What is {sleep}?

Last week I started attempting to get my 4 year old twin boys and 1 year old little girl into better sleep habits and promised on my Instagram stories I would share our story here on the blog 🙂

Background

As you would expect we had many a sleepless night with the twins from the extreme of trying to stay awake all night for fear of squashing them as we quickly realised they would only sleep on us at night to one twin sleeping through whilst the other had us up 2-4 times a night.  Fun times. From around 9 weeks old we started a bedtime routine {mostly to attempt some sanity} and routine quickly my main coping mechanism. We had rules and we stuck to them. For example, once they were in their room for the night they would not come out {until they’d been asleep and may then come into our room at some point in the night}.  By 12 weeks we had a pretty good routine. But babies, and therefore routines, change.  

{Noah and Oliver at 5 weeks old}

Noo first slept through the night (7pm-7am) at 12 weeks old and Ollie wasn’t far behind.  They were very different in that Noah liked to be cuddled and Ollie was best left alone. The more you fussed him the worse he’d be.  By 6 months they had dropped night feeds {which looking back I’m not actually sure they were ready to do….} and would sleep through more often, but hardly ever at the same time.  They didn’t sleep through consistently until their last molars had cut just shy of their third birthday.  

By then I was pregnant with Penny.  By half way through my pregnancy I was suffering from hip pain and leg cramps {put a bar of soap in your bed – it works!} and was really struggling to sleep.  By the time I was heavily pregnant we were in the middle of a heatwave which quite frankly was unbearable. By bedtime my energy was wiped and I felt heavy and uncomfortable.  I started to let the boys watch Paw Patrol in the PJs on the end of my bed whilst I lay down and rested/dozed next to my fan. This was the start of our bedtime troubles. But at the same time it was all I could do to cope at the time.  What I didn’t envisage was this would then continue for the next 12 months.

{catching 40 winks}

A new baby

I would describe Penny as a “good sleeper” from the start in that she’d wake, she’d feed and she’d go back to sleep.  And that’s the routine we got into. Wake, feed, sleep.  

Then from ~2 weeks old she started showing signs of what was later diagnosed as Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy {CMPA}.  Symptoms of which included colic {aka long periods of persistent crying}. Anyone who has had a baby with colic knows the extent this can push both your mental and physical limits {when you know you know}.  With Mr H back at work {as a Head Chef} and P screaming {yes, screaming} from ~5:30pm for sometimes up to 6 or 8 hours straight the boys’ bedtime once again got hugely disrupted as I attempted to sort everyone out, keep my own head and struggle with my mental health.  It was, simply put, about survival. It wasn’t until P was diagnosed with CMPA and I cut dairy out of my diet that the colic started to improve and bedtimes became somewhat manageable again.

{Little Miss Pitstop}

Then came the excuses.  It’s Christmas, it’s the boys’ birthday, daddy’s home, we’re going away for a couple of nights and before we knew it the boys had pretty much no bedtime routine and were staying awake regularly until gone 9:30pm.  P was still feeding around the clock, including anything from 1-4 times a night and I was EXHAUSTED. As you can imagine this was starting to take its toll on everyone. I put on weight, felt tired, stressed and irritable all the time, again started struggling with my mental health and felt like a failure as all the plans and ideas I had {including for this blog} never got any attention or completion.  The boys’ behaviour was becoming more and more challenging and {at times} unacceptable and they were grumpy and irritable but then also hyper and overtired come the evenings. This meant we’d regularly clash. P was going through a nap transition from 2 to 1 naps which meant her sleep was more disrupted that usual, plus cutting teeth, growth spurt and whatever else was going on!  

A new routine 

Enough was enough.  The boys would be starting schools soon, P was now 1 and I was about to embark in a new endeavour.  Sleep was desperately needed. I felt like the time was right to see if P would drop night feeds {go maternal instinct!}  I knew, for us, a consistent bedtime routine was needed. There would of course need to be some flexibility but rules needed to be in place and expectations understood.

This is what I planned to do:

4:45:    Dinner followed by play/tidy up no tv}

5:45:    P Bath {if she was having one}

6:00:    P out of bath, boys into bath {if they were having one}. P pjs, sleeping bag, feed and bed

6:20:     Boys out of bath and into pjs

6:30:    Boys into their room for stories, milk and snack

6:45:    Brush teeth and last wees

6:50:    10 mins quiet play/talking/books/chatting about our day 

7:00:    Cuddles and lights out {emergency wees if needed!}

7:30:    Asleep {in theory!}

I felt they needed to start everything earlier in an attempt not to get to that hyper stage.  I wanted them to know that bedtime meant preparing for sleep and not extended playtime. I also knew that I needed to spend dedicated time with them and not use the fact they’re playing nicely or watching tv be an opportunity for me to get stuff, which could wait until they were in bed, done.  

As for P’s night feeds I planned to not rush to her when she woke at night.  I’d let her whinge but not “cry – cry” {if that makes sense}. I would then attempt to comfort her without a feed.  I turned the volume off on her video monitor but kept our doors open, thinking I then wouldn’t wake to every noise she made.

{Butter wouldn’t melt. when she’s sleeping}

Day 1

I was working from home and all 3 kids were at my mum and dad’s so I had a lunchtime nap {bliss}.  That evening I followed my plan with renewed energy and vigour. P was in bed asleep just after 6pm and the boys just before 8pm 🙂 Of course they didn’t just go to sleep just like that but I think the earlier bedtime and the dedicated “boy” time really helped. When they came out of there room the first time I went in and said quietly “it’s bedtime now boys see you in the morning love you” then every time after that I put them back into bed silently – sometimes no reaction is the best reaction. Same if they were being too loud. It’s worth saying at this point that I removed a lot of toys from their room when I decorated it for their 4th birthday. It sounds easy and like I should have done it ages ago but the reality is it isn’t always that simple. Consistency is everything even on the nights you really can’t be bothered or feel too tired.

P then woke at 12:30 and I cuddled, stroked and comforted her.  I lay next to her cot and let her whinge but didn’t feed her {and interestingly she didn’t ask to be fed}.  I offered her water and after 1.5 hours she fell asleep and didn’t wake again until 7am! Progress! The boys woke up just before 6:45am and everyone was in such a better mood.  

Day 2

Again P was asleep by 6pm and the boys by 8pm.  P slept 8.5 hours straight! The first time she woke she was asleep again by the time I got to her and after that was unsettled so more cuddles and reassurance but no feed.  It took less than an hour for her to settle to sleep and she woke again at 6:15am.  

After that she slept between 9-11 hours straight for the next 2 nights and the boys were asleep by 8:30pm.  

Troubleshooting

Just as I thought we had cracked it we went away for a couple of nights which threw things out again but the first night back at home P slept 7pm-6am.  

We then had the last of her birthday celebrations and we all got sore throats and colds.  We quickly dropped back into bad habits {when it comes to the boys’ bedtime} and P has been asking for night feeds {which when she’s cutting a tooth and not feeling well I’m happy to give her}.

With 2 weeks left before the boys start school I have started their bedtime routine again with an aim to get them asleep by 7:30pm and with P once she’s over this cold {and she’s just had her 12 month jabs!} I’ll start night-weaning her again.

{Tired}

Here’s to starting to reclaim my evenings and rest!  Sleep is so important to well-being and mental and physical health.  With the best part of nearly 5 years of disrupted sleep under our belts I’m really hoping we have better nights ahead of us in the not too distant future.  That is until I start staying up at night worrying about where the kids are as they grow up *blub*.

Do you have any bedtime or sleep tips?

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