This week I went to Tresillian’s Day Stay program because I had a few questions about my five month old son’s routine. More specifically, I wanted to know why he is waking up so often when I seem to be doing everything “by the book”.
You see, I’m a Tresillian veteran. I spent a week here with my first-born when she was 12 months old (see what I learned here). I’ve been using the exact some techniques that I acquired from that experience with my new son. But so far, it’s been for naught. I can settle him – and resettle him – pretty quickly thanks to the shhhh pat method, so it’s not like I’m spending hours in his room trying to get him to sleep. My problem is that he wakes up so damn often and I just can’t seem to get him to self-settle. (What is it? Freaking rocket science??)
I arrive eager for their advice and excited about getting some answers. These women are like gods to me; if I could have one superpower it would be to settle babies. That shit’s genius. Toddler piano-playing prodiges don’t impress me. Baby whisperers do.
We lay my son on the mat and the nurse watches him play. It takes all of five minutes’ worth of watching him crawl for the midwife to shatter my hopes of sleep-redemption.
“Hmmmm” she murmurs sympathetically as she watches him pull himself up onto – and then over – some of the toys on the playmat. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a hyper-alert child. I’m not so sure how much help we’re going to be for you, honey”.
Seeing my face fall, she promptly continues with an explanation. “We can improve things for you, don’t get me wrong, but you have to be realistic. Your son is very active for his age. He is waking up because he is programmed to do more, see more, move more.”
Uh oh. Did someone just put the record on loop? Because I didn’t like facing the music the first time. This is my daughter all over again. And as much as I adore my daughter, those first 18months were bloody hard work. She started crawling even earlier than my son has done, and by 9 months was walking. See exhibit A.
I dropped out of my mothers’ group because of her boundless energy, finding it too stressful to manage a baby who squirmed and complained in my arms while all the other contented babies sat still on their mummies’ laps, sucking their toes with gusto.
Smeh! I hear you say. Big deal! So your baby rolled early. So he crawled early. So he will probably walk early. So what?
Well, let me shed some light on the realities of living with an early mover.
He is more prone to waking up from background noise.
He is less prone to sleeping where there is light; this means you’ve got bugger-all chance of getting him off to sleep in the pram, or if you have a shadow or two bouncing on your nursery walls during his afternoon sleep.
He is five months old and already making a bee-line to the electrical sockets.
Gone is the precious “me-time” stage, where I could sleep when he was napping. His brain fires up after 30minutes and tells him it’s time to start using his cot like vertical monkey bars. This leaves me exactly enough time to do the laundry and wash the dishes. How convenient. My own personal alarm clock for housework.
Can you read books to your darling daughter or son? If my child isn’t wriggling out of my lap then he will tolerate a book just long enough to suck it, smack it, or vomit on it (yes, the joys of a baby with reflux are endless).
For those of you who comment, “wow – he is clever!”, I say yes, yes he is. He is clever at moving early. He isn’t necessarily going to be good at public speaking or brilliant with puzzles like perhaps your child will be. He is good at this thing. But there’s no need to be envious. In fact, you should feel lucky. As my midwife just told me (and as my daughter has proven) babies who move earlier tend to sleep worse.
Fan-bloody-tastic. Even the experts think I’ve got bugger all chance of getting some decent kip over the next few months.
And to make matters worse, my son has just been labelled a “failure-to-thrive” baby by m GP because he weighs the same at 5 months old as he did when he was 5 weeks old. This sort of thing would usually set me off into a full blown panic. I would usually be slamming myself will bilious accusations of what a terrible mother I am for somehow malnourishing my child. But this is my second child, and with that comes a greater sense of perspective. I’m able to look at the situation somewhat rationally; my child is running the equivalent of baby-Olympic marathons. He’s bound to be lean.
When people used to comment on how skinny my daughter was it used to drive me mental. But with time, things got back on track and I wish I hadn’t worried quite so much about her weight. I guess I just need to keep shovelling adult-sized portions of food into his desperately hungry and grateful mouth and hope that it eventually packs on the pounds.
I left Tresillian in a grateful mood, despite the dooming prognosis that sleep was a long way off. I need to remember the mantra that summed up my experience with my first-born perfectly:
“The nights are long, but the years are short”.
It would seem that I breed gymnastic-insomniacs and that’s just how my story goes. No use trying to rewrite it now!
My Tresillian heroes might not have been miracle workers after all, but they truly do care about me, my child, and what I’m going through. I am so chuffed that services like this exist in Australia. Even if it is just to put my mind at ease, to let me know that one day my baby will sleep!
Have you got a hyper-alert child? Do you have any tips for helping them sleep, or is it just a case of riding it out?