Sleep Deprived Parents and Toddler Sleep Trouble

“Bless me Father for I have sinned! It’s been six months since my last confession…” – NO!

“Hi Group, my name is Kieran and I’m a sleep deprived parent. I haven’t touched the pillow in two months now…” – NO!

I’m really at a loss for how to start this post. It feels half like a Catholic confession box and half like an AA meeting. Either way I feel like it’s something the neighbours would only love to have an ould bitch about or that I should be in some way embarrassed by. So, here I am sharing it all online, basking in the glory…My toddler has a sleep problem and it’s all my fault! Yes, he is nearly four and no, I am not a bad parent. Judge me as you will!

Like most kids he started in a Moses basket in our room but once he got too big for that we moved him into our bed – I guess that’s where we went wrong and the bad habits started! Initially, we didn’t realise the consequences of what we were doing. Sure we had read some parenting books and heard all sorts of different opinions from people but who is to say those authors or people are not complete lunatics themselves? I mean, everyone’s a bleedin’ expert when it’s not their own kid.

By the end of his first year things had descended into complete mayhem – think car explosions. I even remember climbing into the cot bed one night to sleep in it with him and I’m over six foot tall. Most nights we ran the zombie gauntlet that was the landing between our room and his. More often than not, I’d end up in the spare room – relegated by my own son!

All of this wasn’t helped by his eyebrow addiction. Diego never had a soother or a “blankie” but from a young age he would rub anyone’s eyebrow that was within arms reach. Sure, it was endearing but got so annoying and became such a problem. Eyebrows were his comfort blanket and he didn’t mind whose it was. The need for a good rub always got greater a bed time so if our eyebrows weren’t in the bed beside him…shit got ugly!

At various stages we tried different “sleep training” techniques. Controlled Crying worked for a while. After four nights of doing it we got four nights sleep before he had a complete relapse and regained control of the darkness. By that time we would be so knackered that we’d have no energy to start over and we’d agree to try again in a few weeks. Then we’d go off on holidays or have a wedding to go to at the weekend so we never got a clear run of a few weeks to try again – that amongst other lame excuses!

In all honesty, fine, it probably was our own lack of discipline and persistence that let things get so out of control. Mostly, I like to blame others for my problems but I’ll hold my hands up here – we were a wee bit lazy and gave him all of these bad habits ourselves. However, until you have been there in the middle of war torn sleepless nights, you have no idea what prolonged sleep deprivation can do to a person and a relationship. It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation was one of the more common torture techniques used in Guantanamo Bay!

Now, despite all of my admission above, Diego has had his own part to play in all of this too. He tries every trick in the book to keep us in the room or in his bed. He has pains in his legs, arms, eyes, teeth and hair. He started with scary wishes but now realises he should call them scary dreams. There are monsters in his room and the planets in the solar system I glued to his ceiling move around when I leave the room. At 1am he’ll need to do a poo that never appears and last week his Paddington Bear needed to do his very own poo – in the corner of the room. Kid’s imaginations are awesome!!

Fast forward to today. Diego will be four in April and it’s really time we sorted this out. At the moment we take turns putting him to bed. We almost have him weaned off the eyebrows  and we at least have a routine in place.

Weaning kids from the boob

Don’t get me started on breast milk!

We take him upstairs around 8, brush teeth, do a wee, put pyjamas on, pick a story and get into bed. The main problem here is we get into bed with him!! After the story we kiss him good night and roll over until he falls asleep – this can take from five minutes to an hour. He then inevitably wakes during the night, often more than once and one of us goes in to him. We have to get into the bed for him to fall asleep again and often drift off ourselves, only waking a 6am to go back to our own bed with the alarm going off at 7am. Parenting – you should try it – it’s a hoot!!

Over the Christmas holidays we resolved to turn things around and started telling him that he would be going to sleep on his own after story time. We wanted to prepare him for this change so repeated the plan for a few days so he would get used to the idea. WRONG – that just taught him new manipulation techniques and he invented even scarier monsters.

We have now let all of that die down and are ready to try again. D-Day is Friday and I have a new reward chart made up and a trip to the zoo and an Angry Birds toy will be his rewards. I read Dr. Christopher Green’s book, Toddler Taming, which has a great chapter on sleep problems with kids and Betty and I are both on the same page in terms of what’s in store for us.

Tomorrow I have a call scheduled with professional sleep expert, Niamh O’Reilly, who I met on the twitter machine and she is going to give us some much needed guidance and support. She is a real life version of the Super Nanny from the TV and is the “Sleep Expert” on EUMom.ie so we have really high hopes. We can’t and won’t fail this time. The night will be ours again and we will reclaim the darkness. Roll on Friday and the rest of our dramatic little lives!

About Daddy K

I started GoDadGo.ie at the end of 2012 as a hobby more than anything else. I've always enjoyed writing and I work in marketing so I saw this as a way to grow personally as well as professionally. I live in Dublin, Ireland with my son, Diego and my wife Betty. I blog about things we do together, places we go, and lots of other stuff too.

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12 Responses to Sleep Deprived Parents and Toddler Sleep Trouble

  1. mind the baby January 17, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Oh DaddyK! I hear you on the sleep deprivation. There’s no torture that can top it. Don’t beat yourself up so much about it! I didn’t take me very long as a new mum to figure out this great myth of “all the other babies and small children are sleeping through the night” business. For every sleepless night I have, I know there are literally millions of parents joining me at the same time doing exactly the same thing so much as it hurts, I know I’m not alone.
    I always remind myself that a day with come when I’ll miss having the little fella cuddling up in the middle of the night especially when he reaches an age where he’d rather die than give his mama a kiss. This time when they’re little is so short and precious, I decided to just go with the flow and stopping fighting it. I don’t know any 13 year olds that need their mam or dad help them go to sleep at night. We get a good run of sleep for a while but then usually illness or teething interfer and knock us off track but I know we’ll get there in the end.
    I’m not a fan of the sleep training myself but to each exhausted parent their own!

    • DaddyK January 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Hey MTB,

      Thanks for the comment and support. Only getting round to replying to people now as we’ve been busy with the training all week.

      There are without doubt lots of other parents going through sleepless nights at the same time as us. I don’t mind them at all and the same goes for people who co-sleep or do it whatever way works for them – power to the people. Its the ones who say their kid is an angel and sleeps from 7pm to 7am when in reality that’s not the case at all – them’s the ones what get my goat! ;)

      Almost there now anyway. Put him down tonight and he stayed down. KO!

  2. Ouch My Fanny Hurts! January 17, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Oh Lord I feel your pain! We have given up where sleeping independently is concerned. Currently our seven month old sleeps with me and 23 month old with my fella. Our cot has been used about three times between the two of them. Every so often I FREAK OUT and start shouting about how we have to get them into their own room, but aside from the obvious lack of alone time the fella and get, we wouldn’t have it any other way. I am dying to read how this works out for you… Who knows, it might encourage us to sort out our sleeping arrangements!

    • DaddyK January 22, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Thanks Fanny! (Can I call you that?!)

      I absolutely love the name of your blog by the way – no better name out there!

      Jeebus, I feel for you guys too. Separate beds with a kid each – oh be the hokey! I can’t wait for number two in our house but have no clue how we will ever handle it (if she happens – please Jeebus.) The freaking out used to happen me on a monthly basis. I’d get all high and mighty and then fall flat on my face but am sticking with it this time.

      Like you say though, sometimes we wouldn’t have it any other way either. We’re all mad for a bit of huggin’ the shite out of our kids every now and again. Three years just got a bit too much tho!

  3. Joanna January 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    My 3-year-old and 2-year-old are super for going to sleep and sleeping through. I think it’s down to the first being only 6 months when the second was on the way and I felt I had to have the routine sorted. I remember thinking it was going to be so hard but really it wasn’t. I still check on them two or three times a night and it doesn’t disturb them, if they wake they just let me tuck them in.

    • Mind The Baby January 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

      Joanna, you lucky duck. That sounds fabulous!

      • Joanna January 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

        I felt I had no choice to be honest but it really worked out. If I find myself complaining about the terrible teething they both went through or other stuff like that I always add that I shouldn’t complain because they go off every night at 7 and that is worth it all. I don’t know what I’d do if they didn’t, I’d be crazier than I am!

        • DaddyK January 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

          Tis a good kind of crazy you are though. All us parents have to be a wee bit!

      • DaddyK January 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

        MTB – Did you really just say “Lucky Duck”? The kids are not listening!!!

    • DaddyK January 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      I’m sorry – did you just say “Na na na na naaaaa!”

      Only messing Joanna. That sounds unreal. I’m having you over for a week to train our next one.

  4. Maud January 23, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    The eyebrows! Hilarious! (To me, I mean. I’m sure to you it was less and less hilarious.) But that’s one I hadn’t heard before, definitely.

    Yup, sleep woes here too. I thought no. 1 was bad, but then no. 2 came along and she’s desperate. She’s 4 now and I think we’re getting on track, but it’s by no means sorted out. Best of luck with yours, is all I can say.

    • DaddyK January 23, 2013 at 8:43 am #

      Best of luck to you too Maud. If starting a sleep traing plan yourself it will be so worth it. We are very close to a full uninterrupted nights sleep now.

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