Slow and steady wins the race
I’ve written here before how reading Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution was a road-to-Damascus type epiphany for me. It changed my approach to parenting. Where before, one bad night was enough to send me into a tailspin, after reading that book, I learned to look at the bigger picture and see the gradual improvements that were happening instead.
Heading into the winter last year, when we were 18 months in with our second child, the setup in our house would have had Supernanny and Gina Ford and all the rest of the self-appointed experts in a tizzy. Co-sleeping (bed-sharing in fact, so “worse” again), breastfeeding on demand at night, no set nap time during the day. Disaster, right? Except it wasn’t. It worked for us for a long time. And since I’m feeling liberal with the clichés today, my parenting approach consists of a lot of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.
But somewhere between the summertime and November last year, it stopped working for us. A combination of things I guess. I day-weaned the toddler thinking I was so smart and she promptly reverse-cycled on me and got her extra feeds at night instead when I was half asleep and not paying attention. She also hit that infamous “Leap 10” that fans of the Wonder Weeks book or app will be familiar with. It’s a developmental leap that occurs around the 18 month mark, and is characterized by “crying, clinginess, and crankiness.” Fun times.
And last but not least (and I think this was really what signaled the end of her co-sleeping days), our little toddler sprouted. Suddenly we were being woken by a little foot kicking out or an arm flailing. Then I hurt my leg in late November and ended up on crutches for the best part of a month.
So something had to change. But instead of trying to change everything at once, we went for one small change at a time. First we night weaned by introducing a bottle, which she wasn’t that keen on. By Christmas, the night time feeds were completely gone.
Then we set up a toddler bed for her in the kids’ room, with a mattress on the floor for whichever of us had to get up to her during the night.
That toddler bed lasted a couple of months until she started referring to the mattress on the floor as “my bed” and we conceded that she was actually spending her nights on the mattress and not in her toddler bed at all. So we dismantled it and put it away in the attic.
In the beginning, one of us was on that mattress with her all night, but we’ve gradually reduced that and now at least a night or two each week, she sleeps through on her own in her own bed.
Lately with the bright evenings, going down to sleep has been an issue, often taking an hour of lying beside her helping her drift off to sleep. So this week we’ve started to make changes there, and over the next month or two I am hoping we’ll get to the point of a story, a kiss goodnight, and then leaving her to drift off herself. It happened one night this week! It’ll surely happen again at some stage!
Whenever I begin to doubt this
lazy child-led approach to changing sleep routines, I remind myself that I’ll miss those cuddles to sleep when they’re gone. I look at my five year old now – a child who was once in the running for world’s worst sleeper, and I can’t remember the last time I had to lie beside him till he drifted off. Sometimes in the midst of these early sleep deprived years, it feels like the sleep struggles have been going on forever, but once we’re through them and looking back, it all seems to be over in the blink of an eye. And I find I’m glad for travelling this slow and steady path to get where we’re going.