I look back and chuckle a little at myself back then, how I truly had no idea what lay ahead...
I could write chronicles on the stages of bedtime warfare we have traversed in our 2 years as parents and from discussions with other mothers, we are not alone.
I would rather tell of successes and solutions but at this stage can only share commiserations in the hope that others may not feel so confused by the struggle.
When our little prems were born, they required a bit of nursery time and so we went home from the hospital without them. They were quiet and all the babies we saw around them were also quiet.
When they were due for release, we roomed in at the hospital, not familiar with the little noises babies make and were already grossly sleep deprived from trying to settle their little grunts and groans. I look back and chuckle a little at myself back then, how I truly had no idea what lay ahead.
We had screamers. I mean, 6pm-1,2,3,4am CONSTANT screamers. I cannot describe the anxiety and stress, the confusion, the desperate calls to the Healthline thinking there must be something seriously amiss. My husband had to take six weeks off work purely because we were not getting out of bed until 2pm and starting the day.
We ended up seeking professional help through our paediatrician who advised reducing and restricting my diet in case allergens were upsetting their gut through my milk. We tried colic and reflux remedies, probiotics, different swaddles, white noise, expressed milk top ups, leg pumping and tummy rubs, baby swings, warm baths to settle them, safe essential oils, trips in the car up the freeway at midnight, settling classes and even spent a stint in a support facility for mothers and babies with settling or feeding issues. Nothing worked.
They eventually grew out of it and we only had to actively settle until 10pm nightly until 9 months. I will say that this is still a really long time when you have already been 'on' all day or working and come home hoping for a bit of downtime and you are tag teaming settling until you fall into bed exhausted. Oh, and they never took the dummy. Just great.
Parenting books and sleep books were confusing on the right approach as well as the input from midwives, family practitioners, medical experts and relatives. We were desperate for an answer and in hindsight, should have just hired a night nanny so we could at least have gotten a bit more sleep to help with logical decision making! We didn’t even think that was possible for a qualified nanny to handle our babes.
We had a sweet patch of a few months when they went down easily and slept through the night like a dream. We had hit Nirvana. The crazed days of rocking, 'shooshing' and patting blurred a bit in the distance. We sat down to a proper meal and watching an episode or two on tv. And then teeth happened. Or at least that is what I am blaming it on as our GP tells me they are often unnecessarily blamed for a range of upsets and ailments. This list of stages goes on.
Our current battle goes something like this:
Wrangle into the pyjamas, coerce them to attempt brushing their teeth and letting me have a turn afterwards. Allowing them to turn the tv off, picking a story… two stories, letting them jump up and down in each other's beds, tricking them into their sleeping bags, singing three, no five songs, cuddles, hand tickles, another cuddle, washing the dummies and then hopefully easing our way out of the bedroom door without a solid meltdown and three more returns to the bedroom. This takes 45 minutes to an hour.
My one and only tip would be to not start something in an attempt to quickly distract them from tears. I have found that it very quickly becomes their favourite thing and it builds layer upon layer until the night-time requirement of activities prior to lights out becomes a plethora of hilarious but time-consuming obsessions.
We have always been strict on bedtime routine and bedtimes because of our struggle with their sleep. But no matter how predictable and rational we may be, our two tricksters seem to know how to pull the strings around here and may continue to do so for a while to come.