I’ve decided to write a book about sleep training. It’s clearly all the rage or at the very least it drives people into a rage and it’s bound to sell more copies than the other book I’m writing.
I’m going to call my sleep training book “Failing Asleep”. I think that sounds catchy and clever, but then I am profoundly sleep deprived, so right now the Bunnings advertisement sounds catchy and clever.
We sleep trained our first three children reasonably successfully, using everything from Tracy-The Baby Whisperer-Hogg to Gina-The Baby Fascist-Ford. We shush patted and we swaddled as directed, although I could not quite bring myself to “eat one slice of wholemeal toast and express from your left breast for 8.9 minutes at 6:53am”. Tracy and Gina, you know who I’m talking to.
Of course, our children’s sleep routines and self-settling abilities seemed fragile. The children would fall out of the routine as soon as they were sick, we went on holidays or the wind changed direction. So we often had to retrain our children to self-settle.
In 2010, we had our fourth child only 18 months after our third child, and you would think we were experienced parents who could confidently teach a baby to self-settle. As experienced parents all I can confidently say is that we consistently make the same mistakes.
And so we found ourselves after a year of chronic sleep deprivation, in need of remedial sleep training (for us as well as the baby). Too exhausted to do it ourselves, we treated ourselves in desperation to a sleep coach (or Sleep Magician, as she was called by our friends who recommended her).
After 3 days of intensive training, she left us with our child being exactly where he was 3 days before. We were poorer and perhaps worse than that, all hope of sleep had been taken away.
I have no doubt that sleep trainers work, I’ve seen it and it is nothing short of miraculous. But our sleep training did not work on our last baby. Our baby appears to be untrainable, unbreakable and untameable – pick any word you want. I’m going with unbreakable because it makes me feel he’s going to be a superhero when he grows up, and who wouldn’t want that?
When our sleep trainer left, she gave me a big hug, a bigger invoice and a detailed sleep programme which we followed faithfully, consistently and desperately for months.
Months and months and months.
Finally, we stopped. We conceded defeat. We resoundingly and completely capitulated to a greater force.
And now, when I wake up in the morning, I inhale the intoxicating aroma of milky morning breath and night sweat. My husband’s eyes smile brightly at me and I like to watch the three dimples that dance on the face next to mine. My sleeping companion puts his hands on my face and kisses me slowly. It’s the sweetest thing. My companion of course is not my husband, It hasn’t been my husband for several months; poor Husband has moved into the spare bedroom and I am co-sleeping with our fourth and final child.
It’s not ideal for any of us, I know that. But it’s significantly less stressful for us than shush patting for hours, controlled crying, controlled comforting, comfort settling or crying uncontrollably outside the nursery door.
Tonight I will kiss my husband goodnight and good bye, and then I get into bed with a little 2 year old boy with pink lips and three dimples. Defeat never tasted so sweet.