When it comes to sleep and my nearly two year old boy Finn, I'm just no good at tough love. My sons’ sleep journey has been rocky right from the word go. He was the baby in hospital who cried instead of slept and when we got him home things got increasingly worse.

After weeks of this behaviour, our doctor suspected colic and advised us to ride it out, as things should improve around 12-13 weeks of age. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case and as things continued to worsen, I was finally referred to a paediatrician. He was barely sleeping but I couldn't use my newly purchased ergoCocoon swaddle, which we receive so much feedback about being a great sleep aid, because Finn was born being able to roll onto one side and I wasn't comfortable swaddling him from a SIDS perspective. Two possible explanations for Finn's poor sleeping were forthcoming around the same time I was admitted for emergency surgery. I was unable to express prior to the operation. Finn was given several bottles of baby formula which resulted in rashes and vomiting – and there begins our lengthy and ongoing journey into allergy experiments, which I will no doubt discuss in future blogs. The second explanation came during Finn's first paediatrician appointment which was scheduled the day after surgery, I was lucky that our paediatrician practised from the same hospital! Finn was diagnosed with reflux.

Sleeping

Day sleeps at our house had to happen on the move. At first Finn would only nap in the car, where sitting upright helped his reflux and the movement helped him to sleep. I would pack lunch for my eldest son Noah and drive around looking for construction sites as he loved workmen and machinery at the time. Noah would eat his lunch in the car while looking at cranes as Finn slept.  Being environmentally minded, all this directionless driving didn't sit well with me. I would also often wonder if our local construction sites thought I was some strange stalker!

Although I hated the thought of having my baby on medicine, it was even worse seeing him in so much pain.  We worked with the paediatrician to find a reflux medicine that worked for Finn, which would give his stomach and oesophagus time to recover from the damage the acid (reflux) had caused.

I wasn't able to put Finn down on the floor for mat and tummy time as it would upset his reflux too much, luckily he was always really mobile so I didn't have to worry about his neck strength development.  However, this meant that I had to spend so many hours holding Finn upright as he wasn't even comfortable in a baby carrier. My savour ended up being a swinging chair that my friend lent me.  Finn was able to sit upright and he loved the swinging motion.  I swear I would have spent my last dollar on keeping that swinging chair going. He even learnt to swing it himself so we didn't even have to worry about batteries.

As we started to manage Finn's reflux a bit better, we made in-roads with his sleep, to sleeping on the move in the pram instead of the car! I could often be seen doing laps of our front yard to keep Finn asleep while Noah napped in the front room. This was preferable to driving around in the car, which was quickly becoming unsafe due to my lack of sleep.

Night time was marginally better as he would sleep in his cot. He was so exhausted by nighttime that he would feed himself to sleep and I was able to transfer him into his cot, however, he was still waking up every 40-50 minutes, and if I was lucky I would get one two hour stretch a night.

When Finn was nine months I was able to wean him off his reflux medication and at nineteen months, we are in better shape but still not great. Finn's daytime nap still involves being rocked in a pram but once he is asleep the movement can stop. Also after a winter of being sick, we started co-sleeping.  While I’m not at all against co-sleeping in a safe manner, this was never the plan for us. However, weight gain concerns, my exhaustion, his need for comfort for a sore stomach, reflux and/or hunger, co-sleeping works for us at the moment.

Sleeping next to Finn has actually given me a better understanding of what is upsetting him. I know that if he is thrashing around in his sleep, moaning in pain then it's likely something I have eaten (he is sensitive to the foods I eat through my breastmilk) or I can hear the distinctive sound of the reflux gulp and cry of pain.

After a recent phone consultation with a sleep school, I had my suspicions confirmed:  I am just not designed for tough love when it comes to Finn and his sleep.  I was told that sometimes babies in pain do not learn to relax into sleep in those first months and often end up with sleep problems. While I can completely understand people attending sleep schools, because Finn's poor sleep habits weren't just behavioural they are also symptoms of his reflux and stomach allergies and that a seemingly “tougher” approach has been deemed necessary by the sleep school, given his age, I am now on the lookout for a softer approach to teach Finn how to sleep.

As Finn grows out of his allergies I hope we can continue to work on breaking his poor sleep habits.  In the meantime, I will dream of a decent night’s sleep and I apologise to those people around me who have to deal with my tired vagueness and lack of memory!

Escaping nap timeSome of Finn's sleep problems are now behavioural, this is Finn trying to avoid his daytime nap - escape by doggy door.