Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In Which the Author Witters at Length on a Variety of Subjects in Such a Fashion That it Cannot be Pithily Summerised in a Pop Culture Reference

OK, so apart from two silly posts about ducks and slang, it's been quiet around here of late.  There's a good reason for that.  It's called sleep deprivation.  (Having a child makes you understand how keeping someone awake can be a form of torture.  Child rearing should be governed by the Geneva Convention!)

You might remember me talking about this before.  Around Christmas time Alex's sleep patterns got very disturbed.  Nic and I tried a few things, some of which were more successful than others.  (Solids helped, the mobile helped, my getting up and trying to get him to sleep didn't help so much.)  Each thing that helped bought us a brief respite.  We'd go from three wake ups to two (or sometimes even one).  But Alex would gradually creep back into the habit of waking and demanding fed more and more often.  By two weeks ago he was waking five times a night.  (That's as much as when he was first born!)

Obviously this was incredibly tiring.  It was bad enough for me, (the loss of restfulness from just being awoken is remarkable), but was unbearable for Nic.  She was lucky to get six hours sleep in four broken blocks.  We were quickly approaching the living dead.  (Hell, the living dead were probably a lot more perky than us.)  Something had to be done, and it had to work.

The something we went for was controlled crying.  For those who don't know, this is leaving your child to cry at night, while checking in on them at regular intervals.  You don't pick them up.  You don't feed them.  You basically don't do anything that can be construed as rewarding crying.  You just sit there and listen to them suffer.  (I use "suffer" quite intentionally.  That's what it feels like you're doing.)

So on the 4th of April we moved Alex's cot out of our room and into the nursery.  In and of itself that was a big step.  We've always been able to hear him snuffling and huffing as he sleeps before.  Now all we would hear would be what the baby monitor transmitted to us.  (Any noise above a whisper, it transpires, including, but not limited to: dog's barking outside, Ringo meowing in the hall and whatever upstairs are watching on TV. ("Bring on the wall!"))  Still, it was going to be easier this way than trying to listen to him cry in our room.

I took the first shift.  We were following the Supernanny approach, which is: visit once when they cry, leave them for a minute.  Visit again, leave for two minutes.  Visit again, leave for five minutes.  Visit again, leave for ten minutes etc, until they stop crying of their own accord.  At ten PM Alex woke up.  I went and shushed him and then went back to the sitting room.  I was playing the Xbox in an effort to distract myself from the crying coming over the monitor.  (It worked pretty well.  The monitor distorts the sound sufficiently that it doesn't quite sound like Alex, avoiding the emotional gut punch you normally get with your baby crying.)  After about 45 minutes of crying, Alex went back to sleep.

The next wake up was at midnight.  This time it took him only 20 minutes to get back to sleep.  The 1:30AM wake up was only for five minutes.  The two Nicola dealt with in the remainder of the night were less than five minutes of crying.

The next night we put Alex down and crossed our fingers.  (Or rather Nicola did.  I was out at friends.)

He didn't wake up once.

In fact, so soundly asleep was he we had to go and check he wasn't dead!  (He wasn't, obviously.  But he had managed to turn 90 degrees in the cot and was now sleeping crushed up against the headboard totally uncovered.)  The next night, and the night after were the same.  Bliss!

We've now got to the stage where we expect a full night's sleep.  The last couple of nights he's woken up at 5:15AM or so.  This might be due to our timing of bed on Sunday (it was very early).  We're trying to break this habit before it gets started.  (He doesn't get picked up at 5:15AM, just like he didn't get picked up at 10PM.)

Nic and I are gradually catching up on lost sleep.  I wouldn't say we're quite there yet, but we're at least back in the land of the living.  Long may it continue!

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