Thursday, September 22, 2011

sleep, sweet, sleep

This is what my son looks like when he wakes up from a well rested nap.  I should have flipped the camera around and taking a picture of what I look like when I go to get him after a nice long restful nap.  It mirrors the joy on this little guy's face. ;)

Our journey through parenting definitely took a few hard bumps and turns when it came to dealing with sleep issues with our little guy.  

I am pleased to say that we have now gone through a successful month of him sleeping all. through. the. night. In his own bed.  It is amazing.

We owe a big part of this accomplishment to the helpful tips in the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and another big part to the encouragement and reinforcement of several respected friends.  

I never thought that I would be the kind of mom who would let her child "cry-it-out" at night, but then again I also never thought that I would be the kind of mom that would let her baby boy sleep wedged in between her and her hubby night after night; and that was exactly what was happening before we decided to take some drastic measures and instill a "sleep training" in our home.

Let me start this by saying, I loved rocking my baby boy to sleep.  

Especially after he stopped nursing I really cherished that time.

The problem was that he was so used to that routine that when mommy was gone at bedtime, daddy would spend hours trying to get him to sleep.

The other problem with that was that if he woke up in the middle of the night he wanted mommy to rock him back to sleep.  When he was 8 and 9 months old I was okay with this.  It seemed pretty normal for babies to wake up and want their mommies.
Then gradually it seemed like the rocking him back to sleep didn't work very well anymore, and he wanted to lay in bed with me to fall asleep.  At first we would move him back to his crib after he did, but then after a while we were too tired to care, and just let him stay there.

And then we would cut him some more slack when he was teething and didn't feel well....

and then we went on vacation and the whole sort-of-routine flew out the window.

Before we knew it, we were tiptoeing around, going to bed at 8 pm just so our kid would sleep, and waking up with aches in our necks because our lumpy kiddo was forcing us to contort our bodies around his.

So we did some research and decided to try letting our baby 'soothe himself to sleep'.  The basic premise here is that if you let him put himself to sleep in the first place, he will be able to put himself back to sleep if he wakes up in the middle of the night.  Sounds simple enough.

We worked on a bedtime routine that included bath, snuggles, reading books, songs and then a smootch and that's it.  Goodnight baby boy.  See you in the morning.  We laid him down in the crib while he was still awake but sleepy with his blanket and paci, and let him do the work of getting to sleep.

It was hard work.

Both for him and us.

It is really hard to listen to your child cry.  I don't care how many times I read that it would not hurt him, it still hurt me to listen to him.  His little voice was hoarse the next morning, and I was dreading starting this all over again the next night.  I also wanted to "cheat" and rock him to sleep at naptime - sort of as an apology, crazy as that sounds.   

But from everything I had read, consistency was really the most important step, so we tried to follow through with what we had started.  Those first three nights were hard.  Really hard.


there was light at the end of the tunnel.

On the fourth night we did our routine and after we left his bedroom he only fussed for the amount of time it took us to walk out of his room and down the stairs.  And then. silence.   I even replaced the batteries in the monitor because I was certain that we couldn't possibly be that lucky.  But we were.  He had put himself to sleep. 

We poked our heads into his bedroom that night before we went to bed to see him sleeping on his tummy snuggled up with his blankie and it was sooooo adorable!  I had never seen him sleep on his tummy before that, so it was amazing to see that he just had to work harder to find what made himself comfortable and feel cozy.

Now our little dude is going to bed at 7 pm and sleeping until 6:30 am or until we have to wake him up to get ready for our day.   He recognizes the bedtime routine and actually goes to find his blankie when we start singing one of the sleepy-time songs.  He is napping without a fit both in the morning and afternoon, even when he is at the baby-sitter's house.  

And most importantly both he and his parents are well rested and able to function during the day.   ;)

I am really thankful for this new bend in our sleeping journey and would advocate to anyone that working towards a sleep routine is most definitely worth it!

Disclaimer:  I think that each and every child is different and I would recommend doing your own research about what would work for your family.  I just wanted to share about our personal journey. 

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