Miss Rose is three years old and she is drunk. Well, we call it drunk because as we both have plenty of experience in being actually drunk, we can recognise how similar it is.
She slurs her speech, stumbles around, and confuses reality with her imagination. She laughs over things that aren’t there and randomly starts singing in the middle of converstions whilst waving her arms in the air. If I thought she could get access to any booze I would be mighty suspicious. But it’s not booze. It’s tiredness. She has huge bags under her eyes and begs to go to bed, usually from 4pm onwards until we finally give in after she’s had her dinner. She is in a constant state of total exhaustion, and as she starts nursery school this term, we desperately need to do something about it or she won’t cope.
We have some theories about her tiredness. One is to do with her other strange behaviour… because not only is my daughter a drunk, she is also an addict. Her addiciton is to eating things she shouldn’t.
She will sneak under the dining room table to eat cardboard boxes. She will tiptoe out of her bedroom at night to eat towels. She will sit in the carseat on the way to places frantically ripping at her cardigan with her teeth. She has eaten holes in carpets, shredded cushion covers, and destroyed blankets. She is an addict. She knows it’s wrong and gets very upset about it but she can’t stop.
She could be anaemic and we went to the hospital for blood tests (something she found so exciting that she keeps asking to go back). If she is anaemic it could explain the extreme tiredness as well as the addiction and, hopefully, treating it will help. Of course, if we treat the physiological need to eat things we might then have to battle the psychological addiciton side that has developed in response.
Another reason could be her love of milk. She adores milk and she wants it in a bottle. She put milk by her bed at night in case she need it in the night, which she invariably does. For a while this was fine but as she is now toilet trained in the day, we fear that drinking in the night is making her wee more in the night, and the sensation of weeing in her nighttime nappy is waking her up. Because she associates the suckling on milk with falling asleep, if she wakes in the night she drinks again. And thus the cycle continues.
So we have to cut out the nighttime milk.
Now, I do realise that at 3 years old she doesn’t need a bottle of milk to fall asleep. I am also aware that she doesn’t need milk in the night. I know that I have (desite my loathing of this expression) made a rod for my own back. I could have cut her off sooner but I chose not to. She finds comfort in the milk, it relaxes her and helps her get back to sleep. Denying her comfort when it was doing her no harm seemed pointless to me. It seemed like something I would do to make my own parenting look better, rather than to actually benefit her. She was happy, she was sleeping through the night, and that is what mattered to me rather than people giving me judgement face that she still has night milk.
However, now it is no longer to her benefit, and indeed could be to her detriment, it is time to make the change.
We are coinciding the change with her starting nursery school for two reasons. 1) Big girls go to school, babies have bottles. She is desperate to be a big girl like her older cousin Jay, and extremely excited about starting school. Babies who have bottles don’t get to go to school.
2) Z is being taken to Disney Land for a few days by his mother so, whilst we usually have him with us several nights a week, Miss Rose will have a rare time of several nights alone in her room. The transition from milk to no milk is highly likely to include a few nights of loud and angry protest. Dealing with one child at night in that state is hard enough without her waking Z and putting him into a similar tired, angry rage.
The plan is simple. We have warned her it is coming and said she can drop the bottles sooner if she wants. We have stopped giving her milk in a bottle in the day and she has it in a cup, much to her disgust. Her nanny bought her a fancy new none spill beaker to have water in by her bed because I never want to deny her a drink if she’s thirsty, it’s the reliance on milk and suckling we need to sever. She knows it’s coming. Tonight is her last night of milk in a bottle at bedtime.
Part of me feels guilty for letting her have them so long, whilst part of me stands by my decision because I have things that comfort me that I don’t need, so I’m no better. If it doesn’t hurt her, why stop it? Part of me feels guilty for wanting to take them away from her when she loves them so much, but most of me knows that for her own well being it has to happen.
A large part of me is dreading the night we start. I’m tired as it is. I find massive comfort in her reliable and consistent bedtime, in the knowledge that I will definitely get a few hours in the evening to be a grown up and not in the company of a busy and exhausting toddler. Getting her to bed and sleep is rarely a challenge and that is partly down to the milk. Giving that up is a big deal for me because I don’t know what’s on the other side. I don’t know if I will be like so many of my mummy friends and suddenly struggling to get her to go to bed and go to sleep every night. Facing a battle every night instead of the relaxing time I have become so used to.
So wish me luck. If you have any advice on how to make this transition easier for all of us I’d be grateful. My little girl is growing up and soon she will be off to school in her little uniform, and sleeping at night without milk. I know it will happen. I just don’t know how hard getting to that point will be!
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!