Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sleep - or lack of it!

Just when you think you’ve got the sleep stuff sorted, along comes another problem to test your patience and your ability to think coherently on next-to-no sleep.

We thought we’d got our two girls’ sleep sorted months ago. Bath at 6pm and asleep by 7pm for the one year old, and by 7.30 for the three year old. Both up somewhere between 6 and 7am. Closer to 6am more often than we’d perhaps like, but hey, you can’t complain at that. So, when the younger came up to her first birthday we didn’t expect to be experiencing a week of middle of the night wake ups from both of them.

I’m a big believer in the theory that babies cry because there is something they are trying to communicate, and therefore I should always, given long enough, be able to work out what the problem is and fix it especially once your got to know your babies cries quite well. So when the younger woke at 9.30pm one night, I thought her problem must be wind, since she only ever woke in the evening with that problem. I tried to wind her, and, sure enough, she snuggled up on my lap, in the ‘winding’ position, and tried to get back to sleep. But when I then kissed her goodnight and put her back in her cot, she screamed.

Now the younger only ever had a short period of needing to be settled to sleep. Being the second child she worked out how to settle herself fairly quickly, both through necessity, and the fact that I knew how to teach her this time. So crying, when put back in her cot, is for her, most unusual. Back out she came for more winding, but it soon became clear that wind wasn’t her problem. I tried sitting with her for a bit, waiting for sleep, and then attempting the cot transfer, but... no such luck. I then tried giving her baby paracetamol, sitting with her for a further half hour to give that chance to do its bit, assuming that her next tooth must be causing her problems (she’d been biting everything in sight that day), and attempted the transfer again. Nope. Changing her nappy, which wasn’t particularly necessary, but I did it anyway, also made no difference. In the end her dad sat with her for a further half an hour, and managed to get her in her cot. It’s funny how sometimes a change in parent can do the trick, particularly if the first one is starting to lose patience.

Not long after that the elder woke up, and wouldn’t settle without one of us being in the room for a bit. I fell asleep in her room. Not long after I’d returned to my own bed at about 1am, did the younger wake again, and dad went to resettle her. At 5am she woke again, I sat with her for a while, and the elder woke up at 5.30, so dad went to settle her. The elder, of course, didn’t go back to sleep. The younger had another hour to try and catch up and woke around 7.30am.

This pattern, of the younger waking early evening, settling her, then having to deal with the elder, and the younger waking again around 2/3am, continued for around two weeks. But it wasn’t nearly as simple as ‘wind’.  The younger had picked up Conjunctivitus and at the same time a cold consisting of a runny nose and nasty cough. The elder then picked up the cold. We ensured that both girls got a tissue with Karvol on it in their rooms. (It’s a very effective vapour that stops the nose running, effectively then stopping most of the cough, which had been the result of the phlegm running down the back of the throat.) The younger also got a big bowl of water in her room to increase the humidity and aid the cough further.

The next few nights slowly improved, but the elder kept being woken by the younger's crying. Then, just as the younger had a couple of days with almost no cold symptoms she got really bad nappy rash. Lots of cream seemed to help, but her night waking increased that night, every time she wet her nappy.

The next day we discovered spots on her legs as well as her bottom. She’d had a similar spotty rash during a previous cold, and the doctors had confirmed it was viral. This time the doctors thought the same, but were less sure when we discovered larger blister like spots on her fingers and toes. Strangely, other than the spots, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with her. Her conjunctivitis had by this point cleared up, and the cold had gone. Well, until the next morning anyway, when the runny nose came back. But she was livelier than ever, and that night we gave her a dose of paracetamol before bed and for the first time in almost 2 weeks she slept through without needing intervention. (we heard her murmur a couple of times but that was it.) The doctor thinks the spots may be a common childhood condition called Foot, Hand and Mouth, but can’t confirm it.  If it is, it’ll just get better within the next week or so.

We’re convinced that she has, simultaneously, been teething, so the poor girl has really had a lot to deal with this last fortnight, but I’m hoping that this period of disturbed sleep is drawing to a close. It would appear that you never can tell with children. Especially children that have both recently gone back to nursery after the summer break. Pity they share illnesses so much more easily than toys!

I guess my reason for sharing this is to say, that there was a reason for the crying. She wasn’t just being difficult – I don’t believe babies know how to do that deliberately. She needed us for various reasons, and we weren’t quite as adept at fixing her problems as well as we perhaps did when the need was purely for milk! We are learning all the time. And struggling a lot of the time. So for all you mums out there short on sleep, take heart. The time when you are having to haul them out of bed to get them to school will be upon you before you know it. So what if you have a few disturbed nights now. There’s something quite comforting about sitting in the dark with a child falling to sleep in your arms. It’s a reminder that we’re needed. And though it’s sometimes difficult, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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