Ahhh sleep. I honestly feel I could dedicate this whole blog to the subject of sleep and never run out of things to talk about. Don’t worry, I won’t do that, but you get my point! To put it nicely, we’ve been on a bit of a… journey with Darcie’s sleep recently. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen my daily rants on the subject over the last month or so, but up until this point I have kept it off the blog. I had this idea that I would just wait until all our problems were solved and then write a long post about it all. But the weeks keep going by, and the problems aren’t going, just changing. So I thought I would do a little update now, mainly because I just need to pen my thoughts to paper (obviously not literally, this is the 21st century duh!).
So it all began around a month ago when we went on our little Glamping mini break. While we were away, we had very kindly been provided with a travel cot to use and to be honest I naively wasn’t anticipating our trip being particularly disruptive to Darcie’s sleep. It became apparent on the first night that Darcie did not want to sleep in the travel cot. She quickly showed us that she was able to climb out of it and then proceeded to refuse to sleep until we went to bed and brought her in with us. The two nights we were away it was a lovely novelty to have three in a bed. We all got a good nights sleep and again I naively assumed that things would just go back to normal when we came home.
The first night at home was fine, she must have been exhausted and happy to be back in her cot. But that was the calm before the storm. The next day, after refusing to nap for a few minutes I heard a huge bang from upstairs and knew immediately that she had got out of the cot. Running up the stairs to find her, I couldn’t breathe, expecting to find her hurt on the floor. Instead I was greeted by an extremely smug toddler, grinning from ear to ear. She ran to the door to meet me where I just clung onto her, so grateful that she was in one piece. But this meant one thing to me now. In my mind, the cot had to go. Just because she had climbed out safely once, didn’t mean she wouldn’t hurt herself in the future and it wasn’t a risk I wanted to take.
I’d always wanted her to move into a floor bed when the time came to replace the cot and so we immediately took down the cot and bought her a new, bigger mattress to have on the floor until Dan could build her a pretty new bed. Those first few nights were horrendous. The novelty of being able to hop in and out of bed as she pleased was too much for her little brain to handle and every night I was still battling with her until 11pm just to get her to fall asleep in her bed. I had to resort to holding her hand and singing to her, things I haven’t had to do for many,many months. I felt like we had gone backwards, totally back to square one. In my post Self Soothing, No Tears I talk about how long the journey was for us to get to a point where Darcie could self soothe. It was when she was around 17 months that it just happened naturally for her and so after enjoying a couple of months of having a child who could sleep, I had lost it again. And to be honest, for a while I thought I would lose my mind as a result. All my hard work had been ruined and I felt I had been forced to take the cot away well before I had wanted to. I know that the reason this transition to a bed has been so difficult for us, is because she wasn’t ready. She doesn’t have impulse control yet so as much as she can promise me that she will stay in her bed, she doesn’t have the restraint to actually do so.
All the advice said to just leave her to it, eventually she would give in and fall asleep in her bed. But my daughter is always one to defy advice and expectation and this just didn’t work for us. She is tall enough and strong enough to open all the doors upstairs and turn on all the lights. The only way we could possibly keep her in her room would be to put a stair gate across her room but I truly believe she would find a way to get over it. And once she knows how to get over a stair gate I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night for fear of her getting over the one at the top of the stairs and seriously hurting herself on the wooden floor below. The few times we would leave her to her own devices upstairs, she would still be trashing the house at 11pm when we wanted to go to bed, so that just didn’t work for us either. This left me with one option, to sit with her until she falls asleep. To put her back into bed every time she gets out and to hold her hand, sing to her, whatever it takes to get her to go to sleep.
So this went on for weeks, and putting her to bed did gradually get easier. But in the middle of the night, every night, we would hear little footsteps and Darcie would appear, crying to get in our bed. I resisted letting this happen for a while. I would get up, take her back to bed and sit with her for anything up to an hour until she settled again. And then this would repeat a couple of hours later, and again, and again. I was surviving on around 4 hours of broken sleep each night, spending hours lying on Darcie’s floor which would be highly uncomfortable even if I wasn’t pregnant.
So slowly but surely we have been allowing her in our bed. She still goes to bed in her bed, which isn’t easy but at least allows us something of an evening together before going up to bed. And every night around midnight she comes running in, holds her arms up and I bring her into our bed. When she is in our bed, she sleeps perfectly. Sure there is a bit of kicking but basically I’m getting the best sleep I’ve had in years with her in our bed. And the amazing thing is that she is too. She’s always been a light sleeper, who wakes a lot in the night and searches for comfort, whether that be me, a dummy, or her milk. But sleeping all night next to me means she wakes up happy and well rested. Something which she isn’t particularly accustomed to.
It’s not ideal to have suddenly started co sleeping four months before we are due to have our second child, but at least we are sleeping. There will be so many people who say that this will be a rod for my back but that’s okay, they aren’t the ones who have to make this decision. At nearly six months pregnant I choose to have a full nights sleep over four hours of broken sleep. I know we will have to tackle this sleep issue in due course but for now this is what is working for us. Four months is a long time in the life of a toddler and she could easily decide that she wants her own space before the new baby comes along. My general theory with parenting has always been to support her through these phases. So, when she is clearly desperately seeking comfort in the night I am not going to force her away. My baby wants to be cuddled, and so I’m bloody well cuddling her.
We will do this so long as it works for us. Next week this could all have changed and we might be transitioning her back to her bed. Who knows! For now I’m loving waking up cuddled into my baby girl and knowing that she feels loved and comforted when she needs it. Every morning I wake up with one baby in my arms and another kicking in my tummy, I can’t see how that’s a bad thing!
I’d love to know if you have had a similar experience to mine? Please tell me there was a happily ever after eventually!