Bears do it. Bees do it. Bats do it. And snakes do it.
So why can’t parents of toddlers do it?
I’m talking about hibernating that is.
When Elle-Girl was about eight-months-old I read in one of those parenting magazines that the average age for a child to sleep through the night is six months. I thought to myself that this must have been an isolated study, because my child had never slept through the night. Not once! To prevent ourselves from being total zombies my husband and I committed the “number one cardinal sin of parenting” and we brought our little pink bundle of baby in bed with us. She slept (kinda), my husband slept, and I slept every couple of hours between Elle-Girl waking up to nurse. It worked for us. Everyone was happy.
Around 10-months-old, I was tired of being the pacifier for my now much bigger pink bundle and I tried, in vain, to get her in her own bed. I read up on Dr. Sears, and Penelope Leach, and searched endlessly online for the best way to go about this process. Because we were not under any circumstance going to do the Ferber method which recommends letting the baby cry it out and learn to self soothe. I have heard that this works well for some babies and they “get it” with in just a few nights. Elle-Girl however is a sensitive soul, and has been since the beginning. I knew we had to try something different.
Every night I would follow a specific bedtime routine, and it would go wonderfully until it came time to lay her down. I would pull her fuzzy pink blanket up between me and her so as to break that skin to skin contact. Her head would slide gently down into the crook of my arm while milk crept out of the corners of her open mouth. I would stand on the tip of my toes and lean ever so gently over, to slide her onto her mattress. However, the moment she felt the warmth of my body leave her side her arms would throw themselves out and her almond shape eyes would pop wide open. Back to the rocking chair we would go and repeat the above process. Sometimes, after an hour of rock, slide, repeat, I would “win” and enter the living room victoriously. Only to be awakened an hour later to repeat the same. Usually around 3 a.m. I would become weary of such a process and Elle-Girl would “win” and get to come to bed with Mommy.
I was becoming desperate and at one point before she turned one, I thought perhaps she was scared of heights and laid a firm foam mattress on her floor where I would lay beside her and nurse her until she fell asleep then I would slip away to our bed. This worked great! I was getting four hour blocks of sleep instead of two! Then we discovered a slight spider problem and she was back in bed with us.
To the horror of some mothers I introduced a toddler bed to our Elle-Girl at 12 months. Let me back that up and give an explanation for those feeling they need one. She had been walking well, for several months, and could crawl in and out of the bed feet first. I also padded the cherry wood bed with a bumper pad so she would not bump her head should she roll over or fall on the rail. I started with nap time. Which in my opinion is the best time to try out something new first. She took to it beautifully. She loved it! She loved the independence! She loved that she could pull all of her stuffed animal friends in bed with her, and she loved she could get out of bed and bang like a Banshee on her bedroom door in the middle of the night until I came to her call.
My sleepless baby, slept through the night for the first time at 13 months! I considered this a success. I felt I could write my own sleep training book:
“The “Cry it out” alternative, only takes 13 months!”
We had a few relapses, but for the most part, my husband and I had our marriage bed back, and Elle-Girl could stretch and kick and roll and turn upside down to her hearts content.
Then shortly after the holidays it all went terribly wrong. I felt like the mother of a new born all over again. Only this time I didn’t have my back up plan of nursing her to sleep. She was waking every two hours in the middle of the night, and I had grown accustomed to a restful nights sleep. It was miserable. Another new development came with this restless sleep: super sonic hearing! Every night she would go to bed around 9 p.m.. Two hours later she would wake up banging recklessly on the door. I would crack the door and tell her to go lay down, she would, then I would stand over her bed until her eyes closed and I would tip toe back to the door with the skills of a trained Ninja. I would turn the door handle and slowly drag the door inch by inch over the carpet. As soon as the door closed in its frame I would hear a scream from the tiny bed, and we would start all over again. This would sometimes take up to an hour to break away from and would start all over again a little over an hour later.
One Sunday at church, a wise mother of four suggested moving her bedtime back an hour, perhaps she’s getting overly tired? My child, tired? At this point it was worth a try. We developed a routine of 7 p.m. pajamas, 8 p.m. a sippy cup of Pediasure, 8:30 a book or two or four, sound asleep by 9 p.m. sharp, sometimes earlier! So you may ask , has it worked? Yes! All of those books and magazines and online googling and the best experience came from a mom whose been there!
Just in case you don’t take my word for it, here is what Johnson & Johnson suggests doing to help your child drift into a sweet nights rest.
- Start with a warm bath using their bath soap
- Follow with their Lavender bedtime lotion
- Next add their lavender massage gel
- Lay baby gently down while still drowsy and watch them peacefully fall asleep.