Oh my word. I love my doctor and I love this sleeping book that he recommended to us.
We’ve had very few full nights of sleep in the past 3 years. Angel has always been a very light sleeper and very anxious without us there with her (turns out we were just increasing that anxiety by our bedtime routine). Caleb slept all the time when he was a baby but when he transitioned to toddler bed about 6-9 months ago he started having problems with being able to go to bed and sleeping through the night. We were like many parents thinking that’s just the way it is. And while it is normal for kids to struggle to go to sleep and wake up often, like I already said we were just making it worse.
There’s alot of big words and science in this book but basically we were causing our children to be scared because the only way they would fall asleep is if we were in the room. So we would sit in their bedroom until they fell alseep or got close to falling asleep. Well that associated falling asleep with mommy or daddy. So in the middle of the night when they woke up and we weren’t there, well that freaked them out. Kinda the same for adults, if you need the tv on to fall asleep. We had trained them that they need mommy and daddy to fall asleep.
Bedtime was also a nightmare because they wouldn’t stay in their beds. We would try closing the door but that would really scare them and we didn’t want to do that. So again, the only way to get them to stay in beds was for us to sit in their bedroom.
So first thing is we put up a gate to their room so we could eliminate the hour long argument of convincing them to get in their bed. This was such a simple idea I cannot believe we hadn’t thought of it. Basically it makes their bedroom into a crib. They are free to walk around, just like they would a crib. We moved out anything that they would destroy or get hurt with if they decided to make a mess of things. But they haven’t because we also moved their bedtime back just a bit. They just weren’t tired enough to go to bed at 8:00 pm. So we moved it back to 8:30 pm. But with our changes our bedtime routine is actually shorter because we aren’t sitting in their bedroom for an hour.
We had to decide what our routine was going to be. The author suggested to make it fun and something the kids look forward to. Not big bad scary bedtime (like ours had become). We don’t usually take a bath every night right now, usually every other night. So if we take baths we start at 8 pm, otherwise bedtime is 8:30 pm. Some nights it’s earlier depending on their day. A few nights ago Angel was so tired and ready for bed by 7:30 pm. It’s not necessarily the time that’s important, it’s that the routine is the same every night. So we start with reading a short children’s devotion. And when I say short, I mean like 1 minute. After about 2 minutes it’s on to other things whether I like it or not. Then they each get to pick out one book that mommy or daddy reads. After their books we have a little Bible song book and we sing one song (usually the same one!) and then we say a prayer. After that it’s into beds and then we spend some time talking about their day and always ask them what their favorite part of the day was. It’s been SO fun to just have a little down time to talk to them because normally they are running around 400 miles an hour.
The first few nights were difficult. We did our routine, kisses, hugs and told them we loved them and goodnight and then left. The book suggested to sit out of sight but still make noise or have the tv on low so they know you are in the next room. The first night Angel cried for about an hour. Caleb cried on and off but only because Angel was. The first night we went back to the gate after 3 minutes of crying, gave kisses and hugs, told them it was ok and that we loved them and that it was time for bed. And then we wait 5 minutes and go back. And then 7 and finally 10. You continue to go back every 10 minutes until they settle down. Like I said, the first night it was an hour of back and forth.
The second night is was 20 minutes.
The third night they went to sleep. And that, my friends, is proof that miracles do happen. Pat and I sat on the couch and looked at each other like, “What the heck are you supposed to do now?” We haven’t had just us time in the evening before 9:30 pm for over 3 years. You all know I love my kids more than anything, but to have this time in the evening all of a sudden is the most amazing thing.
The book suggests to follow the same routine for middle of the night wakings. They should be less because they are not associating mommy and daddy with falling asleep. So when they naturally wake up in the middle of the night, they will more than likely go back to sleep.
Since the second night Caleb has slept through the night. Every single night. Angel is only waking up once, right around 2 am. She comes to the gate and cries for one of us. We usually tell her that it’s still night time and to go back to sleep. A few times she hasn’t been able to after 3-5 minutes so then we’ll go to the gate, give her a hug and kiss and tell her to go to bed. And so far she has. A few nights ago she had a rough night but I think she was having bad dreams.
In the past she would wake up 2-4 times every night and eventually we would have her come to our bed because we just didn’t know how to deal with it and we really wanted sleep. So to be down to once a night and then it’s only a few minutes usually, is just amazing. And we still get cuddle time in our bed. After 5 am if they wake up they can come into our bed. Obviously they don’t know the time yet, but it’s the time Pat and I agreed on. Since we’ve started this they’ve also been sleeping in better. Most mornings we have to wake them up but if they do wake up it’s not until 6:00 or 6:30 am. And now with me being home during the day we are going to have some major cuddle/cartoon time in the morning!
The thing I like about this book and author is that he doesn’t believe there’s one “right” routine or one “right” way for kids to sleep (in their own rooms, co-sleep, in own beds in parent’s bedroom, etc.). He basically just says that if you are happy with your sleep routine and it’s working for your family, then it’s the right one for you. But if it’s not working, if the kids aren’t sleeping, if the parent’s aren’t sleeping, well then there are techniques to help.
There are still some nights that I do want to fall alseep with my babies in their room. Or when they wake up in the middle of the night I go into their room and lay in their bed and rub their back until they fall alseep. I will cherish those times that I have because I know they’ll be gone soon. But I’m also so very thankful that we have some techniques now that help us all sleep better.
(I downloaded Kindle for PC on my laptop – it’s free! – and bought my book that way. When you buy a book on Amazon you’ll see that option. )