Sleep survivor | Outwait, outsing, outsway

I’ve recently started teaching Cameron to link his sleep cycles during the day. I’m fortunate in that he usually sleeps for 45 minutes during his day naps, but I’ve noticed that he’s often still tired when he wakes up so I’m trying to help him learn to sleep for longer. The Sleep Sense book that I’ve been using has some very helpful tips, and incredibly, the first time I tried to get him to link cycles he did. Of course that was three weeks ago and he hasn’t done so since! But we keep persevering.

Probably unwisely, I started this process while we were on holiday earlier this month. Cameron wasn’t sleeping well anyway and the challenge became one of getting him to sleep at all, never mind about linking cycles! The situation soon deteriorated into a battle of wills and we found ourselves playing a not-terribly fun game of Sleep Survivor.


Step one in the strategy is to give Cameron a chance to self-sooth. After all, he’s not going to learn new skills unless he’s given the chance to practice them. So come nap time, I wrap in a blanket, give him his bunny (we’re trying to teach him that it’s a sleep soother), put him in his cot and leave him to it. Occasionally, after a few minutes of muttering to himself, all goes quiet and I peek around the door to find a sleeping babe. More often though, it’s on to step two …


Being cognisant of the fact that Cameron is starting to develop sleep associations, I try not to pick him up if he hasn’t fallen asleep by himself. So step two is to put my hand on him and sing softly to try and ease him into dreamland. It is vital at this point not to make eye-contact! However, the harsh truth is that if step one has failed, step two is rarely successful and we move onto step three.


This is no holds barred involvement. Often by this stage Cam has moved into over-tired mode and I have to resort to rocking him until he is incredibly drowsy, if not fast asleep. As he now weighs over 7 kilograms and this process can take up to half an hour, this is a serious endurance test. But as in Survivor, this last endurance challenge has the grand prize at the end of it, so one just knuckles down and does whatever is necessary to go the distance. When we were on holiday, Col’s sister counted to 200, as many times as necessary. Col takes his mind off it by watching TV with the sound on mute, and I usually prop my Kindle up and increase the font size so I can read at a distance!

At the moment Cameron’s sleeping patterns are all over the place so this post is by no means a report on a successful campaign. Due to the high prevalence of allergies in my family I am trying to breastfeed exclusively until Cameron is 6 months old. However, his appetite is growing and the 6-7 hour stretch he used to go at night has shrunk right back to 3 or 4 hours. This regression back to newborn sleeping habits means I’m becoming increasingly bleary eyed as the days progress but as I’m not working I feel this is a sacrifice I can make. Happily, he is occasionally taking longer naps during the day, but there is no pattern to them yet. Sometimes it’s the first nap, sometimes the second, other days not at all. So it’s all a bit of a guessing game right now, but one I’m hoping will start to settle down when I start him on solids in four weeks’ time.

The hardest part of the process is that there are no hidden immunity idols for me and at the moment I feel like I am spending my life trying to get Cameron down for naps. But my cousin sent us this cute little baby grow from the UK, and I’m hoping that by the time Cam grows into it, it’s message just might be true!

Photo 28-01-2013 10 03 45

Our holiday

Aside from the flight down and our first trip to the beach, our holiday was very low key and fairly uneventful. Cameron struggled with the new environment and was pretty unsettled the entire time we were away. We actually took him to the doctor half way through our trip because he really wasn’t himself. The doctor started looking pretty desperate when her examination failed to bring any ailments to light – I think she felt a bit sorry for these over-anxious new parents. We were also glad Colin’s sister went with us as we had an extra set of arms for rocking Cam to sleep – something we had to do for almost every nap and bedtime. Considering that he went through a growth spurt just after we arrived, all the rocking became something of an endurance test for our biceps!

We passed our time playing cards, reading books, watching movies and rocking Cam. In between we did shifts – one of us would babysit while the other two went out for a bit. We got in a few walks, Colin and Leigh-Anne played a bit of golf and I was treated to an afternoon at a spa. Aside from two rainy days we had glorious weather and Cameron enjoyed splashing in the baby pool on the estate. It was all very pleasant.

Adding to the every growing list of baby-related revelations, Colin and I realised that holidays are going to be a bit different from now on. The daily Cam tasks go with you meaning late sleep-ins and spontaneous outings are no longer on the cards. But for me it was great to have so much help with Cameron so I at least feel like I had a break. It was also wonderful to be able to spend so much time together as our little family and I’m so grateful that we had the time away.

The Rip Family - January 2013

The Rip Family – January 2013


Splish splash

Splish splash


Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Beach baby

Beach baby


Auntie Annie and I

Auntie Annie and I

Beach attempt two

Knowing that nothing is ever as hard the second time around, we attempted a second trip to the beach during our recent holiday. We’d learnt from our mistakes the first time and were much better prepared. Or at least we would have been if we’d had the key to the storeroom and could have unearthed the beach umbrella. As it happened, the key went back to Pretoria with my father-in-law so we had to improvise. More on that later.

Our second beach expedition took place once the school holidays had ended so our audience was far smaller. But as we came down the steps, we noticed one super organised family who had constructed some sort of mini-theme park on the beach. Allow me to paint you a picture:

  • There was a gazebo type thing, big enough to comfortably provide shade to a family of four.
  • There were deck chairs.
  • There were cooler boxes – no doubt filled with tasty treats and ice cold drinks.
  • And then there was the entertainment area – an inflatable paddling pool, under it’s own umbrella in which a baby was happily splashing around. As if the being on the beach wasn’t enough.

By contrast, our position on the beach looked like this:

Second trip to the beachI guess it’s good to have something to aspire to. Although Col did point out that as someone has to carry all that stuff, and as it’s most likely to be Dad, his opinion is that our system is perfectly adequate.

First trip to the beach

Being a new person in the world Cameron is experiencing a lot of firsts, but the slightly less obvious implication of that is that Colin and I are too. While we’ve grown a lot in caring for Cam, every now and then we have a crisis of confidence. These periods of doubt usually occur when doing something which will be observed by:

  • other parents
  • professionals who work with babies, or
  • the general public which can contain either (or both) of the above.

In such situations we are left feeling incredibly nervous, as if expecting the Parenting Police to leap out from behind a bush and demand an explanation on why we are doing what we are doing. Of course, when one is nervous the tendency for silly mistakes and stupid decisions is greatly enhanced, perpetuating the cycle of potential judgement that we are afraid of. Cameron’s first trip to the beach was an occasion such as this …

As it was an incredibly hot day we decided to make it a short trip and so arrived armed with only a few towels, the nappy bag and of course our baby. The beach was packed so we made our way past the crowds to a section where the waves washed up gently over some low rocks. We put all our stuff in a pile on the sand, turned on the camera and prepared for the momentous moment. The first wave didn’t quite reach us but a bigger one soon came along. However as we were all focusing on Cameron and not on the waves, we didn’t see just how big it was. It caught us from the left and the right, meeting just where we were standing and causing Col to sit down rather promptly. Convinced the entire beach was watching us, we tried to ignore our blunder by cooing at Cameron who was now experiencing the wet sand on his feet. The next moment we heard someone calling us and to our horror we looked up to see that the wave had not only unseated Colin but also washed our towels, shoes and nappy bag down the beach. Burning with embarrassment, Leigh-Anne and I rushed around collecting our scattered possessions.

We made a fairly swift departure after that. Back home I spent half an hour cleaning sand off everything (quick product review – beach sand actually comes off the Baby Moov nappy bags surprisingly easily so good job there). Combined with the half an hour it took to get Cameron ready to leave in the first place, that works out to an hour of effort for 10 minutes on the beach. Not a good ratio!

To conclude, it was an utterly embarrassing experience which left us looking not only like rookie parents but also like complete tourists who have no idea how to go about a successful trip to the beach. And the real irony is that the entire exercise was more for our benefit than Cam’s; I wouldn’t say he enjoyed his first beach trip so much as tolerated it!

Spot the parents who are paranoid about sunburn.

Spot the parents who are paranoid about sunburn.

Note the crouching father - this is pre-wave.

Note the crouching father – this is pre-wave.

How many more of these 'firsts' do I need to experience?

‘How many more of these “firsts” do I need to experience?’

Cameron’s first flight

I’m writing this from a sun lounger on the patio of my father-in-law’s flat in Ballito, a small sea-side town on the Natal north coast. It’s a glorious day, Cam is having a morning nap and my view is of the sparkling blue Indian Ocean. As I slip into holiday mode, the drama of getting here is rapidly fading from my mind so I’d best get this written before it disappears for good!

It’s a seven-hour drive from Pretoria to Ballito so we decided that Colin would drive down with a car full of baby- related paraphernalia and Cam and I would take the 45 minute flight later that afternoon. I was a bit nervous of flying by myself with Cam as I just had no idea how he would handle it. But I’d received some great advice from others and I figured that even if he did go Banshee Baby on me it’s the shortest possible flight we could take so I’d survive it.

Colin left at about 07:30 and at 14:00 his mom arrived to drive me to the airport. We checked in without incident and I was feeling pretty good as I strolled to the gate. I had my cute baby all dressed up in his Man United baby grow (ready to impress his grandfather on arrival), I felt I’d got the right mix of cool-yet-functional style going with my Gap shorts and black feeding T-shirt and my stylish nappy bag was well packed for any eventuality. As I boarded the flight I learnt how helpful people are to a mom travelling with a baby and I settled into my window seat marvelling at the kindness of the human race.

However the real danger lay ahead and I got busy preparing it. I gave Cam some Panado for his ears. I clipped his dummy to his shirt for easy access. As we started moving toward the runway I gave him his bottle and he slurped away merrily during take off so we were soon airborne without any fuss at all. I breathed a sigh of relief – part one was over!

Soon thereafter however, things went awry. We’d just reached cruising altitude when I felt a soft phit phit on my lap. I don’t know if it was the pressure or just ironic timing but Cam chose that moment to unleash a poop that I think had been building up for three days. I lifted him off my lap to inspect the damage and to my horror saw that his baby grow was soaked through and that the sling, blanket and unprotected area of my shorts was smeared with mustard-coloured gunge.

Gathering up my stinking baby, I manoeuvred myself out into the aisle while trying to cover up the worst of the poop with the blanket. I made my way to the toilet, where a helpful air hostess had already set up the diaper board for me. I then spent 10 minutes hogging the bathroom while I gave Cam not just a nappy change, but a sponge bath too in a space barely large enough to turn around in. When I eventually emerged those waiting in the queue gave me a few odd looks which is hardly surprising as I’d been giggling manically to myself all the while. The irony after last week’s explosion was just too much!

I made my way back down the aisle with my Gap shorts looking distinctly worse for wear and Cam no longer the most adorable Man U fan – so much for my ‘cool mom’ image! I threw all semblance of dignity out the window and made a joke of my poopy shorts to my neighbour as I squished back into my seat. We got chatting and I barely noticed the descent, which mercifully Cam survived without tears as he finished his bottle while we landed.

Yesterday’s flight called on many of the traits that I’ve learnt a mom needs in my four months of mothering – flexibility, humility, patience, planning and most importantly a sense of humour. And last night as I unpacked, bathed Cam, put him down and did an unexpected load of washing, I realised something else – holidays for moms still involve an awful lot of work! But my final epiphany for the day was a lot more encouraging – there’s not a lot a glass of wine in the jacuzzi can’t fix! Especially if you can hear waves breaking on the beach and ten days of holiday lies ahead.