It’s 2:08am on Sunday. I’m awake. Not because I just returned home from a night out with my girlfriends drinking champagne and joking about the size of Jon Hamm’s penis. Instead I’m awake because this is the week (or month) we decided to start sleep training with the twins. They’re crying out “mamma, mamma…” (why do they only want me in the middle of the night!). I check the clock, it’s been 2.5 minutes. I groan loudly so hubby can share my frustration. He’s wearing earplugs…
It makes me chuckle thinking back to the days when I’d complain at the end of a long week at work about how tired I was. Oh poor me, I only managed a measly seven hours straight sleep a night and I had to be up at 6am to get to work early to finish that presentation. Thank god for the weekend when I can have a sleep in and lie around on the couch all day binge-watching House of Cards to recover.
These days I can run a marathon, do six loads of washing and cook three dinners (one for the kids, one for my vegetarian hubby and a piece of toast for me) on 4 hours’ consecutive sleep! But waking up 6+ times a night for a year makes you one hell of a grumpy b*tch!
So it came time to knuckle down for a few weeks to teach our twins to do something that should come naturally… sleep. The reality is that getting a kid to sleep through the night is the most excruciatingly unnatural thing. There are lots of different sleep training methods and much like politics, religion and vaccinations, everyone has an opinion and it quickly becomes a heated topic amongst the mummy mafia. To leave them to cry or not? Co-sleeping? Attachment parenting? It’s a shit fight trying to figure out a way to get the little buggers to sleep without feeling like you’re turning them into psychopaths! There’s ‘camping out’ and ‘spaced soothing’… whatever you do, don’t mention controlled crying!
Hubby and I were so perplexed (and exhausted) we called in the “experts”. Sleep Consultants are a different breed. Don’t get me wrong, they are often and rightfully heralded as the saviours of many sleep deprived mums. But they also have this nagging mum tone that drove me a little nuts (as if I wasn’t already!). Like when you were 15 years old and your mum would say in that voice “… the reason you can’t go out this weekend is because you didn’t take responsibility for finishing your assignment so you've got no one to blame but yourself.” Likewise with non-sleeping children, you only have yourself to blame apparently.
So the sleep consultant’s magic remedy to solve the midnight fiesta involved three steps:
Cut the night time bottles. Ok, we could manage this with a bit of will power.
Separate the twins into two bedrooms to stop them waking one another. Only trouble was we lived in a two bedroom apartment. So hubby and I were relegated to the living room floor… did I mention having kids is amazing for your relationship?
Follow the ‘camping out’ technique. This involved going into the bedroom when they woke and sitting next to the cot without talking or making eye contact until they fell asleep. Seems easy right? Wrong. Try sitting next to a screaming child for 3 looooong hours waiting for them to fall asleep, only to have them wake back up again an hour later!
I quickly pointed out to the sleep consultant that this method was flawed due to the laws of physics meaning that I could not be in two bedrooms at once when both my children woke during the night. Just like when I challenged my mum as a 15 year old, it didn’t end well with the sleep consultant. But she did teach me a very valuable lesson… the only ‘expert’ regarding my kids was… well… ME!
So we ignored the sleep consultant’s $900 advice and went with a more scientifically plausible solution; ‘spaced soothing’. This involved going into the twin’s bedrooms at timed intervals (3, 6, 10, 15 minutes etc.) to reassure the kids that we hadn’t deserted them and it was still “nigh nighs time” i.e. I love you but please go the f***k to sleep now (don’t worry, the swearing part is my inside voice). Eventually they fall asleep.
It’s 3:16am. I’ve now been into their rooms collectively six times. It’s silent. Check the monitor. Two sleeping babies. HOORAY! Now If only I could fall back asleep…