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Isn’t it funny how we have such grand ideas of what kind of parents we’ll be before we have kids? Some of the rules I thought I would stick to just make me laugh now. One of those was the idea that I would never, ever let my kid sleep in the bed with my husband and me. I get a good chuckle whenever I think about that one!
But when the baby actually came, reality smacked me in the face! My natural serene woman-power birth ended up being a scheduled C-section. Breastfeeding, which the La Leche League book made seem so natural and easy, was really painful and difficult those first few weeks. Add to that nightly gallstone attacks and another surgery, and Emma’s spot to sleep was in my arms in bed (or in the baby carrier for naps).
I just wanted some uninterrupted sleep!
After things settled down, when she was around 2 or 3 months old, I tried transitioning her to the previously-untouched bassinet. Our bed was pretty uncomfortable and I wanted to trim down the number of nightly nursing sessions. That week was when she learned to cry loudly! I tried the method where you sit by the bassinet until they fall asleep – didn’t work. I tried singing, rocking and putting down, even cry-it-out – and each time she hated her bassinet more and more. By then I was so tired that I gave up, telling myself that I would try again in another month.
Well, that month turned into the entire first year of her life! She was getting big and starting to move more in her sleep, and we moved to a bigger apartment. We finally bought a crib and set it up.
Can you guess what happened the first time I put her in it to sleep? She screamed and screamed! After a few more nights of this I took off one side of the crib and clamped it together with our bed to make a sidecar. It stayed like this for a while (even though she ended up scooting herself into my spot every night!).
When she turned about 18 months she dropped to one nap, and by two years old she was done napping consistently. (Ugh…) I switched her crib to toddler bed mode. She would pretty happily get in to go to sleep, after many ‘big girl bed’ talks. But during the night, and any night where she was sick or sad, she would hop back into my bed. By this point I wasn’t even waking up when she climbed in, so I wasn’t sure how to address it!
A Fresh Start!
When we moved to Indiana, I finally had my chance! We were moving into a two-bedroom apartment. My goal was to get her sleeping in her own room by the time my husband joined us. So for the first week or so we snuggled together in bed every night and got some good sleep while we unpacked and decorated our new apartment. I really enjoyed that week fully!
The first night, I sung and read to her for a while but she was tired and fell asleep quickly to the sound of the fan. And she slept, in her own bed, until 9am! Unfortunately the next month wasn’t as easy. Taking her back to bed wasn’t the problem, as she would usually fall asleep again pretty quickly in the middle of the night. It was getting her to sleep in there in the first place!
We tried it all…
I tried everything I could think of (or find on the Internet). We sung. We read. I laid on her floor. We tried the light on, then off. We kept the door open, then closed. I rearranged her bedroom. We used monster spray. We read The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep (which worked if I could stay awake longer than Emma could!). I even tried letting her sleep in her teepee, just so she could stay in her room!
What ended up working was singing or reading until she fell asleep. Sometimes that would be for an hour or more!
Progress, Not Perfection!
Now, at nearly four, she is very good at sleeping in her own bed! She still comes in if she had an accident or a bad dream, but she drags in a pillow and a throw blanket and sets up shop on the floor. I switched out the lightbulb in her bedroom lamp to a yellow hued low one. That way there’s enough light that she isn’t in the dark, but it’s not so bright that it keeps her awake. After our bedtime routine, I sing her two or three songs, and warn her when I’m almost done singing. She tries her best to fall asleep quickly. I think that’s because she just likes falling asleep with me in the room! If she’s still awake when I’m done, I leave her door open and tell her I’ll be back to check on her in ten minutes. That one almost always works!
Are you having sleep struggles in your house, too? Here are some tips to help you finally get some sleep!
Don’t Solve a Problem with a Problem!
I was obviously not thinking long-term in my solutions! If you can, think to yourself: is this what I want to be doing a year from now? If not, think about a different approach. Or you may just find yourself making the same mistake I did: two steps forward and one step back!
Keep Your Cool and Prioritize Your Own Sleep!
It’s so hard to stay calm when you’re tired, I know! But getting stressed and frustrated about bedtime won’t help you make good decisions. And your kid might pick up on it, and get even more resistant to bedtime! If it means reverting back to the way things were for a few days, in order to come up with a game plan where you can stay calm – consider it!
Their Problems Are Real to Them
I know it’s infuriating to hear your kid at 2am crying about shadows or monsters under the bed. I read a great study which explained that children can have a hard time differenciating between reality and imagination, especially when negative emotions like fear are involved! Do you remember being little and afraid of the dark? (Or heck, a grown woman and afraid of the dark! I’ve seen too many scary movies to just be okay walking down a dark hallway!) Their problems are real to them, and belittling them won’t do anything but distance us. Here’s a helpful resource on dealing with kids’ nighttime fears in a constructive way.
They’re Still Little
It is developmentally appropriate for kids to want to sleep in their parents’ bed! Some kids want that connection and physical closeness, especially if they are missing it during the day. Emma still comes in to wake up her daddy sometimes if she is missing him. Wanting space and sleep is totally okay, especially after years of putting up with a bed intruder! But don’t forget, they will only be this little for so long – if they come in for a snuggle every once in a while, take it!
Are you having bedtime battles in your house? Tell me about in the comments!
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