Everett has presented so many sleep challenges that the concept of just “tucking in” a child and saying goodnight seems more like sci-fi than real life. He started life as a high needs baby (thanks to an undiagnosed sensitivity to lactose) that caused me to bounce him constantly. That set us up for a solid 18 months of bouncing for every nap and to bed at night, sometimes I even had to get out of bed and bounce him back to sleep when nursing wouldn’t do the trick.
When we moved I never re-inflated that damn ball. I refused to be chained to it anymore. He moved on to being rocked to sleep in a recliner. I stopped that a few months later when I got rid of that ugly chair. It was DO OR DIE.
Surprisingly, that transition wasn’t too bad and he was allowing me to tuck him in at night and leave. PRAISE THE SLEEP GODS! It was bliss and life was easy. Then Everett got sick. Very sick. Sick enough that he spent several days in the hospital. It was back to nightly cuddles and nursing and of course, I was fine with that. When he got better things didn’t change. They got even worse. Everytime I tried leaving him to fall asleep his screams went to 11. He tantrumed and came out of the room in search of me saying to his dad “Mom Best. Not you Best. MOM!” I couldn’t catch a break… so I laid with him each night, sometimes 30 minutes to an hour.This wasn’t working.
I’m all for cuddling my boys, it is my favorite thing to do. This was different. At three years old I felt it was time to change this habit and make life easier for us all.
Two nights ago I made the decision to just do it. I wouldn’t do any forms of CIO or force him to stay in his room while he screamed and choked, because I knew that would happen. I did a bedtime routine right from his favorite book “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” first.
“Here is a kiss” and I kissed him. “a hug” and gave him a big hug “then one kiss more.”
“Goodnight, goodnight little Everettasaur.”
“No! I not a dinosaur! I Everett!” was his response. Darn, I thought that was going to work! He loves that book.
Next I explained that he could be brave and mommy would be in another room. I could hear him on his monitor and would keep him safe.
His response? Patting the space next to him in his Queen bed… “More room. Lay down me.”
Gosh why is he so cute?Then my lightbulb moment.
“Everett, what if I TALK to you on the monitor, right here, and you can hear my voice. Will you let mommy do that and you stay in your room?”
He didn’t reply but didn’t cry or protest. I took this as my sign and tucked him in with another kiss and ran to my room, ready to quickly speak to the monitor so he wouldn’t get out of bed before I could.
For the next 15 minutes I spoke or sang to him. If I saw he was getting up I softly told him to go to sleep. He asked me to sing him songs so I did. He still loves being sung to as does his bigger brother. He would periodically call out for me just to make sure I was still listening. Then… the sweet sweet sound of his breathing that signaled he was asleep.
We did the same method for his nap, then his bedtime. I’m calling it. It has worked again! I used this same method for my older son but when he was a bit younger. At the time, I had an infant so I was far more motivated to get his bedtime routine shorter.
Everett still gets his cuddle time, trust me. I woke up and he was in my bed last night, curled up next to me. I don’t want to give that up just yet. The battles at bedtime though, I can live without those.
Do you have any tricks or tips for teaching children/toddlers how to fall sleep independently?