01 02 03 The Princess and The Pickle: Sleep Is For Girls! 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Sleep Is For Girls!


The night The Princess was born she was an absolute angel.  She woke once in the night, I fed her, changed her, put her back down and she went straight back to sleep, right through a thunder storm in fact.  I, of course, got no sleep that night whatsoever as I couldn’t take my eyes off my beautiful little girl.  I remember drinking a cup of tea and flicking through a magazine at 4am, still wide awake while my baby was fast asleep!   

She continued to sleep well and at around 8 weeks old we moved her into her own room and she was sleeping right through the night.  We never had problems getting her to nap in the daytime, we would put her in her cot and she’d happily drift off.  On a few occasions she didn’t even make it as far as the cot – she was halfway through tearing up an Argos catalogue once when she fell asleep on top of it! 

The same goes for bedtime, she’s always had a very good bedtime routine (apart from the time we went to a friend’s wedding when she was three and arrived home in the early hours of the morning… The Princess then decided she would rather bang her head against the floor in a tantrum than go to sleep, but I don’t blame her, I was so tired I felt like doing the same!)  Nowadays she’ll happily clean her teeth and get her PJs on at 7.30pm, then read a book in bed for ten minutes til we go up to say goodnight.  She’s always fast asleep by 8pm.

The Pickle, on the other hand, is oh so different.  He doesn’t believe in sleep, it’s just not his cup of tea.  From the night he was born, whenever I attempted to put him into his cot he would scream.  Not cry.  Scream.  All night.  He would only sleep cuddled up with me in bed.  So again, I got no sleep whatsoever, but not through choice this time.  This continued when we arrived home.  Of course when he was newborn all I wanted to do was pick him straight back up and cuddle him, which is exactly what I did.  They are babies for such a short time and soon grow out of cuddles, so I treasured those moments.  

Therefore, it may be partly my own fault (Ok, maybe more than partly) that now he is nearly a year old we still have difficulty getting him to sleep.  He’s never fallen asleep while playing with his toys, or on the playmat (even the old Argos catalogue didn’t do the trick!) and we’ve always resorted to rocking him and singing to him if he didn’t fall asleep while drinking his milk (yes, he still has a bottle at almost a year old, I know he shouldn’t but he does.  He refuses to drink milk from a beaker.  Water and juice from a beaker is fine, but milk just does not belong in there.  But I’ll save that story for another day…)

He does fall asleep after half an hour or so of constant motion in the carseat, but, as most babies do, wakes up the second the motion stops.  We have often resorted to going out for a long drive at weekends just to get him off to sleep for half an hour.  I don’t drive (there are many reasons for this, the main one being I am incapable of even steering the buggy in a straight line never mind a car) so this isn’t possible when Hubby’s at work.  Plus I hate to think how much money we’d be spending on petrol!  I should mention here that I’m not lazy, I do take him out in the buggy but it just doesn’t have the same effect as the car – he’s too busy looking around and pointing at cats, dogs, trees, to even consider going to sleep and missing anything!

It wasn’t until he was 10 months old that he started to dislike being rocked to sleep – fighting it and pushing away from us.  We knew we had to try to get him to settle himself to sleep. 

I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts recently about Controlled Crying.  Some people swear by it while others think it is cruel and nasty to leave a baby crying.  I’ve never been a fan of the idea myself and whenever I’ve attempted to leave The Pickle crying in his cot, after only a couple of minutes he has started to scream, gag and make himself sick.  Not pleasant for any of us, especially him.  However, when you have a baby (actually almost a toddler) who refuses to go to sleep unless he’s rocked and cuddled, then suddenly one day refuses to be rocked and cuddled – what on earth do you do?

I needed to do something about this, not only for my own sanity (and my poor back, which is completely knackered even before the age of 30!) but for The Pickle’s own good.  If he isn’t settling himself to sleep at a year old when is he going to learn the skills he needs to do this and will he have sleep problems as a child, or even as an adult, because of it?

So off we headed down the Controlled Crying track…..

Daytime naps.

Controlled Crying is a technique where you put baby down, leave the room, then come back in 5 minutes if they are still crying, quietly comfort them without picking them up, then leave again.  You then increase the time to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and so on until baby is asleep.  I chose not to do it this way with The Pickle as I knew he would gag and make himself sick.  Instead I decided to stay in the room with him, right next to his cot, so he knew I was there.  However, I closed my eyes in the hope he would realise it was ‘sleepy time’ and I didn’t talk or sing to him. 

The first day was horrible.  It really was.  65 minutes and two fresh cot sheets later he was asleep (he had made himself sick, but the health professionals and everything I had read had told me to ignore this, just clean it up and try again).  I felt drained and emotional, although probably nowhere near as drained and emotional as The Pickle felt.  But I knew he needed to sleep and that if I gave in and picked him up he would expect this every time and all that crying would have been for nothing.  I also felt better that I wasn’t leaving him to cry by himself, I was right there next to him.  He slept for an hour and a half then woke up happy and smiling.  Thank God he didn’t hate me!

The following day took 40 minutes, he cried but it was nowhere near as bad as day one.  By the third day he was settling himself to sleep with NO CRYING WHATSOEVER!  Hooray! 

I am continuing to stay in the room with him, but now that he is happily going to sleep when I put him down, I am sitting further away from the cot, by the door and when he falls asleep I leave.  Starting tomorrow I am going to try leaving the room before he is asleep and see if it works (fingers crossed he wont even notice I’m not there!)


Bedtime is a whole different ballgame.  I know I should be consistent and do the same as I do for his daytime naps.  That, however, is easier said than done.  The Pickle acts very differently at night time.  He leads a double life as a Gremlin.  It’s true!  We have given in to his screaming at night time and picked him up, firstly because leaving him to scream upsets The Princess and disturbs her sleep, and secondly, he gets more wound up at night than he ever did in the day.  I don’t know if this is because he’s simply overtired or if he doesn’t like the dark.  That said, if he wakes in the middle of the night (although 90% of the time he’ll sleep through), I will feed him and put him back down and he’ll usually go back to sleep no problems.  Strange boy!

I’d rather not get him into the habit of having a night light.  If we went away for a few days and forgot to take it with us we’d be in big trouble!  And if he gets used to going to sleep with a light on, it’s just another habit I’ll need to get him out of at some point in the future.  We do leave the hallway light on at the top of the stairs, as we always have done, so The Princess can see where she’s going if she needs the toilet in the night.  So the room is not completely dark anyway.

The Pickle is still sleeping in our room.  We have a two bedroom house and until he is able to settle himself to sleep at night and sleep through we feel it is unfair on The Princess to share her room (even though she’d love to share!) as she has to get up for school in the mornings and have had sufficient sleep to be able to concentrate in her lessons. 

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve given The Pickle his milk, then put him down on our bed (with one of us right next to him in case he decides to make a run for the edge!) and after some fidgeting, sitting up, rolling round, etc, he will generally fall asleep.  Then we put him into the cot when he’s asleep.  At the moment this is working for us, but I know we can’t keep doing this forever.

I know he has developed the skills he needs to be able to settle himself now that he does it every day for his nap.  So although he doesn’t know it yet, he is capable of doing this at night too.  I have no doubt that Controlled Crying would work at bedtime if we stuck with it but it is such a hard thing to see your baby screaming for you and having to ignore their cries.  It may take another couple of horrible nights of crying but I do feel this may be our only option now, unless we want him to fall asleep on our bed every night for the next however many years (this is not going to happen!)

I know that the Controlled Crying experts would probably tell me I’m doing it all wrong and those who don’t agree with letting a baby cry at all would also tell me I’m doing it wrong… But I’m doing it my way and this is the best way for me and what feels like the best way for my little boy.

I will keep you posted on our progress….

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