Sunday, August 19, 2012

How To Sleep Train Your Toddler

So, obviously, I am a total expert, having had all of one child, and by some miracle, having that child emerge from my womb as peaceful and calm as a the sea (truly! She may have a ton of energy, but she's so mild-mannered and sweet...). I was marveling tonight at the transition El has made lately, and told Peter that I'd like to tell all the so called "sleep training experts" to suck it. Everything that I've read that says that if you don't "train" your babies to sleep properly they will grow up being unable to get good sleep on their own can no longer prey on my guilt. We finally did it, and we accomplished it without any additional tears shed whatsoever.

disclaimer: by "we", I really mean "Ellie" and by "did", I mean to say, "this all happened as a result of nothing I did or didn't do." And, if I have to be honest, I should admit that I'm pretty certain this is all just a result of Ellie's personality, and not our all-star, stellar parenting. Even so, I feel kind of triumphant. 

So, just what's happened? At the age of 15 months, Ellie is finally putting herself to sleep, all by herself (no rocking needed!), for her naps and at night, and better yet, staying asleep FOR THE NIGHT! This means, if we could just get those darn kidney stones under control (Yes, I'm looking at you, darling husband), we'd be all night sleepers for the first time in lord knows how long.

So, how did we accomplish this feat? Let me explain...

Step 1) Get lucky. Have a newborn who sleeps 20 hours a day, and sleeps through the night solidly by 8 weeks old. Go back to work under these ideal sleeping conditions.

Step 2) Have world of peaceful sleep fall apart when baby gets sick with a cold at 5 months. Figure out how to cope with waking every 2-4 hours (on average) for the next 5 months. Please note: 99% of time, waking baby will only be soothed back to sleep by nursing. This means it's mama's job, almost every time.

Step 3) Somewhere in these 5 months, attempt to "sleep train" with the "Pick Up, Put Down" method. Make a little progress, but don't have any strength to leave baby to cry for any considerable (ie, 3 minutes or more) amount of time. (In my defense, I firmly don't believe that babies should be left to cry in an ideal world. I recognize that sleep deprivation makes for an un-ideal world, which is why I tend to follow the "do whatever works for you" camp when it comes to sleep training. But seriously, I believe that biologically, parents - specifically mothers - are programmed to be unable to leave their babies crying, so CIO goes against our evolutionary instincts... but, I digress).

Step 4). When baby is 10 months old, throw up your hands and... quit your day job. Problem, solved! You no longer need to have good sleep at night, because now you can nap during the day! All better!

Step 5) Wrestle with growing toddler for the next five months. Problems include said toddler no longer "fitting" in your lap, throwing your back out and generally butting heads with toddler every time sleep time rolls around. Get desperate. Start researching sleep training again. Start drinking upon successful tries at getting kid to sleep.. (kidding. maybe).

Step 6) Enter hot, hot summer days.

Step 7). Have child, who cannot verbalize, do everything but climb into the crib by themselves during one of your marathon rocking to sleep sessions. Seriously - she's on my lap, lunging out of my arms, pointing violently to the crib, saying "da, da!" Okay then. I'll follow your lead.

Step 8). Kiss child goodnight, and put her in crib. Walk upstairs and listen to her on the monitor. She will babble and chat with herself and her stuffed animals while she gets sleepy, and then the monitor will go quiet.

Step 9). Peek in. Verify child is asleep, and not simply faking it.

Step 10). Repeat for naps and nightly.

So, there we have it. Eleanor told me when she was ready, and she was. Granted, like I said earlier, this is probably all the result of her peaceful, independent personality, but... I kinda like to think that maybe, just maybe, I was doing something right by waiting until she was ready.

(Upon pressing publish on this post, I realize that my yet-to-be-conceived second baby is already plotting ways to mess this all up and make me question everything I've learned thus far. But, as said baby doesn't exist yet, I'm content thinking that maybe I had something to do with this newly acquired sleeping skill...)

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