Life has been extremely manic since my last post. Moving flat, establishing the business, general domestic stuff as a wife and a mother, and on top of all these, the unplanned pregnancy.
While I have so much things to share, I would like to continue on the subject I last wrote about earlier this year, baby sleep. I looked back on the note I made on how we sleep trained our then 13 months old son. He is now 23 months and we have the best sleeper in the house. I remember how I really was against the idea of cry it out to sleep, hence I tried alternative ways around this sleep business. I don’t have to go into details on every strategies I used for more gentle approach, all I could say is that in the end I had to find a method that worked for us.
I started with a lots of reading and researching on baby sleep and I draw a conclusion that sleep is just as important as eating for young babies and children. It is the food for brain growth as well as eating is for physical growth. I am so interested in this matter perhaps because my husband, according to his parents story, had never sleep through the night all the way to the age of 5-6 years old. I have no idea if that could be linked to his history of epilepsy, dyslexic and learning difficulties that he later had to deal with at school age. I will have to dig more into this when I got time, just out of curiosity. Anyway, my in-laws told me how they gave up and just let him up all night. They even joined him by doing the decoration at 2 am in the morning, and obviously as the result none of them couldn’t function during the day at work place. Imagine the situation they experienced for years.
I resolved there is no way the same thing would be repeated with our son, despite of the comment of “Clive never sleep through the night when he was young”, giving me the impression of it is very common. I just cannot accept that! So there was I, doing whatever it takes to establish a good sleeping habit. I co-slept with J for the first year despite the complaint from my husband, there was a little invader on our marriage bed. I remember how I was very reluctant to let his grandparents looking after him for the first year because I knew they wouldn’t co-operate with the nap schedule I asked them to do. I had to do everything my own to make sure that good sleep habit is maintained.
I had so many negative comments with my mothering style of carrying J a lot in the sling. “Oh you are damaging your back” or “you are spoiling him, now he will be very clingy and won’t let you go” or “you are not helping with his motor development by carrying him a lot”. And the comment of “you must stop breast feed him now he is a big boy” – J was only over 7 months then, or “how long are you going to carry on breast feeding?” comment with cynical tones.
I didn’t give up. I didn’t want to. In the end of the day I’m the mother and I have the instinct and the knowledge of what my child needs the best. I enjoyed every moment I spent with J nursing him to sleep and having him right next to me sleep through the night. I enjoyed every moment of carrying him in the sling while I did the housework. I enjoyed the little rest I had when he nursed and fall asleep for a nap during the day. As he gets older, the bed routine was gently established; bath, PJ’s, prayers, and then nursing to sleep.
And then the time came for a big change. Time for him to learn to fall asleep on his own and to stay asleep. He reached the stage where he didn’t need to wake 3-4 times at night for milk (which 9 out 10 he was looking more for sucking for comfort). At the same time there was a need for me to work to help our finance. I chose to work in the evening. I didn’t feel right to leave J during the day with anyone else to look after him. I was actually more worried about his daytime schedule being ruined if it wasn’t me myself looking after him, especially with his heart condition.
My husband had to step in. He was the one who complained a lot about J’s sleep anyway so I insisted him to play parts. We kept the bed routines but nursing to sleep. I had to go out the house every evening for two weeks before the bed routine starts. We gave him cow milk instead of nursing to sleep and my husband would just leave him in the cot. At day 3 he finally went to sleep without any moan. After 2 weeks then I started to stay at home and doing the new routine with him. He was fine. He didn’t ask for nursing. We changed the nursing time to early morning and he accepted it.
10 months later since we sleep trained him, his sleep is brilliant. There are times when he was unwell and needed reassurance and company at night, and that’s absolutely fine. We fulfilled that need. One of us would stay with him in his room, slept on a fold up mattress on the floor next to his cot bed. Not to mention the sleep regression as he reached certain milestones, which is fine too. We can tolerate and let go the routine for a little while until we feel it’s the time to get back to the routine. But it has been easy to establish back the routine because he’s familiar with it already.
I agree with an article I read awhile ago (I can’t remember the source now) that young children have no concept of day and time. They only know it from their parents. J know that bed time is coming when we said to him “Telly off, it’s bath time”. He would grab his towel and drag it to the bathroom. He would drop his bath toys in the bath while we run the water. He knows every sequence that follows after bath. And when we say “It’s time for bed”, he would run to his room, get on to his bed, turn his lullaby music on, look into our eyes expecting his nighty nite kiss and watch us walk out the room before he lay his head on the pillow.
Looking back, I’m so glad that we did the sleep training. I’m glad that I insisted to respect his need of a good sleep. He only nap once a day now at predictable time. I respect that need so I work my daily schedule around his feed and nap. If he happen to fall asleep in the car while we were out, one of us would wait in the car with him so he could finish his sleep properly instead of force him to wake up when he wasn’t ready to wake up. If he happens to fall asleep in his buggy while we are out and about in the town, I would stop whatever I was doing, find a quieter spot and I would wait for him until he wakes up his own. I hate dragging him with me when he’s tired and need rest. He’s more co-operative when he is well rested, less tantrum and whinge.
Finishing this blog, I’m just making sure that sleep training isn’t a harsh thing to do to a baby or toddler. My definition of sleep training is to establish a good sleeping habit. The goal is to help a child to rest well rather than merely to make them sleep through the night. J’s first year was all about co-sleeping, breast feeding, and carrying him in the sling most of the time and I don’t think those practices were harsh. His second year is more about routines and setting up boundaries as he’s now able to test us and our rules. And he knows for sure that bedtime, amongst few other principal things, are something his Mum and Dad would be very firm about.