I am a little curious if this phenomenon actually exists. Oh I’ve read stories from moms who claim they single – handedly taught their babies and older children how to “self – soothe” and that all it took was a few nights with the willingness to let them “cry it out”, and within a week, the baby is happily putting him/herself to sleep all on his or her own. No resistance.
How I feel when I read these stories: those moms have complete “control” over the tiny little beings they call children (power trip/pride booster?), and it’s so easy that if that method is unsuccessful with my children, I must be weak-willed, doing something wrong, or else something is wrong with my kids… or maybe I didn’t try hard enough or long enough.
Has anyone else felt this way? Am I the only one to have struggled with my kids’ bedtime and general sleep patterns?
Well my friends, I may be officially at my wits end here, because when we tried the “CIO” method with our eldest, it was a royal disaster. From what I can remember, I tried it for over a week, doing exactly what they suggest: read a book or sing a song, or some other soothing activity to help calm and set the tone before bedtime. Then, put her in her bed or crib, give her a hug and kiss, tell her goodnight, walk out of the room and shut the door. If- that is, WHEN- she starts crying, give it 5 minutes. Then go in and DO NOT – I repeat do not! – pick the child up. Rub her back, give her a kiss, tell her goodnight, and walk out of the room again. When she continues to cry, increase the internals at which you go in to soothe her. So, give it 10 minutes. Then 15. Then 30. Then 45. Then after an hour. (If we add that all up, it equals 2 hours 40 minutes. Please tell me you are not supposed to actually let your child cry that long.)
You can see how mentally and emotionally draining this is, not to mention physically tiring, considering that even if you can manage to focus on completing a task while your child screams bloody murder from the other room, you have to consistently interrupt yourself to truly follow the method. Not to mention, my most vivid memories of that time were trying to stay busy with a task (to distract myself from my child’s loud cries), but being shocked every time I glanced at the clock that only 3 little minutes had passed since last time I checked. The time seems to CRAWL.
I know the reason they tell you to go back in the room: they need to know you are still there and have not abandoned them.
In my experience, this is the worst possible thing you can do. As soon as the child sees you in the room but realizes you are about to leave again without him or her, s/he goes absolutely ape shhhhh- um, you know. This is how and when the tired cry turns into a ballistic scream. When I tried this with our daughter, we lived in an apartment. I remember being afraid someone would call the cops on me, thinking I was abusing her. That’s how violent her cries were.
Then there is the “put them back” method. (I don’t know what the actual name for it is, if it even has one. ) This method tells you that when your child is old enough to get out of bed themselves and therefore won’t stay put, the simple solution is winning a battle of determination. When they get out of bed, pick them up and put them back in their bed – without saying a word. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. (You get the idea.) No matter that by the time you get to the door and shut it, your child is already out of bed again, forcing you to consider the possibility of just standing there holding the door shut while they kick and scream on the other side.
What do these methods have in common? They involve the oh-so-simple task of just ignoring your children. Ignore their cries. Ignore their outstretched arms. Ignore their tears. Ignore their pleadings for just one more hug or kiss. Just one more book. Just one more trip to the bathroom. One more glass of water. And also ignore their puke – because if they cry so hard they throw up, they’re manipulating you into doing what they want. I am not lying. I actually read that, and people seriously believed it. To my surprise, these people did not then recommend beating your child into submission – although that seems like the most logical next step in this way of thinking.
Now I know what some of you might say:
“You did this to yourself.”
“You never should’ve rocked her to sleep every night.”
“It’s your own fault for babying her.”
“You should’ve put her in her crib while she was drowsy, but still awake.”
Yes it is true – with our first, I voluntarily encouraged the problem by cuddling with my daughter until she fell asleep – usually on the couch. Then I often left her there until I chose to go to bed, and then was so tired I just brought her to bed with us rather than wage a fight to keep her in her crib/bed – against recommendations from her pediatrician and my mom.
There. I’ve been honest.
There was one positive to this though – she could fall asleep ANYWHERE, at ANY TIME, with ANY noise in the background. That was convenient. But what can I say? I was inexperienced, overwhelmed with love for my little one, enamored with her adorable-ness, and lacked the foresight to understand what I was setting myself up for. She did not consistently go to sleep on her own, in her bed, without crying or having a fit, at a reasonable hour, until she was 3 in her new twin bed. (We did make headway when she was 2 by implementing a strict bedtime routine which she helped me list, but that only helped with WHEN she went to bed, not really WHERE.)
So I vowed to fix it with our second.
And I did. I still nursed him before bed, sometimes co-slept if it was near enough to morning, but in general I allowed myself very little sleepy time cuddles. I connected the bassinet to our mattress, putting him down immediately after nighttime feedings. When he got old enough for the crib, and especially when we found out I was pregnant with our 3rd – he was only 9mos – I put him in his crib drowsy, but not fully asleep. All while still strictly adhering to and incorporating him into my daughter’s established bedtime routine.
I felt accomplished! Successful! Experienced! I was now able to look down my nose at other moms who fell into the same TRAP I did – letting kids roam free instead of giving them a consistent and reliable bedtime and routine which always ended with tired happy kids falling asleep in their own beds and remaining there all night (11 hours!).
Then we had our 3rd – about a week after moving into our newly mortgaged home, in the hottest weather our area had seen in years, and without a working fridge. I knew the lure of THE TRAP was lurking, waiting to pounce when I let my guard down. But I didn’t even care. I threw the door open wide for THE TRAP and invited it into my bedroom and family room. Oh, the older two stayed on their routine. But this, THIS was my last baby. I wanted to soak in every possible moment, cuddling her, smelling her, counting her tiny toes and fingers. Memorizing her expressions. Just relaxing, instead of trying to be SuperMom and run around doing all the things I normally did. I was on maternity leave, and I was taking full advantage.
Now she is 18 months old, and only sometimes sleeps through the night (I’m not talking about the INFANT definition of sleeping through the night, which is 6 hours, but the 8-11 hours toddlers her age require). Up until the last week, she was very content to have a bottle while we rocked her, fall asleep in our arms, and then go to sleep in her crib and sleep through most of the night. (The first milestone was when I realized it was usually 2am when she woke the first time. Then she started sleeping until 5 or 6 – but it wasn’t often enough for me to celebrate just yet.)
So here’s what I’m struggling with now:
1. She is fighting her naps.
2. The old routine is no longer working.
She is so much more like her sister than her brother. He is our best sleeper. He napped until he was probably 2 1/2, at 2 hours a pop, and has even started taking them again lately, if he is more tired than normal. (Momma thinks growth spurt!) But our eldest stopped napping right around 20 months. And now that I’ve experienced a good, consistent, reliable, scheduled napper, I’m not willing to give that up so soon.
So, what’s a mom to do?
I’m probably going to start gradually transitioning her into a new-ish routine. I can’t justify changing her crib to a toddler bed quite yet, and when we do transition her to a twin, we’re probably going to just get bunk beds for the girls, since they share a room. (This is another reason I can’t justify trying the CIO with her. That, and the fact that the couple times I tried to start implementing it already, her older brother wakes up crying and comes to me desperately saying, “Mom, Camille needs you!” Yeah. Not gonna work.)
So… Just like all other areas of parenting, it’s going to be TRY, FAIL, ADJUST.
What struggles have you had with your kids’ bedtime routines and schedules? Any ideas that have worked for you? Any that didn’t? I’d love to hear your stories.