As I checked on my almost-two-year old last night, I covered him with a very specific blanket and placed a spare soother right beside his hand. I closed the door rather than leaving it ajar as we usually do. He was wearing two-piece-pyjamas instead of a one-piece sleepsuit, and he had eaten no cheese yesterday.
This careful routine was in place for one reason only: he had slept through the night for three nights in a row and I needed to maintain conditions exactly as they had been on those three wonderful nights.
I have no idea if any of the above elements had actually contributed to our uninterrupted sleep – OK, let’s face it, it’s quite likely that none of them did. But I was taking no chances. As every parent knows, if something works, you stick with it.
Even if it’s borderline ridiculous like not giving your child cheese.
But my childminder said she had avoided giving it to him for two days in a row as she thinks it was interfering with his sleep, and he slept well those nights. So I think we can live without cheddar slices in sandwiches and parmesan on pasta for a few more days, at least until the theory is disproved.
STTN – an acronym known by users of parenting forums everywhere – sleep through the night. That elusive utopia where children and parents alike are resting uninterrupted for seven hours straight.
Suggestions and remedies are swapped by mothers in real-life and online discussions all over the country every day; give more food at tea-time so that he doesn’t wake up hungry, give less food at tea-time so that his digestive system isn’t having to work overtime while he sleeps, give him porridge for tea, feed him to sleep, don’t feed him to sleep, cut the toes out of his babygros so that his feet aren’t too hot, turn on the heating, turn off the heating, turn on the landing light, turn off the landing light, make sure he naps well during the day so that he is rested at night, don’t let him nap for too long during the day. And so it goes on. My favourite personal remedy was taking magnesium supplements* to help my baby’s restless leg syndrome – I don’t think it worked, but for a couple of really bad days, it made me feel like I was taking control.
Many of us certainly start out with unrealistic expectations of newborns – this general fixation on sleeping through the night gives new parents the false belief that their tiny babies should be sleeping better and that there’s something wrong if they’re not. That just leads to a double-the-pain situation; tiredness plus frustration and lack of self-belief; a feeling that something needs to be “fixed”, that we’re doing something wrong.
A work colleague who is due her first baby soon was talking through her worries about lack of sleep – I suggested that she assume that the baby will wake at night and go with that, rather than hoping that it won’t be the case.
I can dish it out, but when it comes to my own kids, I am not so good at taking my own advice. Then again, my baby isn’t really a baby anymore – he’s almost two. So I think it’s time that we all got some sleep.
And he STTN’d again last night. So cheese is off the menu for just a little bit longer.
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*Note that you can’t give Magnesium supplements to children under two