’t feel like a big thing, I did this for the three nights we were away.
When we returned home Alice asked me to sit with her like I had on holiday, we were all tired and I just did it, without thinking it through. Looking back now, I probably should have said that she didn’t need mummy now we were back in her lovely safe bedroom…but hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Then every time Alice would disturb during the night, which everyone naturally does, she would see that I was not sat there and would come and find me, asking me to sit in her room. This would happen about three or four times a night, every night.
I was also getting up at least once with Holly and I was exhausted, I have not felt tiredness like it before. Some nights I was lucky if I got two or three hours of broken sleep and most nights I was so exhausted that I would fall asleep on Alice’s floor. I even hid a little blanket under her bed, so I wouldn’t get cold.
During these months I really struggled, I was exhausted every day and had my two girls to look after every day. I used to just exist, I wasn’t living. I would crawl over the line every Friday night, knowing that I could have a bit of lie in at the weekend when Andy was home. I felt like I was running on empty most of the time.
I got into a pattern of once I had fed Holly, the next time Alice woke up, I would just go and sleep on her floor because at least then I was getting some sleep. This did nothing for my back and I would be in pain a lot of the time.
The lack of sleep really changed how I was as a mummy, I had such little energy, that I was not doing things that we normally love to do, like baking with Alice. Before we would go out in the morning and in the afternoon, but now I could only manage to go out in the mornings and would just flop in the afternoons and let the girls play around me.
I became ‘shouty mum’, something that I had never been before, I had very little patience and I just felt on a short fuse all the time.
Waking up so many times in the night, was affecting Alice too, her temperament was different and she too was not full of energy. Together we were not a good combination.
I would spend hours pouring over the internet looking for ways to make this all stop and to get Alice back to sleeping all night long. But there is no magical answer, no quick fix.
We brought a Gro Clock, but that would work for one night and then not again. We tried leaving her door open and the bathroom light on, again that worked for three nights….yes three nights in a row and then not again.
My best week of sleep, was when we went on holiday because Alice had twin beds in her room and on the first occasion she would wake up, I would go and lie on the other bed and fall asleep. She would then sleep for the rest the night, but as much as it is tempting to put a spare bed in Alice’s room, I know that isn’t the answer.
Some days, when it hasn’t been too bad that night, I think it won’t last forever it’s just a phase and I’m sure it will stop at some point. Then on other days, when I am so tired I can barely stay awake, I would shout at Andy ‘we can’t go on like this’.
I know that me siting by her bed, was probably the reason for it, and that I needed to stop doing it, to see if it made a difference and if Alice was our only child I probably would have done it sooner. But because I didn’t know how Alice would react and I didn’t want her to wake up Holly, I carried on with the easy option or at least the quieter option.
But, the time came where I thought I have to try and stop this. We planned it when Andy had a couple of days off work, just in case the whole house was up all night!
I told Alice a few times during the day, that mummy was no longer going to sit by her bed, but I would sit outside her door. She seemed to accept this and even told daddy what was going to happened when he came home from work.
It all went very smoothly, I put Alice to bed and left the room, to sit outside. She went off to sleep, but getting her to sleep has never been a problem. She would always go straight off and we normally wouldn’t hear from her until after midnight, that was when the fun times started!
I was hoping that with me being outside the door, when she woke up during the night, she wouldn’t be expecting to see me there anymore and would just roll over and go back to sleep. How wrong was I, she would get out of bed to check I was still sat outside and when I wasn’t there she would cry for me to come back.
Luckily by now Holly was going through the night, so that was one less wake up. But, there was no sign of things getting better with Alice.
We carried on like this for a few more months, we managed to get her to stop crying out for me, so that Holly wasn’t woken up and instead she would come and look for me in my bedroom.
Sometimes I wish she would just curl up in my bed and go to sleep, but she has never wanted to get in our bed and she would scream as a baby if we even went near it. Which in a way, I guess is a good thing as otherwise that would be my next problem, getting her to sleep in her own bed!
It has got better, I very rarely spend hours sat on our landing wishing Alice to sleep, like I used to. But she does still wake up every night and I have to take her back to bed. The worst nights, are when she wakes at 4am and she can’t get back off to sleep, those days are not pretty.
As we are approaching nearly a year of Alice waking up every night, it doesn’t feel like a phase, but I still go to bed every night hoping that the phase has ended.
But then I hear the tiny sound of her feet coming and I know it hasn’t…
I know it won’t last forever and I am getting more sleep than I was, so I am less shouty mummy. But, for now this is our life and it’s tough.