Posts Tagged ‘co-sleeping’

The End of Co-Sleeping and the Start of Independent Sleep at Four Years Old

Independent Sleep at Four Years Old

J snuggles her Wolverine lovey (Go Blue!). When she was a baby I was her lovey, but lately she’s really gravitated toward this stuffed animal.

This is an update to the post published at the end of last year, My Preschooler Cannot Sleep without Me. After four freakin’ years, I am happy to say that J is sleeping independently! Crack open the champagne, because Mama needs to celebrate!

I hope I am not jinxing myself by putting this out into the Universe. I have talked to my friends about it so this isn’t the first time I’m making this revelation. She’s been falling asleep and sleeping independently for many weeks so I think (hope) this is a permanent situation.

For those of you who are curious about what I did…it wasn’t much! I refused (and still refuse) to let J cry by herself if she needed me at night, so this is really about her being ready. I noticed she was not waking in the middle of the night for several days in a row, so I decided to build upon that and see if I could get her to fall asleep without me in the bed.

The first night was somewhat of an accident. I needed a shower so after I finished reading her a story, I said I smelled! I made a silly game of it and told her I was too stinky to stay in bed. There was a small amount of protest on her part, so I said I would check on her when my shower was done…hoping that she would fall asleep before that time. Guess what? She did!

I kept up that same routine for several more nights…telling her I need a shower and then getting out of bed. Lately, she’s asked to read books so I keep the light on when I leave the room. Usually within 20 minutes she’s asleep!

Sometimes she asks for me to sleep in her bed and I avoid giving her a direct answer. I tell her I’ll check on her and usually she’s satisfied with that. I also tell her if she wakes up in the middle of the night and needs me, all she has to do is ask and I’ll come to her room. This has happened a couple times and as soon as I’ve come to her room she’s rolled over and fallen back to sleep. I want her to have the security of knowing that I am always here for her if she needs me. She seems to know this too, and I believe it’s helping her feel safe to sleep by herself.

A few mornings she’s woken up super pissed to see that I’m not in the bed! Most of the time she wakes up and I go in her room and cuddle her for a few minutes before it’s time to start the day.

At this point, I have not given into her requests for me to sleep with her. She asks but it doesn’t turn into a complete meltdown or even result in tears. Being consistent with our bedtime routine is very important and I know if I give in, even one time, it will set us back.

I am satisfied with the way she grew into independent sleep on her own. I didn’t want to force it on her, even though it took four years. I’ve seen a lot of changes toward independence in her personality lately, and I can’t help but think that it’s stemming from the overall way she has been parented, when awake and asleep.

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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