Liam was a good sleeper from 2-6 months old. He would sleep 11 hours straight. Amazing, amazing, amazing sleeper. Adeleine is doing the same now - finding her thumb in the middle of the night and self-soothing back to sleep without a peep - good girl! With Liam I thought getting kids to bed was no big deal, they just sleep. What are people complaining about? Ha! I was so naive. The luxury did not last forever. I'm now dreading the day when Adeleine's teeth come in because I know the 11 hour sleeps will end. END! Ugh.
At 6 months, when the teeth started to hurt him, my amazing sleeper began to wake up at least three times at night, crying. I would comfort him by nursing and he would go back to sleep for a few hours only to wake again in pain. Poor bean. The boob is the best pacifier though. Comfort, food and snuggling with Mommy all in one deal. I was happy to give it to him, but not exactly thrilled with the hour of the request. But, hey, once his teeth stopped coming in he would sleep 11 hours again, I'm sure. Ha! Oh sweet innocent Mommy. Turns out their teeth don't stop coming in for 2 years!
When he was 9 months both Andrew and I came down with food poisoning. We were stuck in bed for 3 days, could hardly move, had to change Liam on the floor to keep from passing out or puking on him. We brought Liam into bed with us because I was too weak to get up and walk the 15 feet to his room. We discovered that we liked having him in our bed. He was cuddly and sweet and it was lovely to wake up to his cute sleepy face in the morning. Plus, I no longer had to get up out of my warm bed three times during the night. I could just roll over, barely awake, feed him and fall back asleep. Some nights I don't think either of us was ever fully awake during any of the feeds, which made for better sleep for both of us (but maybe not for Andrew). Liam would begin to rustle or make a little noise and Pop! Boob. Sleep. I looooooved having Liam in our bed. He stayed there for a YEAR. It was heaven.
I was supposed to wean him at a year, to coincide with when I went back to work. I successfully weaned him from his day feeds: dropping the 9 am, noon and 3 pm feed. Leaving the 5pm, 9pm, two or three night feeds and the 6am. He started daycare and I started work. The plan was, to keep dropping the evening, night and morning feeds until we were done. Well, daycare germs threw us a loop. Liam only lasted 4 days there before he came down with Roseola, followed by countless colds and three ear infections. Because he was so sick all the time, I happily kept on breastfeeding him for another 7 months before we attempted to wean again. When he was breastfeeding I knew he was getting the nutrition he needed, even when he didn't feel like eating solids. I was working and still feeding him during the night, which, once you get used to it, is really no big deal. Having him in our bed really made it possible to do that since I never fully woke up. But when he was 19 months and no longer sick, it was time again to wean. We dropped the 5pm and 6am feeds. Last to go were the 9pm and the night feeds. Liam nursed to sleep. This is how he fell asleep each and every time since he was born. Suddenly, at 19 months we were saying "No more milk. Just close your eyes and sleep Liam". Yeah, right. Andrew took on a bigger role in putting Liam to bed, and held him while he cried for his milk. Liam did cry, but he never cried alone. After 3 nights of crying and rocking and reading ten thousand books to him, he finally got it. The Carrie-dairy (my dad thought up that one) was closed. He slept 11 hours.
For almost another year we struggled to get him to go to sleep. He just had no idea how to put himself to sleep and would resist resist resist sleep as hard as he possibly could. We would try and put him to bed at 7, he would finally fall asleep at 10. So at one point we gave up and said, heck why are we wasting three hours of our time, just go to sleep at 10 then. He would fall asleep watching some show downstairs with Andrew and he'd carry him to bed.
When he was 2 and a half, we finally decided to implement a routine. Note that this is not a 'schedule'. I'm pretty anti-schedule for our kids. I'm just far too wishy washy, go-with-the-flow, for a schedule. People told me to schedule my babies and I was not comfortable with that at all. Babies can't tell time. They don't know what time it is, so how the heck are they going to know they have to wait another 15 minutes to sleep or 20 minutes to eat? This is where pacifiers come in, and if you've been reading this blog for awhile you know I'm also anti-pacifer for our kids, so a schedule just doesn't work in our house. But it works for some, hence the recommendations, and that's great. Anyway, we began a 'routine', which was a series of things we would do, in the same order, at (roughly) the same time each night. Bath, snack, some downtime activity (ie colouring), two books read in bed and then lights go out. After a week of this routine, Liam was sleeping at 8pm, 20 minutes after the lights went out. Yay! But he was not sleeping alone. He could still not fall asleep alone, in his bed. Mommy or Daddy was always lying there while he fell asleep, the majority of the time falling asleep too. But it was a vast improvement over the three hour ordeal.
Then we tried to get him to go to sleep on his own. We built it up all day long, that Liam was going to sleep by himself like a big boy. We both kissed him goodnight, turned off the light and told him he could do it. I was only at the door when he yelled "I CAN"T DO IT!!!" and began to panic and cry. I crawled into bed with him, wiped his tears and said we'd try again tomorrow. The next day, I was a bit more firm and stayed just outside his door reassuring him that he could do it and that I was not far. In that hour he was pissed off, scared, begging, angry, sad, so I went in there a few times to comfort him and he was still mad when I left but eventually he fell asleep. The next day it took 5 minutes, the following day just three minutes. But it was only temporary and it created something else: insecurity. Each night he began begging me to stay with him and it was so sad. He was still very very scared when going to sleep and he began to say things during the day that indicated that he no longer trusted me, that I wasn't there for him when he needed me and that he was very frightened at night. Thanks very much cry it out method. You suck. I knew you sucked, but I tried you anyway and you suck and I regret doing it. Damn. The kid is scared of the dark and doesn't like to sleep, so leaving him in a dark room alone to cry himself to sleep for an hour was just traumatic and mean. I've had to spend the last three months re-building the trust I had with him, reassuring him that I would be there when he needed me and helping him fall asleep in peace. If that means I have to lie down next to him each night for 20 minutes while he relaxes and drifts off then so be it. Some nights, he's confident or very tired and goes to sleep easily on his own. Most nights he asks me to stay and I do, for a little while. He knows I leave after he falls asleep. That's ok. Sometimes he'll wake up scared during the night and call for me and then I stay with him. He's getting there. He's not going to suddenly sleep on his own and stay asleep the whole night - that's just an unrealistic expectation. One step at a time. We do the routine and try to sleep on our own. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But each night he sleeps, he does so in peace. That's enough for me.
I think it's natural for kids to want to fall asleep with their parents. I'm sure entire cultures still sleep together as a family and I think that's nice. People in caves didn't expect their kids to go and sleep in the cave next door. Falling asleep with your parents or siblings is comforting and safe and snuggly and warm. When he's ready to fall asleep on his own, he will. But I'll let him decide when he's ready. It's not this week.
As for Miss Adeleine, well, I've learned that it is important to learn to fall asleep, rather than nurse asleep (but, man does that work well). I've started some of the recommendations in the no-cry-sleep-solution book, like putting her in her bed sleepy but awake and pulling her off before she falls asleep nursing. But if she's anything like her brother (and so far she is!) we'll have a heck of a time with the sandman too. I'm enjoying her 11 hour sleeps soooooo much right now. Aaaah.
Here are some stall tactics Liam uses to delay the "lights out" part of the routine. Some of these work quite well. Don't let your two year old read this.
I need water.
I have to pee. I have to pee right now. Pee-pee's coming out!!!!
My feet are cold. I need socks.
I have to give Daddy another kiss.
I need my (pick a toy).
What's that noise?
I need another book.
I need to finish my snack.
I need another drink of water.
I need to blow my nose.
He's good. He's very good.
PS. A little note on parenting styles: This post is simply a peek into what goes on in our house. If you are a pacifier-wielding, alarm-setting scheduler who uses the cry-it-out method and that works for your family - great! I think a big part of parenting is trying out different methods and figuring out what works at your house. And once you have it figured out, the kids hit another stage and you start all over!