On nights when the husband is working late, I find myself putting two boys to bed. The littlest is easy – come 8pm, I nurse him and he dozes off pretty fast. Meanwhile, the three-year-old is sprawled next to me, watching videos on YouTube Kids (pretty much the only time he is allowed to do so!).
Once the baby is fast asleep, we tiptoe out of the bedroom and head into Aidan’s room. Once there, he would pull out his favourite Lego bricks and start fiddling with them. Like the other night, which was just like most nights.
“Build me a school bus, mummy,” he said as his fingers work furiously to pull apart pieces.
“Okay,” I replied as I started putting the bricks together.
He watched for a split second before exclaiming, “No! Not like that! I want a big bus.”
“I’m building a big bus,” I said.
“No! I show you, I show you.” (Three-year-olds are SOOOOOO bossy.)
We played for a while and then it was almost 9pm. Time to switch off the lights and go to bed. But of course my little man was not keen to sleep. He asked to read a book and I agreed. We cuddled up in bed, him nestled in the crook of my arm, and read a book together. It was his Disney magazine that night, which papa had bought for him when they went to the petrol kiosk together.
A few pages in, it was time to sleep. He jumped up and went to the light switch.
“One! Two! Three!” he shouted gleefully before turning off the lights. Then he bounced right back to bed and we had the most delightful conversation about everything and nothing.
“Goodnight mama,” he said.
I smiled in the darkness. “Goodnight…prata!”
He giggled. “No! Say my name.”
“Goodnight boo boo, I love you,” I said.
“Goodnight Aidan,” he replied. “Now you say your name.”
I laughed and said, “Goodnight mama.”
I laid on my side and he snuggled up with his back against me. I could hear his breaths slowing down, gradually. He was finally drifting off to sleep.
And then from the darkness, his little voice piped out breathily, “I love you.”
And this is why I still put the boys to bed every night. Sure, it goes against all the common expert advice, which tells us to tuck our kids into bed and then leave them in the bedroom to fall asleep by themselves. Sure it takes up a lot of time, time that I can use for myself.
I tried, though. Right before Zac was born, I thought I really ought to sleep train Aidan so that I can have one less thing to worry about. I couldn’t go through it though.
And now I am pretty glad that I did not. Because I wouldn’t get the chance to cuddle and snuggle up to them, and kiss them silly. I wouldn’t be able to sniff at their little noggins and inhale in their baby scents. I wouldn’t be able to tell them that I love them, and have them say (or show, in Zac’s case) it back to me in their own ways and times. I wouldn’t be able to watch as their breaths deepen, as they flit off into dreamland. I wouldn’t be able to brush their hair away from their sweet faces, kiss them on their bouncy cheeks, and whisper, “goodnight darling, I love you” as they dream.
The days are long but the years are short – I keep that in mind, always.
When Aidan was born, I had a lot of ideas regarding sleep. Specifically, I had a lot of ideas regarding sleep based on parenting books.
He should go to sleep drowsy but awake. He should not be nursed to sleep. He should nap x hours a day. He should go to bed by 730pm. He should have x hours of overnight sleep. He should not have bad sleep associations. He should learn to self-soothe. He should not co-sleep and learn to sleep by himself.
I tried, as much as I could, to foster these so-called “healthy sleep habits” in him. But no matter what I did, he just did not sleep through the night and ended up in our bed. Some nights were good, in that he only woke up twice. Some nights were plain awful and I was up every 90 minutes or so. Some mornings I would wake up in a foul mood, slamming doors and feeling like I wanted to run away and not be shackled to the sleep of my little one. There was also a nagging question of whether I had (or had not) done something to cause his bad sleep.
At almost three, he is still not sleeping through the night.
Elliott sleeps beside me on his own cot. This allows us to reclaim our own bed space without the fear of rolling over him, yet allows me to reach him easily for the night feeds. For the longest time, he will wake in the middle of the night for feeds. On good nights, he’d wake 2-3 times. On bad ones, he can be up every other hour. This translates to me being completely exhausted from the broken sleep the night before. Having to think and speak coherently the following day at work becomes a challenging feat. I also noticed that during these night feeds, or nibbles, as I call them, he wouldn’t really drink. What he really does is to suckle for 2-3 minutes, then roll over and fall back to sleep with a contented sigh. Yes, he actually sighed a couple of times. It got me wondering if he was actually hungry or just nursing out of comfort and habit.
After a couple of particularly bad nights when I woke up with a throbbing headache with brain function at -10%, I told myself that this night nibbling business needs to be cut down. He’s already 10 month old and according to baby literature, he should not be hungry if he is given a full milk feed before bedtime.
The husband and I came up with a plan. Or rather, I came up with the plan and he was to assist in carrying it out.
Elliott goes to bed at about 9pm. Usually. Of course, there are nights when he is jumpy and bouncy till midnight and his parents fall asleep before him but never mind that. So yes, usual bedtime is 8.30-9pm-ish. He is usually nursed to sleep and he remains asleep till close to midnight/1am. The husband will then give him a dream feed via milk bottle of about 30ml. He used to give more (60-90ml) but Elliott would take forever to drink it and usually would fall back asleep before he even reaches the 30ml mark. So yes, so as not to waste milk, we now only give him 30ml.
This is where the night weaning attempt starts.
There really is no other way to say this but with utter honesty: my almost three-year-old is NOT sleeping through the night.
I know, I know. Cue shock and horror and pitying glances. Don’t worry, I’m rather used to this by now. Pretty much everyone who knows that the toddler doesn’t STTN reacts this way and then tells me that every other child would have slept through the night by XYZ months/years.
Once upon a time, I was obsessed with his sleep. When he would only catnap during the day, I panicked, thinking that I had done something wrong. When he went into a sleep regression and never came out of it, I despaired at the notion of waking up 2, 3, 8 times a night.
I tried everything. We had a pretty solid bedtime routine of bath-books-nurse-lights out since he was two months old. I even switched the order around so that he wouldn’t be nursed to sleep because the experts said I was creating a poor sleep association. We put him in his cot. With a white noise machine. With curtains that cut out light. Earlier bedtime. Night weaning. With air-con. With fan. In the cot. On a floor bed. On a single bed. We really tried everything, EVERYTHING.
Well, nothing worked.
GIVEAWAY AND DISCOUNT CODE!
You know those pictures of calm, peaceful sleeping babies that we see ever so often in advertorials? They’re usually asleep on a pretty pillow, covered by an equally pretty blanket, surrounded by a collection of cute fluffy toys in a colour-coordinated nursery. I have since learnt that real life is a bit different. Well, A LOT DIFFERENT, really! For one, pillows aren’t really recommended for very young infants, especially when they haven’t learnt how to turn their heads on their own as they are at risk of suffocation. The same goes for blankets and toys.
Now that Elliott is capable of turning and flipping on his own (which poses new challenges such as rolling off the bed but that’s a story for another day), I was on the lookout for a good quality and safe pillow. He is a sweaty little guy so it had to be of a breathable material. Of course, it had to be soft and most important of all, safe.
The Sofzsleep baby donut pillow fits all of the above criteria as it is made of 100% latex with an open cell structure and millions of miniscule interconnected microcells. It supports baby’s head and neck in a natural spinal alignment and reduces pressure points by adjusting itself as the child moves throughout the night. The latex used has been certified by international institutes for its non-toxic, hypoallergenic and dust mite free attributes. The pillow also comes with a natural bamboo cover that has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.