Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Joyful Sleep Solution

Joy, my first-born, was THAT baby that would not go to sleep unless you held her. Then, when you tried to put her down, she’d wake up. I know what you’re thinking—“Oh, she’s one of THOSE moms.” In my defense, let me just say that I think Joy read all of the books with expert advice on how to get a baby to go to sleep on her own—and then she wrote her own book. I tried the whole “let her just cry it out” thing. After two weeks of screaming for hours on end, I just gave up. On good nights I was able to nurse her, read her a story, rock her to sleep to her music, and softly place her in her crib. On the not-so-good nights I ended up sleeping in her crib with her (yes, you read that right) just so that I could get some sleep.

This lasted until the child learned how to inch her little pink toes up the side rail of the crib while gripping the edge, then flinging her little 15 month old body over the edge. Let me tell you, that little tiny body makes quite a thump when it hits the floor. And so we began putting her to bed in the Pack n’ Play. I tried to make it as comfortable as possible. My thinking was that it was still a semi-enclosed sleeping facility and the mesh sides provided much less traction for little climbing toes. That worked for a few weeks. Then the monkey in her re-emerged. At that point we were forced to put her in a bed. A BIG GIRL bed. The thing about big girl beds is that they don’t have any seat belts, harnesses, sides, or wall-scaling prevention devices. (The bed rails we got to keep her from falling out didn’t do anything for keeping her from climbing out.) And that was the beginning of my nightly proclamation of “I’m putting Joy to bed.” I would fade into the dark recesses of Joy’s room for the sleeping ritual. That first bed was very low to the ground and made an awful noise if I tried to sneak out after she fell asleep. This was all fine and good IF I was ready to go to bed at 8pm (which, if you know me, I rarely am). It was all less fine and good when I was pregnant with Marlo. It’s hard enough to sleep in a twin bed with an over-active sleeping toddler. It’s worse when you are trying to sleep with an over-active sleeping toddler and an over-active not sleeping baby in utero.

About a month before Baby Marlo arrived, I bid farewell to my “Scrapbooking/Craft Room” , put all of my hobby stuff into boxes and had it shipped, via US Postal Hubs to the attic, and we made the room formerly known as MINE into Joy’s new BIG GIRL ROOM. We painted and decorated and made it into the princess’s royal quarters, complete with a new bed. This bed was much more comfortable and higher up off the ground. The bed rails were transferred from her old bed to this one. We got her new bedding and put twinkle lights up around the room to make it look like stars. She LOVED her new room. She just did not love sleeping in it by herself. So the saga continued, and continued even after Marlo arrived. It was quite a juggling act for the first 6 months of Marlo’s life. And suddenly, one day at the library, I found a book called “The Sleep Easy Solution” by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack.

This book changed my life. I put Marlo onto sleep training and she is now (at 18 months) an expert sleeper. The book also had tips for toddlers who have already developed bad habits (read: MY Joy). Part of the advice said to make a book about your child, incorporating them into the story of how bedtime should go with them sleeping in their own bed and how it’s beneficial for everyone in the household. And being the diligent, caring mother that I am, I made a book for her, complete with illustrations that look as much like her as my illustrating skills will allow, and we read it. A LOT. Many times, over and over. And everyday she would say, “OK, Mommy, tonight I will sleep by myself.” And every night she would re-neg, into the wee hours of the night until she finally wore me down and broke my spirit and I ended up holding her until she fell asleep, most nights for the duration of the night.

March 28, my friends, was a MOMENTOUS day for us. Joy announced that she was going to sleep by herself that night. (I thought, “Yeah, right—I’ve heard this before), but I SAID, “Wow! What a big girl you are! That’s great.” That day I overheard her reading a book to Marlo. She told her it was her ‘Sleep Solution’ book and it had the “spell” for sleeping like a big girl. At dinner Joy told me the plan: “After dinner we’ll take a tubby, play for awhile, brush our teeth, go potty, read a story, say our prayers and make a wish, and then you can go out and I’ll go to sleep. Does that sound like a good deal?” I agreed that it did and so we got down to putting this plan into action.
Sure enough, after the wish, she told me I could go. One drink request, 17 kisses, 15 hugs, five cover-straightening sessions, one additional night light, and three stuffed animals added to the mix later (at 11:05 pm) she finally went to sleep BY HERSELF. The next night, after the wish, she was asleep before my first 15-minute check.
The night before Easter we were running a little late because of the egg dyeing, and letter writing to the Easter Bunny, and so when it was time for her to get into bed, she actually asked to skip the story and ordered me to get out of her room. I assured her that prayers were still necessary, but then I promptly left. Not even three minutes later she was sound asleep.

We’ve had a couple of nights since that have not gone so great, but for the most part she has done a great job sleeping like a big girl. One night she got a little scared about fires—not that we’ve had any at our house or even near our house—but that night she asked me to do a ‘visit’ with her while she fell asleep. And I agreed to the cameo appearance because I know that a chapter of my first-born baby’s life is coming to a close and I know that I will miss it. Not the frustration, discomfort, or irritation of her needing to be held while she fell asleep, but I will miss her warm little body snuggled up to mine, feeling her heart beating, hearing her breath move in and out, and feeling sleep take over her busy little body.

Oh, Joy—the Sleep Solution spell’s got nothin’ on you, girl!

Posted by The Editor for Busy Body.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! And I thought I had a bad sleeper ;)

    My pediatrician who is also my friend (who also had her own daughter sleeping in her car seat carrier for months!) said "you may read all of the baby books, but your baby doesn't".

    Glad to hear she is sleeping better!!


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