My Preschooler Cannot Sleep without Me

Sleeping

If only J would sleep like this for 10 hours straight!

Like every parent, I think my child can (mostly) do no wrong. She’s smart, funny, well-mannered and good looking just like her mom and dad. <grin> But I have to admit, she has one major flaw. J is a horrible sleeper.

I think it is partially a product of her environment, well, me mostly…and how I didn’t “sleep train” her when she was a baby. Oh, and I refuse to sleep train her now. However, sometimes Curt tells me that he was awake part of the night and I know I wake up too, so I also blame genetics. The difference is since we’re adults, we can usually put ourselves back to sleep without disturbing anyone else.

Sleeping Baby

J is less than a week old and sleeping in a bouncer while I eat dinner.

Ever since J was born, she’s slept on or near me every night, save for the two glorious nights I escaped last month and went to Vegas. If you’re counting that would be one thousand three hundred and seventy three nights of me sleeping next to my child.

For the first six weeks of her life, we both slept in a giant comfy brown chair with an ottoman. When I put her in the cradle next to our bed she would immediately wake up and cry. I wanted to minimize the disrupttion to Curt’s sleep since he was going to work everyday and needed to be a functional human outside of the house. Besides, J loved to be held all of the time (even when asleep), and truth be told, I didn’t want to put her down. Even though her cord was cut, she was still tethered to me.

We bought a Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper and that was a miracle – cue the angels singing falsetto and the sun shining through the clouds. I was finally able to sleep in my bed again and my baby was right next to me! I breastfeed her for almost three and a half years (yes, years) and the co-sleeper helped to facilitate night-time feedings when she was an infant.

Baby in Crib

Before I tried to get J to sleep in the crib, I used to let her lay it in. Yeah, that didn’t work.

As she got older we moved her crib into the bedroom but she wouldn’t sleep there for more than a few hours at a time. She would wake up, I would nurse her and one of two things happened: We both fell asleep in the brown comfy chair until it was time for her to wake up and want to nurse again; or I would manage to stay awake through her feeding, put her back in the crib and then she would wake up, cry and we would start all over again a couple hours later.

Before J was born, Curt and I agreed that we would not co-sleep. How hard can it be? Lay the baby down and she falls asleep. Oh the naivete! Once she was born I wanted to do it and he still didn’t. What’s that about never saying never?

By this time J had outgrown the cosleeper so the next solution was to side car the crib to the bed. Since she was older and more mobile, she would end up snuggled next to me (in our bed) most of the time. So basically, I had extra room to stretch out my legs on her crib but she wasn’t really sleeping in it. I was a magnet and J was (and still is) my iron.

Toddler sleeping on mom

This is how J loves to sleep…on me.

After many months of sleeping this way, we decided J was old enough to move into her own room. She was a few months past her second birthday when this occurred. Her awesome crib (by Romina Furniture) converts to a full size frame so we bought an organic mattress and set everything up. One small problem is that our master bedroom is on the first floor and all of the other bedrooms are on the second floor. Did we want our two year old to tumble down the stairs in the middle of the night while she was looking for us? Of course not!

The first couple nights sucked. Oh, have I mentioned that I also nursed her to sleep? Whoops, wouldn’t want to let that little factoid slip by. So back to sucking, literally. I would lay in the bed, nurse her to sleep, get up and go about my night. She would usually wake up 30 minutes later and I would start all over. If she managed to stay asleep by the time I was tired, then I would crawl into my own bed with the baby monitor on full-blast, paranoid that I wouldn’t hear her call out for me. I envisioned her falling down the stairs even though we had a very secure baby gate in place.

After a few nights of this routine, I basically gave in and slept in her bed. That was a pretty sly way for Curt to get the Cal King size bed all to himself!

Co-sleeping with a foot in my chin

This really happened last year and it wasn’t comfortable.

Fast forward a year and J has stopped nursing. She came to the end naturally and I am very proud of this. I also placed a lot of hope in the fact that once she stopped nursing she’d sleep independently. What, me wrong, again?! Instead of nursing to sleep, now she cuddles to sleep. While this is super adorable and makes me feel needed, I cannot continue to spoon her until she goes to college. I want out of her bed and back into my own.

I was still looking for a solution to the problem until last week, when J asked for the singing Elsa doll. I don’t know what inspired me to bargain with her, but I said she could have it if she cuddled Elsa to sleep instead of me. AND, she had to sleep all night by herself.

Smart little thing that she is, of course she said yes!

Lo and behold, it actually worked…the first night. It took her forever to fall asleep, but she did it on her own and stayed in bed until 6:30am the next morning. Time to uncork the champagne and celebrate!

Well, not so fast. The second night she also fell asleep on her own. Make no mistake, it was not without effort. She either got out of bed every five minutes or I went into her room every five minutes because she called for me. Then the little bugger woke up every few hours. But I persevered and only went in her room to tell her to cuddle Elsa and then I left. No slacking off and crawling into bed with my cuddle bug! It worked, but was a lot more tiring then just sleeping in her bed. The third night I sat at the end of her bed while she fell asleep and then I was in and out of her room all night again.

Then she caught a cold and all bets were off. I’m now again sleeping in her room all night so she doesn’t wake up and freak out. She’s just starting to get over the hacking cough so I’m going to see if she’ll sleep on her own. Wish me luck.

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