Sleep training is a very hot topic for most new moms. You see it all over the place and it’s always something people ask you about once you have a baby. ‘Are you guys sleeping?’ Is one of the most common questions you get, and if the answer isn’t exactly yes, then most people say “Well you’ll get it down soon, I’m sure.” Except I never did.
I was always one of those people who needed a solid 8 hours of sleep. I could function, but I would not be at my best, couldn’t think properly, and would be miserable if I got less. Needless to say, I was worried when I first had my son that I would not make it through the sleep-deprived newborn stage. I thought if after 25 years I had never been able to train my body to be ok with less sleep then I never would now. But I actually got used to it. I’m still surprised I can say that but, it’s true. All of the sudden I realized one day, wow I haven’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in 2 years. And certainly most of those nights were much less than 8 hours all together. Yet, I’ve managed to be a happy and successful person these past two years, and I haven’t felt miserable. There’s been a lot of coffee yes, but for the most part, I would actually say I haven’t even realized that I haven’t been getting my required 8 hours. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing (although it is, because I don’t know how I would get everything done if I hadn’t adapted in this way!), but it is interesting. It certainly wasn’t on purpose.
I assumed I would train my son to sleep better. But at the beginning, I was (ironically) always so tired. I succumbed always to the fastest and easiest ways to get him to sleep, although I knew better than to let him get attached to the idea of rocking in the rocking chair every time. Often he would nurse to sleep (even though I knew that was not much better than rocking.. at least I could do it lying down!) or I would lie with him until he drifted off. When he got bigger and still woke up in the night, I was so exhausted I started bringing him into bed with me until morning. I just couldn’t bring myself to get him back to sleep on his own because I was so tired all I could do was lie back down with him. Before long though, we transitioned him out of the crib (prematurely) too, and then he could get up and come climb right into bed with me without even waking me. Oops, now there was nothing I could do to keep him in his own bed, either in the middle of the night or during bedtime.
Now, at 2 1/2 years old my child is still not sleep ‘trained’. I know that I need to do something, because I know being able to fall asleep is a very important skill to have. I also need time in the evening after he goes to bed to get my own things done, so it’s a necessity to get him to sleep without falling asleep myself in the process. I know I probably could have fixed this years ago by being more consistent or persistent in my efforts to get him to sleep, but I just never did. Apparently he goes right down for the babysitter and at preschool, so I know he can do it. But the times I have tried to make it a habit have always failed for one reason or another– and 2 years flew by so.fast. My son has always been so expressive and seemed so in tune with his own body and self. It has always felt like he reached every stage as soon as he was supposed to, and that once he was ready for something it happened easily. I was hoping and assuming it would be the same for learning to fall asleep on his own– his body would learn to do it when it was ready, and until then I should continue providing what he needed.
I think I may have been on to something, because within the last week I have renewed my efforts and he has seemed to really be more receptive to it. I have told him he needed to fall asleep on his own, I have explained why, and I have left the room right after turning out the light (and yes I have even resisted the “but I need you to lie with me because I love you”). I have left the door open as he requested, so he can hear me outside his bedroom, but this time, he has never tried to get up. He’ll call me sometimes, or halfheartedly cry a little, but he’ll stay lying in bed. And every time so far, he’ll end up falling asleep after not very long. So maybe it’s working. Maybe he is ready now. Maybe if I had really tried harder he could have ‘been ready’ a long time ago and I would have saved myself so much time and frustration. I don’t really know. I’m not advocating for not sleep training your baby, but it feels like maybe now was just the time for us. Yes, it took a while, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in having never gotten around to it until it almost seemed too late..