If you've noticed that I haven't been able to blog as much lately, you're right. A lot of factors are involved, but one of the big ones would be our new bedtime 'routine' here at the H-Haus. I usually do the majority of my blogging after Violet goes to bed. The problem is that since we switched Violet from her crib to a big girl bed our night time world has been turned upside down.
Violet's never been one to drift off to sleep peacefully at night. We never 'sleep trained' her for a variety of reasons (some related to her health issues, some because of my personal feelings), but she did eventually learn to self soothe. Sometime after she was a year old (and finally able to eat solids) she started sleeping through the night, and we were thrilled. While bedtime was never easy per say, she would probably only cry for about five to ten minutes at the most before settling down at night. While I didn't like listening to her cry, it seemed to be the only way for her to get to sleep besides being rocked (which I'll admit I sometimes still did on particularly rough nights, or when I wanted a little more cuddle time with my babe) Sometimes we got lucky and she'd sing herself to sleep or talk to herself, but often there was at least a little crying involved. Despite a consistent bedtime routine of bath, books, bed, she's not the type of child that gets calm and heavy-lidded before bedtime. Actually the more tired my child gets, the more manic her behavior becomes.
So while bedtime was never a cake walk at our house, she did fall asleep fairly quickly and stayed asleep until morning. Then we made the big switch from the crib to her 'big girl bed' and it was a whole new ballgame. Our routine was the same; the room and bed were not. Because of the style of her new bed (no boxspring) it was difficult to find a bedrail so we ended up dismantling her bed and putting the mattress directly on the floor. We placed a gate at the top of the stairs (which are extremely steep and dangerous) to prevent any accidents at night. She seemed to be excited about the switch...and then...it happened. She just wouldn't stay in her bed. The freedom was just too overwhelming. She'd run out the minute we left the room, stand at the gate, and scream and cry bloody murder.
After nights and nights of sleep deprivation on all of our parts, we've pretty much tried everything:
- Sitting on the end of her bed. She'd fall asleep but would wake up in a panic multiple times a night when she realized that we weren't still sitting there, and couldn't fall back asleep without us. Many, many, many times a night.
- Sitting at the door of her room. She wouldn't even fall asleep because she felt the need to sit up and check to make sure we were there every few minutes.
- The Super Nanny method of leading her back to her bed without speaking or cuddling her. She soon caught onto that and it became a game. Better to walk back and forth with Mom and Dad than not see them at all, right?
- We bought books about big kid beds and read them to her.
- We went in to comfort her after five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, and so on. But it would go on for hours. All night. She just wouldn't give up!
- Offering to let her sleep in a pack n play in her new room (Considered for about thirty seconds before flatly refusing)
- (In a moment of desperation) Offering to let her go back to her nursery and sleep in her old crib (A resounding 'No thank you Mommy, me big girl bed!')
- Letting her sleep in her spot of choice - on the rug in her new room. (Don't ask me) (Lasted for a couple of nights before we were back to the same deal)
- Gating the door to her room.
- Threatening to close the door if she got out of her bed. And following through by closing the door. (AHHH the guilt!!!)
Nothing worked. I felt like I was in a constant battle with myself. It felt completely unnatural for me to let her cry for long periods of time. Everything I read said that I shouldn't lay down with her - she'd never learn to do it on her own. Even a lot of the methods we had tried felt wrong to me - it felt like we were making the new bed into a negative thing, but really we just didn't know what else to do. We were just desperate. I'm guessing most people don't make the best decisions on two minutes of sleep per night. I know I don't. I feel like we've really screwed this one up despite our best intentions. This quote from Teresa Strasser on Mom Guilt pretty much sums up how I've felt over the past few weeks:
I feel guilty when I let her cry it out in the dark of night. I feel guilty when I run in to soothe her, because I should be letting her soothe herself.
Such a vicious circle. Eventually I'll admit we gave up. Exhaustion defeated us (our toddler defeated us) and we began laying down with her at night. For the past few nights I have been laying with her until she falls asleep and when she wakes calling for me in the night, Kevin goes in and sleeps with her for the last couple of hours until morning. It's kind of working. We're all mostly sleeping and most importantly we can function during the day.
I never thought we'd be here. But here we are. Co-sleeping in our bed just isn't an option. We've tried it and while Violet gets sleep, Kevin and I get feet in the face. And I for one can't sleep while being repeatedly kicked in the nose. What can I say, my kid is a thrasher :) (Apparently she gets it from me, or so my husband says)
One suggestion that we haven't tried yet is shortening her naps. She currently naps for about two hours in the afternoon. She is very very active during the day, running around with three other children around her own age and we keep her pretty active in the evening as well. She goes to bed around 8:00 PM and wakes around 6:15 AM (on weekdays). Sometimes earlier if she rouses before I wake her. I've also heard about reward charts, but I just don't know if she is old enough to really get that concept.
While our current method is kind of working for us, and I know that she will one day sleep on her own again, I'm just wondering if anyone has any suggestions, advice, words of support? How long does your two-year-old nap during the day? Everyone tells you that sleep is tough to get with a baby, but no one really talks about it with toddlers. Maybe it's just us??? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
*Update: Last night after I wrote this post (Kevin laid down with her at bedtime), she ended up sleeping until 5:45 this morning! Maybe she knew I was writing about her :)
P.S. A couple of posts on sleep + little ones that I've enjoyed reading lately: one, two