Friday, September 10, 2010

It Always Comes Back to Sleeping

Henry is a good baby. Toddler. He has a sweet heart. I don't know how else to describe it. He loves to hug and kiss us. He loves to hug and kiss his toys. He loves to lay around on the couch together and play together with all of his toys, or with nothing at all but noises and tickle monsters. His laugh is infectious. He warms our hearts. Oh, he has his non-sweet side too. His temper that flares up when he doesn't get what he wants. The way he is a classic first child, completely ruling the roost. But those things are little. At this point those things are still funny, seeing his temper flair and the injustice of being told he cannot jump on the couch or cannot have anymore brownie. Throwing himself into a heap on the floor in despair. Those are just things you expect with a sixteen month old. But when people ask us as parents what is the hardest part, what do we wish we could make better, we both reply without question: Sleeping. Bedtime.

It just feels like we have been going around and around on this issue since he was tiny. And things are better. Always getting better. Always working on a plan, but it just feels like it is always something. We finally got him to sleep in his bed, and that was huge. After he finished nursing we finally got him sleeping through the night. That was...I don't even know...monumental? Is that overstating it? I don't think so. To finally sleep through the night after fourteen months, it's monumental. But now we have a new sleep issue. Or maybe not new, maybe just now that the other two things are better, we can focus on the last (I hope?!?) of the sleeping issues. The bedtime.

We have rocked Henry to sleep nearly all of his life. I remember people telling me not to. Telling me to teach him from the start to lay in his bed and go to sleep on his own. That it will be better down the road. Did I listen? A little. I mean, we TRIED it. But... I don't know, maybe we didn't try hard enough then. When he cried we went to him. We held him and rocked him and loved on him until he was asleep. I don't regret it. I cherish it actually. The memories of that tiny little baby in my arms. Soon enough he started nursing himself to sleep. Another no-no. But what do you do? Wake him just to put him back to sleep? It seemed absurd. Then after thirteen months the nursing was gone and the holding began. We just didn't know what else to do.

So now we hold Henry to sleep. I want to say we rock him, but we don't. I told you all we moved from the living room to the Chaise, and that is where we are. Holding. Laying with. Loving. But he is getting so big. He doesn't want to be cradled in our arms. He wants to lay beside us, on top of us, in positions that make it nearly impossible to scoop up his sleeping body and lay him in his crib undisturbed. This makes the bedtime routine long and difficult. On a good night it is thirty minutes, but more often than not we are with him in a dark room for an hour or longer. It doesn't sound bad to read that, an hour to get him to sleep, but an hour holding a child in a dark room, just to have him wake as soon as you attempt to lay him in his bed is a long time. Trust me.

We talked to the doctor. I read books. We came up with a plan. After bath time and snack time and books and kisses we go to his room. We lay on the chaise together for about five to ten minutes. Five to ten minutes for him to relax and know it is nearly bedtime. The doctor said that is the appropriate amount of time for bedtime "rocking". Then we lay him down. We don't leave, not yet. We stay there with him, telling him it's okay, that we are there, that we love him, that it's bedtime. If he cries we pick him up, kiss him, and lay him right back down. We keep our hands on him for now. Not the entire time, but when he wants them. We try our best to sooth him as he goes to sleep in his bed alone. Laying in his own bed like a good boy. Like a big boy. A big boy that we love so much. That is what I tell him, over and over as he fights sleep.

It's hard you all. It's really hard. As I stand in his room for and hour and a half to two hours repeatedly laying him back down. Again and again and again. Telling him I love him, that I am here. Laying him back down. I want to give up. I want to scoop him into my arms and just lay with him on the chaise again until he falls asleep. Better yet, I am so tired by that point I just want to take him back to bed with me. But I fight that. That is why we are here. He sleeps so well in his bed once we get him in there, I don't want to go backwards. I want him to learn he can sleep in is own bed. He can lay down and go to sleep. And I am always there, willing to pick him up and hug him if he needs me. This is the long way, but we knew we couldn't do "cry it out" and this was the alternative. So we are doing it. And it is hard. And I am tired. But two nights in a row he has fallen asleep in his own bed. And he has slept through the night. A happy boy. A big boy. A boy that we love more than anything.

*I know I already showed you this picture, but I love it so much I am showing you again


  1. Oh boy, when it comes to sleep there is nothing you need more than patience and maybe a teeny tiny shot of tequila? Haha. I was reading your post and thinking oh no I am going to get to the part where she leaves him to cry...and I'm so glad I didn't! I applaud you for trusting your mommy gut and putting your child's needs first. It is a trying and exhausting job to teach little ones that sleeping in their crib is A OK, but it does eventually happen and the rewards of doing it in a loving and caring way are also, as you said, monumental! My daughter was the same way and it seemed like we were going to have to rock her to sleep forever, but we started the process of laying her awake but drowsy and slowly but surely one day she climbed into her toddler bed and said "goodnight". They really do grow up right before your eyes and before you know it all those hard nights seem like a distant memory.

    Oh and what a cute picture! Love his little shirt too :-)

  2. Childcare decisions and how to get the kid to sleep have been, hands down, the hardest parenting decisions we've had to make. I think the very best advise I ever got, and gave, is to follow your mommy instincts, you gut, about this. And remember, that he will not go to high school needing so much help to go to sleep. The first night the kid told me he didn't want me to sing to him and rub his back, I cried. Sometimes he *lets* me, but mostly I'm sad I don't get to do it anymore. Good luck!!!!

  3. What an adorable photo =]

    We are stopping over from the Quality Time Blog Hop and are now following your blog... really like the name and your signature graphic.. fun stuff!

    Hope you will come and visit us too at

  4. THANK YOU for this post! We are doing the exact same thing with Eliza that you did with Henry. She's 10 months old and she's still not STTN, she IS nursing to sleep and we DO go to her when she cries and we DO rock her to sleep sometimes, too. And... we know it is the right thing to do. We ARE okay with it.

    But unfortunately, there is always that question in the back of your mind as a parent -- that book or that piece of advice from a friend that says "they need to learn young to self-soothe" (BS), "they are just manipulating you when they cry at night and you come to them" (don't even get me started on that one)...

    So thank you. It is so great to hear this from a mom who is "ahead" of me in this sleep game, and did it in a way that put your child first. It is not the easy way, or the quick way, but it is the LOVING way, like you said... good for you. And THANK YOU!

    That is an adorable little boy you have there. What a cute photo!!

  5. Two things have really helped us with bedtime; 1. We got L a "lovey" and helped her form an attachment to it. She only gets it at nap and bedtime and we rock with it and she cuddles it; and 2. We listen to music while we rock and lay her down awake and let her listen to the music till she falls asleep (the music is on a timer). Maybe this will help you too :)

  6. it's always something, isn't it?

    Hopefully this is the last step in the transition.

    We have never rocked simply because we don't have the time but I do know what a blessing that is. I literally put them in the cot, pray and out the room I go. Don't hate me :)

    I do miss the times when they were little and would stay still while I held them - these days they wriggle and want out and up! So I wouldn't mind rocking them just a little bit (2 minutes) every night :) (i hope that doesn't come back to bite me in the bum!)

  7. UGH.

    Well, I hope this comes across in the right spirit. My intent is to clear you of any self perceived "wrong doing". I nursed, then rocked my 15 mo old to sleep every night too. We (knock on wood) dont have these issues (yet?).

    Can it be a phase? Oh my law, I just love sleep so very much. I cannot imagine going back to that sleepless place. You must be a wreck.

    I use the glow fish singing thing. Turn it on, stick Elmo beside her, tell her good night and walk out.

    I think I would cut my heart out with a spoon if I were you.

    I am useless for help, but man, am I pulling for you.

  8. Oh boy, I am in the same boat as you with the whole rocking vs. laying him down to sleep! My 15 month old still gets help from me when he goes to sleep. First it was rocking and now it has gone to laying beside him. Everyone has told me that I should make him fall asleep on his own, let him cry, he needs to learn to do it himself. At first I felt guilty that I rocked my baby to sleep, but then I got really MAD about it. How dare people make me feel bad about rocking MY baby and loving on him while he is little. So I decided that I don't care what anybody else thinks, I'm going to love on him and rock him until he is too old. I have never seen an adult that still has to be rocked to sleep, so obviously it doesn't do any permanent damage!

  9. Following from Tara's Weekend Blog Hop!

  10. Hi!
    Following from Weekend Blog Hop...would love to have you follow back!

  11. Hi there,

    New follower via Tara's Blog Hop. Such a cute picture of your son.

    Glad to have found you...hope you'll come by and visit sometime.

    The Things We Find Inside

  12. Stopped in from the Weekend Blog Hop.
    Just wanted to say hello and hope your weekend is nice :)

    Nana Poppins

  13. We just had some sleep regression--well, that with teeth issues.
    Its SO tough--I cant stand to hear him scream and you want to comfort them, but also knowing that they need to settle themselves too!
    Hope you BOTH are catching up on sleep!

  14. My little one nursed through the night until around 14 months too.

    The trick that helped us was singing.

    I did a whole series of posts on my blog about what I did to get her sleeping through the night. Now she's teething and has an ear infection, so that's out the window. But just know there's alot of other parents in the same boat!

    Good Luck!