In my previous post, I detailed how much infant sleep sucks. And continues to suck as that infant becomes a toddler. I should add here that there's actually a name for the sleep "training" method that I chose to use: Wait it Out. Basically, I acknowledge that infants are designed to wake frequently, be attended to and sleep near their parents, and even breastfeed beyond infancy. So basically, my kid who doesn't sleep is normal. Your magical sleeping unicorn baby, however wonderful, is not.
Turning point: We decided to start trying for Baby #2 when CG was about 17 or 18 months old. The urgency to get her in her own room began, because I knew that a) I would be needing more sleep, being pregnant and all, and b) there’s no way I was sharing my bedroom with a toddler AND a newborn. Between the two they’d be up all night!
So we started talking up the crib. We had been playing in her bedroom all along, and I got really soft sheets and a nice blanket for the bed. I occasionally placed her in the crib for a few minutes to play, and immediately removed her. I kept saying that soon, I would start having her sleep there.
I did start with naps, because she was just fighting me and refusing naps in the master bedroom when she knew that Daddy was in the room (3rd shift, sleeping during the day). One day I had just had it with the rocking and nursing and playing routine, that I said "Forget it! You're going in your crib!" That went great. Seriously. Curled herself up and went to sleep, like that was what she was waiting for all along.
Once summer started and I became a stay at home mom, I really got the ball rolling. Every night, she would start the night in her crib, and at first waking she would sleep with me in the big bed, or in her small crib in my room. Hubby was still on 3rd shift, so I had the bed to myself anyway. It was tough getting a routine down, because once I became pregnant, my milk started to try up, and nursing really hurt. So there was a lot of fighting, and resisting. I would nurse, then lay her down, then rub her back, then try and leave the room. She would cry for 2 minutes, I would go back and start over. It didn't really help that there was no room for a rocking chair in the nursery, so I was sitting with her on the floor. Sometimes the bedtime routine would go on for an hour before she finally fell asleep, either in my arms, or with me rubbing her back. Plus, sleeping in bed with me was all fine and dandy when Paul was working, but on the weekends she still expected it, and there was just not enough room in our queen bed for the three of us.
Then a couple of things happened: First, the doctor told us that Clara had seasonal allergies, and to start her on a daily dose of Children’s Zyrtec. Next, CG discovered the basket of old bottles in her closet and decided she really liked them. So we started offering a bottle of milk (cows, since my freezer stash was long gone) at bedtime. Thirdly, and most importantly, she started becoming more interested in TV, specifically Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Did you know that there is an entire episode of this wonderful show dedicated to morning and nighttime routines?! I remember the date of the episode vividly, because until very recently it was saved on the DVR. We watched that episode every night after bath, and while enjoying a bottle of non-momma milk. The first time we did that, she went to bed so easily and slept so soundly that I panicked at 4am thinking that something was wrong with the monitor!! The next day I went out and bought a proper video monitor to avoid a repeat of that situation.
There were still occasional wake ups in the middle of the night. But those were handled quickly with a cuddle, a nurse, some back rubbing, or occasionally a bottle refill (yup, putting baby to bed with a bottle is also on that list of no-nos from the beginning). But more often than not, the only thing interrupting my sleep was me. CG would whimper or whine in her sleep, and I would stare at the monitor trying to decide if she needed me or not. By the time I decided she was going to stay asleep, I was wide awake. I got a lot of reading done during that time.
There have been some setbacks. Vacation was a big one. Now that she was sleeping in her own dark, quiet room and her own big crib with a nice mattress, it was extremely hard to convince her to sleep in a pack n play with a cardboard mattress, right next to mommy and daddy. She still fell asleep well at bedtime, but woke super frequently. She didn't want to go back in the crib, but she also tossed and turned if I brought her to the big bed. She required LOTS of milk refills, and I could just sense the cavities growing (nope, wouldn't accept water in the bottle, and has really started to refuse nursing). And naps. Don’t even talk to me about naps. Pretty much an hour or more of playtime in the crib before she would go down, and if I came into the room and tried to nap myself, there’s no way she was sleeping. Plus she developed this annoying habit of pooping during that playtime, but doesn't have the words yet to inform me of that fact. So I had to listen to the monitor and decide if it was time for me to intervene, or if she would play herself to sleep.
But now we’re back from vacation. First night back, she was asleep as soon as her head hit the mattress, and stayed that way until 7:45am. Then, she played in her crib for awhile before LAYING DOWN AND GOING BACK TO SLEEP! I think I can now safely say that I have a toddler who loves sleep.
See you at 4am when I eat my words.