I’m a sleep-training dropout

I’m a sleep training drop-out.

It’s not just once that I’ve tried to call in a professional in the hopes of getting a good night’s sleep. It’s now three times.

Each time, I’ve hoped they had the miracle cure. The one thing I’m not doing that will enable me to get my child to want to go to bed, to drift off to sleep without tears, and to stay there the whole night. Doesn’t seem like much to ask, does it?

Let me tell you, it is. Especially if, like me, you are *not very good* at dealing with your child crying. Each training method seems to be more about helping parents come to terms with their children wailing and gnashing rather than actually getting anyone to sleep more quickly.

The first time was when my son was about three months old. I roll my eyes at myself now. I couldn’t work out how to get him to go down for a nap. Or something.

I met Dorothy Waide in the back room of a Baby on the Move shop (don’t ask) where she told me, in rapid-fire delivery, that he was too old for his Moses basket, should be on a clock-watching routine so he wasn’t overtired,  but that I could settle him in my arms after I’d done a couple of minutes’ worth of “dumping and running” where he would “learn to find his sleep” alone in his bed while I did something like made myself a cup of tea.

That might sound okay when you’re desperately taking notes from someone who seems like she’s done it all before.

It wasn’t. There was crying. From both of us.

I could do the “dump” bit – I placed him in his cot. But the running, not so much. I took a couple of steps to the door and his cry would stop me in my tracks.  I’d turn and scoop him up. At first I deployed the cupping method she described – for a VERY long time. One day I did this for so long, the small of my back was going into convulsions as I tried to use the power of my mind to propel my husband home as quickly as possible to take over. I knew I’d lost the plot when I told my coffee group on Facebook that I’d been cupping for an hour and got nowhere – one of them replied: Maybe he just doesn’t want to sleep?

Yes. Maybe.

So it wasn’t long before I gave up and was back to breastfeeding and rocking to sleep. Although on a schedule. Maybe that’s half a point to the sleep trainers.

The second was when he was about 18 months and I was still breastfeeding him to sleep.  She was a crunchier trainer who told me I could respond to his needs. Good to know – I’m a parent, right?That’s what I do. She told me there would be some “protesting” but a cuddle-pat method to sleep with gradually less and less cuddling and patting – maybe taking 18 months to withdraw, mind you – should eventually result in no tears and no patting at least by the time he’s eight. It kind of started to work, but then we bought him a single bed and realised we could climb into bed with him and snuggle him to sleep. All points to sleep trainers lost.

The third was earlier this year, when he, now 2.5, started getting up in the middle of the night, every night, wanting a cuddle.

I knew sleep training wasn’t for me when she told me I was doing well because I had had to hold the door shut to stop him, screaming, from coming out of the room to look for me when he was meant to go to sleep.

Sure, I’d like my son to sleep through the night. I’d love to have my husband next to me in the bed all night. I’d like to kiss  my child on the head and have him drift off to sleep like an angel in an ad.

It would be fantastic to be one of those parents who says “oh they’re in bed by 7pm”. But lying next to my son in bed each night, I feel his warm (no longer milky – sniff) breath on my cheek and I’m kind of glad that I failed this particular school. I patted him to sleep for 45 minutes tonight – a toilet stop in the middle meant we had to start all over again. But he snuggled into me, put his little arms around my neck, buried his face in my shoulder and just as I thought he was finally drifting off to sleep, said: “Mummy, what do birds eat?”

It’s infuriating, maddening, gut-wrenchingly boring sometimes. But in 10 years time, he won’t want his mum in his bed. I hope that when I look back on it, I won’t think about those piles of work I was worried about getting to or that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realise I have at least four hours of stuff to get through before I too can go to  bed.

Now my daughter’s four months and looking to follow in her brother’s sleepless footsteps. The look on my husband’s face when I suggested we try a sleep consultant was awesome.