Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Big Boy Bed

Sleep is one of the most challenging aspects of motherhood. Yes, there are also the challenges of managing tantrums, finding time for yourself, and making sure you're raising your child in a way that will enrich both of you. But when it comes down to it, it's hard to feel like a great parent when you're sleep deprived. 

I recently wrote a series of articles about sleep on my blog, because sleep is such a challenge, and also because people are so often pressured to help their kids sleep through the night at early ages. (Here's a tip: NEVER ask a parent of a newborn whether their child is sleeping through the night.) I did some research that ultimately explained that babies and toddlers don't necessarily sleep through the night, and that's ok. 

But when you're used to your child sleeping through the night (lucky you, Liz) and everything changes, it can be hard to figure out what to do. Here is Liz's story about the steps that Thomas took backwards with sleep recently, and how she moved forward. 

Thomas has been a pretty good sleeper since about 8 weeks old, when he started transitioning into 5-6 hour stretches of sleep. After waking himself up several times a night by flailing in his wobbly cradle, we decided to try laying him down in his crib at 5 weeks and immediately we all started sleeping better. I'm not going to lie...I felt like a new woman when this time came! Of course, it took some trial and error. We eventually learned how important a good swaddle and some white noise was for him and despite growth spurts, teething and illnesses, he's been a great sleeper. (When I say great, I mean going down from 6-7:30 and sleeping until 5:30-6:30 am.)

Napping is another story!

Well, last week TJ and I were thrown for a loop when he got sick. He woke up several times during the night and we just did what we always have done and hopped in the twin bed in his room and laid him beside us. That way at least one of us could rest and the other could comfort him and attempt to rest beside the stuffy little guy who really enjoys poking our eyes and kicking us as he gets settled. We would try to put him back in the crib and get back in bed like we are used to doing, but he would wake up screaming and we thought "poor guy's sick, that's why he doesn't want to sleep in his crib."

As the week went on and he didn't get much better, we started getting tired. We both compared our exhaustion to having a newborn again. I was starting to get sick too and my back and hips were getting sore in his bed. So I decided that it was time that I try to transition him back into his crib. I knew that he was sick and didn't want him to cry at all. I feared it would irritate his lungs even more.

Well, much to our dismay, Thomas started acting like his crib was the devil. It was so weird. He would be dead asleep and then upon placing him in his crib, like we'd done so many times before, BAM—he would wake up and scream. It was like he was terrified of it...lip out, tears, purple face, screaming, jumping like he was trying to catapult himself out.

"Ok, he's sick. He'll eventually like it again," we discussed. We thought maybe the guest room bed would be better and then we weren't getting him in the habit of sleeping in our bed, we could all three sleep together AND it was more comfortable.

On a side note: I love sleeping beside him. I still get that giddy feeling when I wake up and see him curled up beside me, but I know it's not a good night's rest for any of us when we do this. In the past when I did this, I simply considered it a treat. A time that I could really step up and show him how very much I love him. And I actually got to cuddle with my busy baby boy.

This was different though. Something had changed this week. He wouldn't even go down for his naps in the crib. Much like his daddy and uncle, he was making himself right at home on the couch and conking out for 2 some odd hours in the middle of the living room. Not cool!

The problem with exhaustion is that you fail to think straight. Suddenly all my parenting skills—and often times the advice I give others—goes right out the window. That's when I lean on my friends (and awesome customers) to prop me back up. A woman who works with developmental services for children 3 and under reminded me that children have changes in sleeping patterns when they're learning something new.

Well, maybe so. I am secretly hoping that new skill could be potty training? Yeah right!

But my guy was telling me that he just got used to sleeping with me. Gaby's post on gently guiding children in stages to where you want them to be also reminded me. The solution needed to be a process and not a black and white solution. And best of all, TJ reminded me that when I go to pick him up to put him in his crib from the bed that he grabs onto the big fluffy pillow and acts like he'd rather be in the “big boy” bed.

Voila! Problem solved (for now at least).

I hadn't heard of transitioning a child this young into a bed before except for maybe once or twice. TJ's vision of dirty diapers thrown around the room and my vision of him in a huge bed all by himself had us doubting this as the solution. Some friends had said they waited until their baby fell out of the crib or monkeyed their way out.

Did I really want to wait for this to happen? So the risers came off, the monitor came back out, and the bed rail when up. I created a wall of pillows around him and last night marked night one in his "big boy" bed. He did wake up at 4 am and signed for food and milk, but when I said "It's time to go night-night," he waddled to his "big boy" bed and said "help me."

We are lying down with him until he dozes off to la la land, but it sure does beat feeling like we're committing a crime when we put him in his crib. And when it was all said and done last night we both sat back in disbelief that our baby was already out of his crib.

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