Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sleep Update

Okay, I have to talk about sleep.  I have talked for months about Miles being a terrible sleeper.  How he wouldn't sleep through the night for the longest time.  How awful bedtimes were.  How we would fight.  And how naps were even worse.

All of this is true.  I feel like I didn't sleep for the first 15 months of Miles' life.  Because I didn't.  His sleep habits were awful, despite my many attempts to change them.  Rocking him to sleep resulted in a baby who could only nap while being held.  Attempts to let him 'cry it out' ended with all of us in tears, sometimes after Miles had cried so hard that he had made himself puke.  Nothing we tried seemed to work.

Then, while browsing our local Half Price Book Store just after Christmas, I came across a book titled, "The No Cry Sleep Solution".  I had heard of it many a time on my mommy forums, and had been given a basic overview of the method.  I thought it would never work for us.  Still, after 15 months of sleeplessness, I was ready to try anything.  So, I bought the book, and I read the entire thing in an afternoon.*

I don't think I'd be overstating things to say that this book changed my life.  In the most honest, realistic, and practical way possible: I managed to get my kid to sleep.

Much of the book focuses on how small children sleep.  What they need, physiologically, and why getting there can be so difficult.  I thought I was a child psychology guru, but the author gave me a million new insights into my son.  And, she gave me a list of things to try to help him sleep better.  More than anything, she reiterated over and over that there is no single solution that gets every child to sleep.  There are, however, a number of tried and true tips that can help set the stage for getting a child to sleep.  The day after reading the book, I put a few of these tips into practice.

First, and most importantly, I re-evaluated what I wanted out of a bedtime (and nap time) routine.  After a little soul searching, I realized that I was being inconsistent with his routine, because I wasn't certain what was acceptable.  Was it okay to rock him to sleep?  Or should I just put him straight in bed?  Eventually (and after much discussion with Patrick), we decided that our long-term goal included a few minutes of cuddling in the recliner before putting him to bed.  Going in with that plan helped us immensely.

The other major thing we discovered was that Miles was fighting naps because he probably didn't realize they were just naps.  At bedtime every night, we turned out all of the lights, turned off all of the noise (other than the constant hum of his humidifier and fan), and then rocked him, and put him in bed.  The problem was, we did the exact same thing at nap time.  Because his little toddler brain is not able to read our minds, he thought we were putting him to bed for the night - sometimes after he'd only been awake for a few hours.  Looking back, it's obvious why he fought it.  We began turning on the radio at a low volume, and leaving on a lamp for naps.  Within two days, the fighting at nap time stopped almost entirely.

From all of this, and with a little patience, we were also able to establish a consistent daily routine with him - one that is predictable for all of us.  It's not a set-in-stone schedule, by any means, but it does allow everyone to know what to expect.  And with naps no longer a major fighting point, we're all breathing a little easier, and stressing out a whole lot less.

Just within the past couple of weeks, bedtimes have become a little slice of heaven.  We cuddle in the recliner, and read a few books, then turn out the lights and rock for about five more minutes.  Then, he goes into the crib - still awake, but sleepy - where he rolls over, and snuggles in for the night.  No fuss, and no fighting.  Just a sweet little way to end our days.

I no longer dread bedtime.  Or naps.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

*Okay, okay, I only skimmed the parts that didn't apply to me, but still. . .

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