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.

* * *

*Note that you can’t give Magnesium supplements to children under two

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19 thoughts on “STTN”

  1. Great post and here’s wishing you ALL STTN tonight! I reckon both of mine were 2 by the time they ‘reliably’ slept through the night – and at 2.5y and 4.5y they still sometimes need a middle of the night bum rub. All very normal – though very tiring! X

    1. Thanks Helen! Yes I think “reliably” is the key word – getting to your own bedtime without that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach where you wonder how many hours you’ll get…. but sure we’ll miss these days when they’re all over!

  2. I’m still waiting for our almost 4.5 yr old to STTN 🙁 In fairness, we’re down to a middle of the night wee and not a half hour wailing and bawling fest which was the case up until a few months ago. I lived for the STTN stage. Lived for it! It’s a mythical land where everyone looks great and no-one is sarky. Where they don’t go around biting the heads off other people. Narnia in fact.

    1. Yes it is a mythical land! We used to live there many years ago but none of us knew to appreciate it. I remember being annoyed by a neighbour doing building work at 8am before we had kids – that’d be a lovely lie-in now….here’s wishing sleepy dust for your 4.5 year old tonight

  3. Oh I do that too- I pedantically replicate the exact conditions that lead to the last blissful night’s sleep. I too have an almost 2 year old and it’s only recently we’re experiencing this STTN. Long may it last (hope I haven’t spoken too soon)

    1. Long may it last for all of us Becca! I think two is a magic number for sleeping for a lot of kids (says she continuing to slightly make things up)

  4. We are in exactly the same boat! Our 3yo has only just started STTN. I am superstitiously putting an extra blanket over her duvet every night thinking that this is the key. TBH I just think she found her parents’ bed too much of a tight squeeze. Our 4yo on the other hand has STTN since she was 12 weeks old, and no I couldn’t tell you what the secret was there either. In any case long may it continue!

    1. And then you wonder if you’ll ever brave not putting on that extra blanket – take no chances I say! We had a cheesey pasta sauce tonight so if my little guy wakes up, I’ll definitely have him totally off cheese again.

  5. My 8 month old STIN for about a month and then.. the teething started. Now we’re back up to 4 wakings a night. I hate teeth. Teeth are evil and mean. Even so.. we totally have the ritual that has become like a sacred rite at bedtime. I think we all do it. 😉
    meeshie recently posted…Thanksgiving Challenge – CompleteMy Profile

    1. oh Meeshie four wakings a night – that’s hard. I hope it passes soon. Keep going with any ritual at bedtime that works even a tiny bit – if nothing else, it’s a sense of pretend-control. Teeth grrr

  6. Well done! Great that you’ve found something that might keep working! I suppose my concern was to get the kids in a routine and teach them to be able to go back to sleep with very little help at night if they did wake. Which I’m afraid still happens 21 years later, but that’s largely the fault of special needs. Stumbling down to your child’s room in the middle of the night to sort out their problem is never so bad if you can be confident that you can be fast asleep in your own bed again minutes later 🙂
    Looking for blue sky recently posted…Worrying about power outages as a strike is threatenedMy Profile

    1. yes – I think if you know that it will only be a short wakening it’s manageable – it’s when it could be hours that you just want to cry!

  7. I’m so with you on the sacred rituals. I’ve got my baby nephew staying this weekend and he slept through till 6.30 this morning – much better than at home. So if all else fails, maybe entreat a kind sister / mate to have him for a night. Then again, obviously you’ll sleep through anyway cos he won’t be there! Unless, of course, the spiteful fingers of maternal guilt come and give you a shake in the night, like they always do me if I dare to have a night away! Good luck for this being the start of a new era.

    1. So true Jess – nothing like the phantom cry of a baby that you hear when you’re miles away in a hotel and supposed to be having a “rest” – that and being awake from 6am for absolutely no reason 🙂

  8. Oh God STTN! What is that! For me Sleeping through the night and sleeping through the night IN THEIR OWN BED are worlds apart!! I’m still working on the keeping my 4.5 year old and 2 year old on staying in their own beds all night – when both come in sleep is poor……I am well familiar with the quality of sleep in both their beds as I head for the hills and some sleep in their beds!!

    1. And I don’t know if it’s the same in your house Lucy, but I find in my house if there are one or more children in the bed with us, my sleep quality is indeed poor but my husband doesn’t notice at all!

  9. My kids are 9,8 and 4 and the STTN is still a fairly illusive concept. I completely understand what you mean about if it works don’t change a thing! Our biggest problem is probably the 8yo as he is a very restless sleeper when he arrives in our bed (most nights) but as he has an allergy to dust mites it is hard to be too strict. Still we live in hope ;0)
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    1. That’s a good point – it is hard to be strict sometimes especially if you’re worried that there is something really wrong as opposed to someone who woke up and just felt like a chat!

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