You’re going to have to forgive me because I went out with a very old friend last night and, for me, very old friends deserve very many cocktails and I had a couple of delicious things called Lucky Irish and I’m feeling less than lucky today. As any parent that has been worse for wear knows, almost all your energy has to be focused on caring for your coincidentally far more fractious toddler*. So I may not have the wherewithal to dress anything up today, unlike my Lucky Irish I’m gonna give it to you straight.
First some background. My mother grew up in a house with five siblings and there wasn’t much room for choice. She carried that ethos through into parenting me. If we ever uttered even the vaguest of grumbles about being served spaghetti bolognaise for the forty second Thursday in a row, she wouldn’t placate, she wouldn’t discuss, she’d simple say, ‘Get it eaten.’ Whenever I’ve had a baby sleep dilemma I can't help thinking of my old mum, because the same rule applies - just get it eaten, not the baby, you. In other words WOMAN UP! I know you can do it, I have faith in you! Have faith in yourself, gosh darn it! Decide what outcome you want and go for it, because if you haven’t made a firm decision about what’s happening, how is your baby going to know?
Let’s say for example you've told someone you'll get up with the baby in the morning, for analogy’s sake we’ll say it’s your partner that you share a bed with and as you’e falling asleep they casually mutter, ‘Oh, I’ll get up tomorrow.’ But then tomorrow rolls round and the baby’s crying and they don’t move and they look at you and you look at them and no one knows what’s going on and I'm not really sure who’s the baby and who’s the mummy in this analogy but the point is in most areas of life you have to say and do stuff like you mean and actually mean it.
I know you think that your little girl’s just a smooshy, cutesy, little love bug but she’s actually a teeny, weeny emotional vampire. Every thought, feeling and insecurity that runs through your head at bedtime, she will know. If you're thinking, ‘I’m saying it’s bedtime but I’m just gonna get you up in ten minutes,’ she will know. If you're thinking, ‘I’m really anxious about putting you to bed and this whole process is freaking me out', she will feel it. So simply know there probably will be pain. Decide how much pain you can cope with and lock that business down. I’m not going to go into methodology such as controlled crying, except to say controlled crying is probably better than mummy crying uncontrollably in the corner clutching a bottle of gin. If you’re the sort of person that eats the whole family bag of crisps or peels a plaster off millimetre by millimetre, you might want to start with a more gentle option such as she will not leave her room. I will comfort her and sing to her and feed her peeled grapes but she will not leave her room. Keep saying it in your head if you must - she will not leave her room. At least say it until you believe it because if you believe it and she believes you, you’re more than halfway there.
*Bonus advice! How to deal with a toddler when you have a hangover. Go back in time. Shake yourself roughly and remind past you that you have responsibilities and force her to order soda water and not overpriced booze.