10 Reasons why I am really actually in fact honestly lucky to have been blessed with a sleep demon

  1. It gets the ageing process over more quickly. I can accept I don’t look young anymore and move on. Until I had Noah, I still on occasion got asked for ID when buying alcohol. Just before I got pregnant at the ripe old age of thirty, someone knocked at the door and asked if they could speak to my Mum (as in they didn’t think I was old enough to be the homeowner). Three years living with a sleep demon and I have wiry pure white hairs sticking up all along my parting, giving the impression that I have been given a mild electric shock. When I smile, the skin around my eyes bulges into little creases. When someone asks my age, instead of expressing surprise and claiming they thought I was five years younger, they accept it without comment.
  2. I am more knowledgeable about babies than I would have been. When I used to sit awake in the early hours, feeding Noah or just holding him because that was the only way he’d stay asleep, I read a lot of stuff on my mobile. Dr. Google kept me company. I read government health websites from several different English speaking countries. I read sites by child behaviour experts and psychologists. I read hundreds upon hundreds of posts in different forums. I read about cholic, reflux, development milestones, medications, breast-feeding, weaning, SIDS, an array of illnesses, injections, weird rashes, bowel movements, check-ups and (of course) sleep. I read things that made me panic as well as things that comforted me.
  3. I spend more time with my son than other parents because he is awake for more hours of the day (and night).
  4. I have developed the skill to sleep anywhere – sitting up, cramped in a toddler bed or lying on the floor of a cold bedroom next to a cot.
  5. I have developed the patience of a saint. Being a school teacher and dealing with a hundred teenagers every day, I thought I was a pretty patient person already. Teenagers have got nothing on Noah. Never again will I be pushed to slam my planner down on my desk and bellow “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP?!” to a room full of thirty startled faces. There is nothing like being woken up every 40 minutes to stretch your patience to new limits.
  6. I get to live more than other people. Surely my sleep will never be the same again? So even when Noah becomes normal and sleeps through the night for 12 hours every night, my body will be programmed to survive on less sleep. Think about what you can do with an extra couple of hours every day! That’s 21 hours a week, 1092 hours a year. I could learn a new language or take up crochet or study for another degree…The possibilities are endless.
  7. My husband no longer wants his own five-a-side football team. That’s right, back in our romantic heyday when we were just children ourselves, my husband (God love him) mentioned he would like no less than five children so he could have his very own little football team. Having spent the last three years with a sleep demon, he is now very adamant that he absolutely only wants one more child (eventually).
  8. If I don’t go back to teaching, I could get a job as one of those statue people in Covent Garden (the gold ones). I am adept at lying or sitting very still so the sleep demon doesn’t stir.
  9. I could write a book on child sleep. (See 101 Things I Have Done to Get Noah Asleep for evidence). I am a sleep expert who knows nothing apart from what doesn’t work or what works occasionally. But still…I have enough material for a book.
  10. I wouldn’t break under interrogation. I have heard (or maybe read in a book) that people can be tortured with sleep deprivation. If I ever happened to know any important secrets and I was kidnapped and kept in a brightly lit, noisy room, I wouldn’t crack. Oh no. No one would be getting any secrets out of me.

So these are the reasons why I am really actually in fact honestly lucky to have been blessed with a sleep demon…. But I’d still like a bit more sleep, my Noah.

Fresh faced at 30
Fresh faced at 30
34 and feeling it
34 and feeling it
The Twinkle Diaries

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101 Things I Have Done to get Noah Asleep

When I say I have tried everything to make Noah sleep, I really mean it. Here is a list of everything I can think of that we have done since he was born. There are not actually 101 things, but this sounded good as a title. If you have a child or baby who doesn’t like sleeping, maybe you will get some tips…at least tips of what not to do!

As a baby:

  1. Rocking in arms. Success was hit and miss. Mostly miss.
  2. Rocking in moses basket. Noah wasn’t a fan of this.
  3. Singing. The boy has always loved a song. His particular favourites were Rockabye Noah (where I changed the lyrics so he didn’t fall out of the tree), Amazing Grace and Make You Feel My Love.
  4. Patting. Worked if the patter was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel to persevere through all the screaming.
  5. Shushing. Worked if shusher was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel to persevere through all the screaming.
  6. Walking up and down. Worked if walker was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel etc…
  7. Swaddling. Worked until the health visitor rocked up when Noah was 10 days old and informed me she didn’t recommend swaddling as babies can get too hot. To me, too hot = risk of SIDS = no more swaddling.
  8. Breastfeeding. Noah’s particular favourite. The only method he submitted to willingly. Unfortunately, it meant me sitting up most nights just so Noah could sleep.
  9. Dummy. Before Noah was born, I was adamant he wouldn’t have a dummy. I was dummy prejudiced. By the time he was a month old we were doing anything we could to get the boy to keep a dummy in his mouth. Were we joking? Fools! Did we think the boy wouldn’t know the difference between a boob and a dummy? No dummy for Noah.
  10. Baby sleep CD. Waste of money.
  11. Pushing pram around the living room. Never worked.
  12. Take for a drive in the car. Worked 50% of the time. Unfortunately, when it didn’t work, Noah would scream his little head off relentlessly for the whole drive. I’d be a shaking wreck by the time I got home.
  13. Take for a walk. This didn’t work at first because Noah hated the carrycot bit of the pram where he was laying down flat. At three months I swapped to the upright pram and he loved it. After this, Noah would be walked for hours at a time. As soon as you stopped, his eyes would snap open. So we didn’t stop. I took him for two hour walks every weekday. My husband or dad did it at the weekend. When we went on holiday when he was 4 months old, he was pushed around the shade in a figure of eight for hours by my husband and dad.
  14. Lie on floor with hand in cot. Made him stop crying but didn’t make him sleep.
  15. Dream Swing. This was the second most successful tool in the early days. Sometimes Noah just couldn’t resist the dream swing. And sometimes he could. The main design fault of the dream swing was it had a timer on it that had a maximum length of 15 minutes. Every time I heard the music cut out, I had to leap across the room to turn it back on, otherwise Noah’s eyes wouldn’t fail to snap open. A more organised (or less sleep deprived) person would put the swing next to the sofa so she didn’t have to move in order to restart it.
  16. Slept with his bunny comforter down my top so it would smell of breast milk and hopefully substitute the real thing. I christened the bunny Booby. Booby didn’t make Noah sleep any better but he was Noah’s first friend and this friendship lasted until well after he was two. He used to take Booby to nursery with him. It had been washed several thousand times by the time he started nursery, though.
  17. Baby sleeping bag. This helped because Noah moved a lot in his sleep (still does) and this stopped him getting too cold in the night.
  18. Baby massage. When he was five weeks old, Noah and I did a baby massage course. He spent most of the hour screaming or being fed. Forget baby massage.
  19. Gave him Infacol for colic. “He screams a lot!” I informed the health visitor. “Try Infacol. It sounds like he’s got colic,” she said. He didn’t have cholic; he was just furious at us for trying to get him asleep.
  20. Moved into his own room so he couldn’t smell the breast milk. Either he could still smell it, or the memory of it was enough to keep him screaming for it all night.
  21. Harrassed the health visitor. Many a time did she come around at my urgent phone call to check Noah wasn’t ill. Once she noticed he wasn’t sleeping because he had thrush. Never be afraid to harass your health visitors.
  22. Made a contraption out of the car seat, a ball of string and a human toe. This was all my Mum. When we were all on holiday when he was four months old, my Mum would get up and take over to give me and my husband an hour’s sleep in the mornings. She’d put Noah in the car seat, attach it to her toe with a bit of string and rock him with her toe whilst she read her book.
  23. Changed bedtime. Made no difference.
  24. Changed cots. Made no difference.
  25. Stroked his face in between his eyes and down his nose. This had a calming effect and sometimes worked. It ached my arm, though.
  26. Sprinkled lavender oil around his pillow. Didn’t work.
  27. Humidifier to ease mucus in his throat. Waste of money.
  28. VICKS plug in to ease mucus in his throat. Didn’t work.
  29. Got out every book in the library about babies and sleep and read them from cover to cover. Not much of the information was helpful. The books were based on normal baby sleep problems, not sleep demons with special powers.
  30. Osteopath. This cost a fortune. It didn’t help him sleep any better but it did fix his jaw which was out of line. He’d dropped from the 75th to the 9th percentile within ten days of birth and stayed there because he wasn’t feeding efficiently. I didn’t know this until I took him to the osteopath when he was 11 weeks old. After that he rocketed back up the percentiles until he was in the 98th. He also cried a lot less. It was worth every penny.
  31. Consultation with baby behaviour expert. The time arrived when I could take no more. Noah was nine months old. My husband had reached this point months before me and we were locking horns over “crying it out”. Someone told my Mum about a baby behaviour expert who fixed his daughter’s sleep. I phoned her up and she talked a lot and lectured me about what I was doing wrong. It cost £50 for an hour’s consultation and she changed our lives dramatically. She gave me a routine. Within three nights Noah was sleeping through for 12 hours and having two daytime naps IN HIS COT. Since then, his nights have gone through good and bad phases but the daytime naps continued. It was a gift, a beautiful gift, and I cannot recommend this woman highly enough.
  32. Stuck to a rigid daytime and night time routine. See above.
  33. Sleepy Bear Sweet Dreams. This is made by VTech. It is a musical thing that straps on the cot and projects a lightshow on the ceiling. When Noah woke up in the night and started crying, it would react to his noise and start up with its singing. 80% of the time it worked and Noah went back to sleep. We took this everywhere with us for at least two years. Once we were half way to the airport and had to go back for it. But then Noah started waking up in the night and pressing it constantly driving everyone crazy including poor sleepy bear who conked out for good soon after.
  34. Didn’t talk to him when he woke up in the night. Sometimes this worked but then sometimes Noah could be soothed by our voices.
  35. Prayed he would sleep. All I can say is that the Lord works in mysterious ways…

As a toddler:

  1. Most of the above.
  2. Slithering out of the room on my tummy so the floorboards wouldn’t creek and wake him up. This might work on the fourth attempt.
  3. Gradual withdrawal method. Read about this in a book. The idea is you start off sitting by the cot when they go to sleep and then move your chair a bit further away each night until you are outside the door. Forget that.
  4. Blackout blind. This was very helpful in regards to the 5am start. Unfortunately, the windows in Noah’s room in Vienna are almost floor to ceiling. I’d need three blackout blinds and a ladder to get that room in darkness at this time of year.
  5. Get into bed with him. Made a rod for my own back here.
  6. Changed from cot to bed at 19 months. Didn’t make much difference.
  7. Put ‘friends’ in his bed. Lots and lots of stuffed animals to keep him company if he woke up at night.
  8. Took ‘friends’ out of bed as he was having incomprehensible conversations with them at 2 o’clock in the morning.
  9. Got him to go to sleep by himself. I managed this when he was sixteen months. He would cry when I left the room, but I realised that his cries weren’t always real. I would leave the room and only go back in if his cries became real. This worked for over a year until he became a threenager.
  10. Developed the crying scale: only going into the room if Noah’s cries were 7/10. This worked because he’d usually give up and go back to sleep.
  11. Stopped him eating anything containing sugar. Made no difference.
  12. Hold his hands still. This works if he submits to it, which he usually doesn’t.
  13. Read books in the middle of the night in hope it would signify sleep time. It didn’t.
  14. Drugged him with Calpol and teething powders. He frequently seemed to have a temperature of about 37.5-38 degrees. I put it down to teething. And then it carried on once he had all his teeth…
  15. Pre-empt any distractions he can think up e.g. needing a certain toy, wanting a drink. Works when I am organised.
  16. Milk before bed. He stopped having his night time drink when he was about two. He simply stopped drinking it. I tried to reintroduce it a few months later as I read it was comforting to have a hot drink before bed. Noah refused to drink it.
  17. Left his door open. Don’t do this if your sleep demon is a light sleeper.
  18. Calm down time. Noah tends to be bouncing off the walls when it’s bed time. Literally.
  19. Let him get in bed with me. He tosses and turns, kicks out, thrashes about, pokes me in the eye, puts his finger in my ear. No one gets any sleep.

As a threenager:

  1. Most of the above.
  2. Sleeping bunny light. This is a clock that tells Noah when he should be asleep and when he can get up. We tried it a few times but eventually ruled it out. It was bright enough for him to feel like he could get out of bed in the middle of the night and wander around his room.
  3. White noise app. This has an array of sounds but I used the waves for Noah. I think it helps to get him asleep but doesn’t help him stay asleep. He appeared in our doorway at 4 o’clock yesterday morning telling us the waves had woken him up. He sounded quite put out about it.
  4. Changed duvet. Made no difference.
  5. Changed pillow. Made no difference.
  6. Change dinner time. Made no difference.
  7. Tell him I am going to the toilet and never come back. Sometimes he stays awake longer if I’m there because his little brain is busy trying to stop me from leaving. Sometimes I tell him I need to go to the toilet and I’ll come back in 5 minutes to check him. Of course, I leave it at least half an hour by which time he’s soundo. This only works when he doesn’t try to come to the toilet with me.
  8. Read books in a slow and sleepy voice. This is hard when reading The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar which involves a lot of roaring.
  9. Lie across his legs so he cannot move. Works if he will submit to it.
  10. Ignore him when he cries or shouts at night. He’s very strong willed and can go on forever. Ignoring him works over a longer period of time. You have to ignore the following: “Mummy! Muuuummmmyyyy!”, “I need a drink!” (FYI he always has a beaker with him), “I’ve hurt my foot!”, “I’ve got a tummy ache!”, “I can hear a banging noise!”. Within three nights he has usually given up.
  11. Get rid of the monsters. Look under the bed, behind the curtains and in all of the cupboards to check for monsters. If you find one take it out of the room and put it in the bin.
  12. Star chart. Noah’s pretty indifferent to the star chart.
  13. Keep him in nappy at night. He’s been out of nappies during the day for almost a year. It really is time to encourage him to be dry at night too. He isn’t keen on the nappy at all. But telling him he can get up to go on the potty at night? Surely that can only end in disaster. He doesn’t need any more excuses to get up?!
  14. Threaten him with no iPad/phone/TV. This doesn’t work at the time of the threat but when it is carried out, he thinks twice about it next time.
  15. No TV after 5pm. Makes no difference.
  16. Hold my hands over his eyes to block out the sun. Doesn’t work – he thinks this is hilarious.
  17. Repeatedly put him back to bed saying only, “It’s bedtime.” This always ends in disaster. He either ends up irate or thinking it’s all a great game for us to be chasing around his room at 3 o’clock in the morning.
  18. Drop the afternoon nap. It was with deep sadness and regret that we dropped the afternoon nap just as he turned three. I am still mourning it. But it had to go. While it lasted, he wasn’t going to sleep until 9pm and still woke up at 5.
  19. Do everything in my power to keep him from falling asleep during the day. This is exhausting (and the rest of it isn’t?!) but it works. If he sleeps for fifteen minutes, that’s at least an hour later he’ll fall asleep that night.

If you can think of anything I haven’t yet tried, please let me know!

Sweet dreams, my Noah.

Good old dream swing. Note the rejected dummy on his shoulder.
Good old dream swing. Note the rejected dummy on his shoulder.

You Baby Me Mummy

The Blood Boiling Adventure of Noah Going to Sleep

Noah has fought sleep since the day that he was born. I thought newborn babies slept all day for the first few weeks of their lives. How very wrong I was about that. I used to call him Cat Nap No: his usual daytime nap was a mere 20 minutes. All the rest of the time he was wide awake, looking around, taking it all in. Nothing much has changed.

Sometimes (occasionally) Noah sleeps for 12 hours. Days when I wake up before Noah are so rare that, when they do occur, I find myself hovering outside his room to see whether I can hear his breathing through the wall. As Noah starts his bedtime routine, a little bit of dread always settles in my heart. The only thing my husband and I can predict about the experience that lays ahead of us every night, is that it will be unpredictable. It wasn’t long ago that I wrote The Endless Adventure of Bedtime. Things have changed since then…

Noah’s sleep regularly involves one of the following adventures:

  1. Waking up at 5am. He sometimes does this for weeks at a time. Then he stops. There’s nothing we can do but wait for this torture to pass.
  2. Waking up in the night for two to three hours. And he is wide awake. If we are in Vienna when he does this, we ignore him. It wakes us up, of course, because Noah is never one to not make his presence felt, but if he gets no response, these night time interludes usually pass within a few days. When we are in England it is a different matter because I am in the room with him. There is no escape.
  3. Even though he is tired out of his little life, he refuses to go to sleep.

All of last week while we were staying in England, Noah opted for adventure number 2. The first night, I was angry at him because I knew he would be like it for the whole time we were at home and I felt exhausted at the prospect of it. “Go back to sleep! If you don’t go back to sleep, you’re not watching television ALL WEEK!” I bellowed at 4am, after he had been awake for two hours. “Stop waking me up, then!” he shouted back.

Adventure 2 is hard, but it is adventure 3 that really, really gets me. It is the worst thing. When Noah refuses to go to sleep, I feel bubbles of anger rising from my stomach to my chest. These experiences have made me fully understand where the phrases “blood boiling” and “steam coming out of my ears” come from. I feel like a kettle.

After the first awful night last week where Noah and I woke everyone up by screaming at each other, my Mum told me about the White Noise app she recently discovered. It plays sounds like waves, white noise, a hair dryer, wind, a heartbeat, all sounds that are allegedly supposed to make it easier to sleep. Seeing as I have tried everything to tackle Noah’s sleep, I thought I may as well give this a try too. I believe in miracles, after all. I opted for the ocean waves. I put it on when Noah got out of the bath so it played whilst he got his pyjamas on and read his books. To my astonishment, amazement and disbelief, Noah fell asleep while we were reading books, at 6.30 with all the lights blazing! It must be the white noise app, I thought. It’s wonderful! But six days later, this dreamy bedtime experience came to an abrupt end.

On Saturday, my husband (who arrived in the UK in the early hours of the morning) took Noah out for the day whilst I had my hair cut and went out for a birthday brunch with my friends. They arrived home at bedtime and my husband then had to disappear off to work. Noah was hungry. A boiled egg was produced. He had some toys from my husband’s family which he wanted to show everyone. The bedtime routine was delayed by half an hour. As Noah was getting out of the bath, he demanded his doggy, a Dalmatian toy which he had taken to for the previous few days. I called down to my husband, just as he was walking out of the door. Then he dropped the bomb shell: the dog had been left behind at my husband’s parent’s house…

Noah went berserk. He was beside himself, doing that awful crying that children do where they stop breathing properly. I put the screaming child into my bed, gave him Becky (a rabbit I have had since I was Noah’s age – he’s usually not allowed to touch her) and started reading a book. He calmed down, stripped Becky of her new outfit which my Mum bought her at the village fete, and snuggled under my arm.

We read three books. That’s the rule. That’s always the rule. Noah’s books are getting more sophisticated and it takes a good fifteen minutes for me to read three books. But when I told him no more books and turned the lights off, Noah howled like a wounded beast. I tried cuddling him. I tried singing to him. I tried rocking him like a baby. Nothing would appease him. I thought he would cry it out, eventually tiring himself so much he would pass out. I was wrong.

Forty-five minutes later, he was still crying. I gave up. I took him downstairs. No matter how awful the bedtime routine has been, I have only ever given up on it once in the past three years, and that was when Noah was 8 months old and I had eaten an entire box of chocolates in a day. My breast milk was evidently full of sugar and Noah was bouncing off the walls.

It’s a one off, I told myself as Noah got his cars out and lined them up in a traffic jam all around the conservatory whilst watching The Hobbit, an entirely inappropriate film for a susceptible three year old to be exposed to.

But the next night, although he wasn’t crying, Noah was equally as determined not to go to sleep. Two fingers up to the white noise app. Once he was in bed, he talked to himself, sung nursery rhymes, flung over from his back to his front and back again, lay upside down on the bed with his feet dangling over the headboard, constantly bashed his beaker on the side of the bed and did many more things that were so traumatic to remember, I have probably blocked them from my memory. I didn’t want him to get into the state he was in the night before, so I spent time trying to settle him. But when he took his pyjamas off and refused to let me put them back on, I stormed out of the room. I couldn’t carry on for

one

more

minute.

He cried and called me. I left him for 20 minutes before going back in. We were both calmer. He let me put his night clothes back on and held my hand while he went to sleep. That’ll teach him, I thought with relief. He knows I’m not going to stay with him if he’s being naughty.

And then he did it all again tonight…

I have heard from other parents of sleep demons/insomniacs that their children started sleeping properly as soon as they went to school. Only another year and three months to go then. My Noah, perhaps school will do what the white noise app, the sleeping bunny light, the baby behaviour expert couldn’t do. Until then, we live in hope from day to day that tonight’s gonna be a good night…

6am. The morning after the night before. Lights on, cot dragged out of the way so I could get to the wardrobe, calling him, but he remains unconscious.
6am. The morning after the night before. Lights on, cot dragged out of the way so I could get to the wardrobe, calling him, but he remains unconscious.

My Noah and Me

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