Counting sheep

If there’s one thing I would change about the way we looked after Zac in his first few months, it would be the way we dealt with his sleeping (or, to be more precise, the lack of it).

In some respects, our older boy is very good. With the exception of a couple of short phases, he has generally been very good about getting down to sleep consistently and easily between 7 and 7.30 every evening. We have also discovered that he generally blocks out the sound of Toby’s crying completely (a useful skill he inherited from his father).

It’s everything else that’s the problem.

Even though he has a lunchtime nap on a mat at nursery, we have never been able to get him to sleep in his cot/bed at home during the day; it has always required a stroll in the pushchair or a drive in the car. (Consequently, he was particularly horrendous when we were cooped up indoors and unable to go out during the recent heavy snows.)

And he has always been an early riser. Thankfully, he grew out of his phase of being up by (at the latest) 4.30am, but even now we consider it a lie-in if he manages the right side of 6.00 – most mornings he is up and turbo-charged by 5.30. The only times he has ever made it beyond 6.45 have been when he is ill.

Naturally, two years of this this has taken its toll. Despite sharing the early morning workload, Zac has two parents who are constantly in need of another hour or two’s sleep. And obviously things are trickier with Toby, at seven weeks, yet to settle into a proper routine and requiring feeding typically 3-4 times a night.

To be honest, I get by far the easier half of this gig. Heather goes to sleep early most evenings, leaving me to potter around and come to bed in my own time (which, admittedly, is rarely past 10.30). While Heather is still exclusively breast-feeding, I have the luxury of sleeping through – thankfully, as alluded to above, I am a sound sleeper, so my nights aren’t excessively disrupted. And while I do my fair share of early mornings with Zac, I find it much easier to grab forty winks here and there during the day (which Heather finds very difficult to do).

Anyhow, in my roundabout way, what I’m saying is that Zac’s anti-social sleeping habits probably have at least as much to do with nurture as they do with nature. In other words: odds are it’s our fault.

I think we’ve learned our lesson this time round with Toby. When he is tired he will often howl after we have put him down in his basket; his brother was the same. But whereas with Zac one of us would have caved in after a minute or two and picked him up, now we are getting used to leaving him for a bit longer to see what happens. (I find this much easier to do than Heather – but then, as a dad, I don’t have every hormone in my body screaming at me to do something.) More often than not, he soon falls asleep.

Already Toby is showing signs of being a better sleeper than Zac, who at the same age needed to be carried and cuddled for long spells before he could sleep. Maybe what we’re doing differently second time around is making the difference; maybe it’s having no effect at all. The acid test will come once we start settling him into a routine: we’ll see if he can sleep in his own cot during the day without having to go through the whole going-out rigmarole. Whatever happens, at least we’re feeling much better and more in control of matters than we ever did with Zac, and that alone is a good thing.

Now if only we could persuade Toby to feed less often during the night. Oh well, one challenge at a time …