You would think after having four children I would be an expert at this parenting gig. Or at the very least at the baby stage of parenting. But one thing I have learned as the mother of four wildly different children is that I know nothing. I might think I’ve got it in the bag, but truth be told with each child they always manage to throw a curve ball at you.
I can say this about many different aspects of parenting all four of my children, but really today I want to focus on sleeping. Mostly because right now getting my 23 month old to go to sleep has been a perplexing task of late. Perplexing because for the longest time she lulled me into a false sense of security that I had this whole getting babies to sleep thing down.
Before I really delve into the sleep problems with my youngest let me first share what I went through with the other three which lead me to believe I had finally found the sleep solution.
Getting My Oldest To Sleep When She Was A Baby
No one expects much from you when you’re a first time mom. You’ve got all of the knowledge you think you need and then that baby comes and all you want is sleep so all of the don’t let the baby sleep in bed with you expertise flies right out the window. Because she just won’t sleep. Actually, I didn’t even start bringing her in our bed until she was around a year old. I was too fearful. For the first year I would find places where she would fall asleep. The swing, a bouncy chair, my arms while sitting in a rocking chair, my husband’s arms singing You Are My Sunshine. She was sleeping and she was sleeping a normal amount so all was good.
Then around a year old, maybe just before while she was sleeping in her own room in her crib she was waking up in the middle of the night. This is when I was getting desperate. She had been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old. So suddenly this baby who had spoiled me was waking up. I tried everything. Sitting with her in her room til she fell back to sleep. Letting her cry it out. All that worked was bringing her in bed with us. So I thought okay she just doesn’t want to be in the crib anymore. So we set her up with her own bed, but that also meant to get her to stay in bed I had to stay with her until she would fall asleep. I can’t tell you how many nights I fell asleep before she did. It was exhausting, but she was sleeping through the night even if she wasn’t actually falling asleep until midnight.
Then I got pregnant and it was harder for me to lay down with her. So we would just let her fall asleep in the living room and then my husband would put her to bed. That was hit or miss and again we had a toddler in bed with us. Only now I was pregnant with a growing belly. I couldn’t have her continue to sleep in our bed plus once the baby came there were going to be many late nights.
So we created her own little bed on the floor in our bedroom. She had to stay on her bed of blankets if she wanted to sleep in our room. But she was staying up so late. Eventually her little sister did come along and I had to get her sleeping in her own room. I also had to get the baby to sleep in there with her.
We redecorated the bedroom and went all out with it too. We put our foot down and said she had to sleep in her own bed in her new Blues Clues room now and she did. It only took 2 years and for her to be 3 to get her sleeping in her own room and not having to lay down with her to get her to sleep.
So What Did I Do With Her Sister
Remember, I was determined to not go through that again. And I will say I did not. I made it very clear from the get go what her sleeping space was and that it was not ours. I think she might have slept with us in the very beginning for like 2 weeks. Maybe it was longer than that. I discovered the only way she would sleep was on her belly which freaked me out so I used to sleep with her on my stomach so I could make sure she was still breathing. Once she started rolling over I moved her to the bassinet in our room. I would lay her down, rub her back for a few, and let her drift off to sleep. Then when she was around 4 months old and had been sleeping through the night for a while I moved her into her sister’s room and never once had a problem with her sleeping.
Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe she was a good sleeper. I don’t really know.
My Son’s Sleeping Habits
So my son came along 5 1/2 years after his sister. I guess you could say in a way he was almost starting over. I felt so far out of the newborn phase at that point in time that I just went so different with him. First of all after much debate I finally decided to breastfeed him. I had breastfed my middle daughter, but it was only for a couple of days. I really wanted to make it work with my son. So the plan from the get go with him was to have him as close as possible. I did not have a crib for him until he was nearly a year old. I did have a bassinet for him though.
But in the beginning after having a c-section with him getting him out of the bassinet was too hard. It took too long for me to get out of bed to get to him so I kept him in bed. It was easier for breastfeeding.
Then quickly we began having so many other problems with him. His weight gain and what not. I did get him to sleep in his bassinet though next to our bed. We didn’t usually end up with him in our bed. And when he finally outgrew the bassinet (not until he was 8 months old) I got him a crib and put it in our room. He slept in it, but it always seemed to be so restless. So we moved him into his own room. Now the kid could sleep through an atomic bomb. Actually, when I think about it I don’t remember any major sleep issues with him even though we were very lax about where he could sleep.
I also had him in a crib until he was 3. It just worked for him. He also was a great napper for me too. He actually just stopped taking a nap everyday last year. But he still would go to bed at 8 every night even with a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. He had a lot of growing to catch up on.
So I guess after those three it would seem like I had seen it all. So how could I mess up on number 4?
My Youngest Daughter’s Sleeping Habits
So number 4 came along just over 3 years after her brother. I was even more determined this time to make up for the mistakes I made with breastfeeding my son so from the very beginning she was in bed with us. I did everything different with her actually. Baby wearing became a huge part of the parent I was. Less was more for me this time. I didn’t want a bunch of baby apparatus for her. I was it. I was her swing, her bouncy seat, her jungle gym.
We did still have the bassinet, but I found I never used it for more than just a catch all. For over a year we shared a bed with this little peanut. We didn’t even buy her a crib until last March when we did our massive room moving. I had no idea what to expect when it came to putting her to bed because she had never slept anywhere but with us. But when we put her in the crib for the first time, she laid right down, and went to sleep. No tears, nothing. I thought I had found the true answer to get babies to sleep. Co-sleep for over a year and then move her into her own room. It was a breeze. Nap time, bed time, it didn’t matter she went right to sleep. It was beautiful.
Then about 6 months later she started fighting going to bed. It was the strangest thing. We did our routine like always, put her in her crib, and she cried. I can’t even pinpoint if there was something going on. Like she might have been teething. I don’t remember her being sick. I don’t really know what made the switch go off in her head. But now we were holding her to try to get her to sleep. Sometimes she was back in our bed. Mostly we could rock her to sleep and put her in her crib and she was fine. But then she began doing it for her nap too.
Crying it out was not an option either. I did try it at nap time. She literally spent her entire nap screaming and then crashed on the floor before dinner. That wasn’t working. I couldn’t let her cry it out at night though because she shares a room with her brother.
So what do we do? Well, every night we beg and plead with her to just lay down on the floor and go to sleep. Her naps during the week when it’s just me home aren’t bad. We come in after getting her brother and sister off to school, we sit on the couch together and veg for a few. She puts her feet in my face telling me that she wants her shoes off. I take them off, then she does it again to get her socks off. I take her socks off. She lays next to me on the couch. Sometimes completely silent, sometimes babbling away, but she always falls asleep within an hour.
When my husband is home though she won’t nap most times. It’s also hard on the weekends or anytime the older kids are home. There’s just too much going on. The house isn’t quiet enough I guess. She’s afraid she’s going to miss out on something.
But bedtime has progressively been getting worse. It used to be that my husband could put her to bed in her crib after she fell asleep, but she started waking up as soon as he placed her in her crib. She would be in our bed again. It is driving me batty. And now that my husband is injured it’s hard for him to pick her up. And I have a hard time reaching down to put her in the crib when she’s already asleep because I’m short. So this past week while the kids were on vacation my son has been sleeping in his sister’s room. So I have been taking the baby and putting her to sleep on his bed. I am back to laying down with a child until she falls asleep though. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle. Here I am laying down with a baby hoping and praying she’ll just go to sleep. And while I wait for that I end up falling asleep half the time.
But now that the kids are back to school, my son is back in his bed. So now I have been trying out some new tricks. I tried putting her to bed half an hour before usual and do cry it out. She screamed at the top of her lungs for the full half an hour. I went in, hugged her, tried to lay her back down and she was having nothing of it. So I sat on the floor and I stared at the wall. No interaction with her, nothing. She stopped crying, but she sure was trying to get my attention. She was jumping up and down in the crib, whimpering, sticking her foot through the bars, picking up stuffed animals out of the bin next to her crib. I didn’t acknowledge any of it. So finally I was tired of sitting on the floor I got up and laid in my son’s bed. That got her to lay down. I thought I had it. I whispered to go to sleep and I thought she was, but when I moved she sat up.
I knew it was getting late so I ended up calling my son in to go to bed. She actually didn’t do too bad with him in there. I had to tell both of them a few times to go to sleep, but half an hour later they were both asleep.
So I’m still laying in a child’s bedroom trying to get a child to go to sleep. I could be messing my kids up for all I know, or this could be exactly what they need. I don’t know. But what I do know is that what works for one child rarely works for another child. There are no cookie cutter ways to get kids to sleep or do anything for that matter. All we can do is try everything and hope it all works out. A consistent routine alone is not enough. Co-sleeping is fine when they are newborns, but toddlers are bed hogs. Cry it out may or may not work. You really don’t know until you try it all though.
The point being don’t be afraid to try different things. Don’t assume that because you have been there before that you know exactly what you’re doing because 4 kids later and I’m still looking for different ways to get my kids to do anything I want them to do. Eating, sleeping, potty training, you name it I’m still struggling. You might look at me as a seasoned veteran, but really all I can give you is the methods I’ve tried. I can’t tell you it’s 100% guaranteed to work for you. But you don’t know unless you try.
What are your sleep training stories?