It is currently 8:45 pm and I am happily writing a blog post in the quiet of our house. The monitor shows my little man curled up next to Mickey Mouse on one side, as his Blippi doll guards the other side. Hubby is tucked into bed watching TV and I have a blissful evening to myself. A couple of months ago, this would not have been our bedtime scene. We were in Toddler Sleep Hell. There is no simple way of describing the chaos, sleep deprivation and hopelessness we all felt.
A Little Back Story
Back in December, our Little Man decided that he did not belong in a crib. He used his ninja skills and ingenuity to get out of his crib, sleep sack and eventually his room. We had to move him into a toddler bed. None of us were ready, but for safety, we had to do it.
The nights were awful! Little Man would not go to bed until close to 10 pm, he was up multiple times a night and then an early riser. By February, he was sleeping in 45 min – 2 hour shifts. I was a mess, my husband was a mess, our kid was a complete mess. The tears were awful, ugly and not coming from the toddler. We started missing appointments, playdates and mom group activities. We were all miserable!
A severe ear infection was a low point and had me crying on the phone to our doctor. I could not believe that this is how toddler sleep was and I was unwilling to accept that this was my new normal. I scoured the internet for solutions, explanations and YouTube for advice. We leveled out at a point and rejoined society. During a conversation at my MOPS group, a table mate told me about a book she had used with her son. Her recommendation was life changing for our family.
The Sleep Lady®’s Good Night, Sleep Tight book was a game changer. The Sleep Lady, Kim West is our hero and I read her book cover to cover with Post It’s sticking out everywhere. Through the book I learned things about our family behaviors and how they were affecting our son. It made me realize that he had never been a good sleeper and that we had never done him any favors in how we “assisted” him in going to sleep. It was disappointing to admit that we were a big part of his sleep issues.
Sleep Lady Shuffle
The Sleep Lady’s technique is commonly referred to as the Sleep Lady Shuffle. A gentle progression of teaching your child how to fall asleep on their own. It was sleep training without too many tears. I think her technique would work in any situation, but especially when the child relies on the parent to fall asleep. The shuffle works best if you do training in nights of three’s.
- three nights sitting next to the bed
- sitting in the middle of the room
- next to the door inside the room
- next to the door outside the door
We did the first position for three nights, but had to sit next to the door for extra nights due to illness. The whole training took about three weeks. The first couple of nights were rough, but it was okay, because there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, our son was putting himself back to sleep without our assistance and was able to sleep through the night.
This technique is worth looking into if you are in Toddler Sleep Hell. The book is broken up into age groups, situations and even has advice for twins, special needs and siblings. It helped us realize what we were doing, how to correct, get Little Man on track and everyone to a good sleeping situation. As a new mom, you assume that babies just know how to sleep, they do it all the time. But learning that I had to teach good sleeping habits was a big A-Ha moment for me.
Our Current Situation
My realization that I had been the issue was heartbreaking. From the beginning, we had let our son fall asleep in our arms and then transitioned him to his own space to sleep. I loved those early day cuddles. I still love those times he falls asleep in my lap for naptime. The reason I became a stay at home mom was to enjoy these sweet moments, but the end result was detrimental to his sleep and eventually mine. I am happy to report that Little Man sleeps from 8:45 pm to 6:30 am without getting up. We have even removed the gate we used to “contain” him. We introduced an Okay to Wake alarm clock when he was sleeping and he is doing amazing! I am a very happy mama with a very happy toddler!
Happy Sleep Training!