Friday, March 31, 2006

Battling on all fronts

I don't like to use a military analogy, but frankly I have sometimes felt like I am in a battle recently!

Yesterday I took the afternoon off to join Hayley when she went to have Oliver weighed (19 lbs 6 ozs) and to talk to the Health Visitor. The topic for conversation? Sleep!

Oliver is waking often in the night. He hasn't slept through more than a couple of times and they were a couple of months ago now. So we are getting rather desperate for a solution as it is taking its toll on us and (more importantly) the longer this behaviour goes on the harder it could be to change.

We discussed controlled crying with her (which we have never been keen on) but interestingly we ended up spending more time talking about his sleeping habits during the day and also about his eating habits.

Ah yes, Eating! Life isn't easy on that front either. He will eat yoghurts until the cows come home but many other foods are rejected. This is bad news as he needs to eat enough to be able to sleep all night.

The other aspect to his refusing to eat is that it is terribly demoralising for Hayley. This afternoon she spent the best part of 40 minutes making him fresh food: a main course and a dessert. He ate three mouthfuls of the main course before crying, fighting, complaining and refusing to eat any more. The dessert was no better. Poor Hayley looked crest fallen.

So what is our plan?

We need to try to get Oliver to sleep longer in the afternoon: 1 - 2 hours instead of the 20-30 minutes power naps he is taking. Apparently the better babies sleep during the day, the better they sleep at night. We also need to get him to eat three meals a day, at least two of which should have a two courses. (He is also still drinking 3 bottles of milk a day: the last one often being about 12 ounces.) Once we get to that stage we can be sure he is eating and sleeping enough during the day to get through the night and we intend to try the controlled crying if necessary at that point.

The reason I've come round more to the idea of controlled crying was down to the health visitor's explanation of why it is important. I'd been worrying about the mixed signals we were sending by loving and attending to Oliver during the day and then apparently rejecting and abandoning him at night. She pointed out to me that accepting this night-time separation is exactly what we need to teach Oliver. Going to sleep by himself - including getting himself back to sleep when he surfaces from his slumbers in the night - is a skill that he has to learn. If we don't let him learn to do this we are not only making life hard for ourselves, we are denying him an essential ability for his life ahead. And it's not as if we are going to shut the door at 7.30pm and walk away for 12 hours. If he cries we will go to him, but only within the parameters allowed by the controlled crying technique. (After all, it wouldn't be controlled would it if we just left him to it!)

Having said that we have come round to the idea of controlled crying, I am still not entirely clear on how to carry it out, so a bit more readinbg is required. It's easy to describe in simple terms, but it's the fine details that are harder to pin down when you come to try it.

Of course, there are still lots of times when Oliver is happy and life is not all slog. But the hard times will be so much less hard when we can persuade the little man to sleep and eat a little more!