Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why I Still Provide for All of My Boys' Nighttime Needs

Almost exactly 2 years ago, when my sweet oldest boy was a mere 2 years old, I wrote this post about some things I learned about babies and sleep.

About a month later, I wrote a follow-up post that talks about why I still fall asleep with my toddler.

So here we are, two years later, and my sweet oldest boy is 4 years old and has a 16-month-old little brother.  It is high time for an update.

Actually, I feel somewhat compelled to write this, simply because sleep keeps coming up in many of my online mom circles, and I find myself disagreeing with so many of the suggestions and approaches some folks take with sleep and their kiddos.

I certainly mean no disrespect to mamas who choose the approaches I don't agree with.  After all, their children are not mine.  But when I hear a mama who says she is exhausted, and tired, and done with having to get up with her child, I hear the desperation in her words.  I understand wanting to have a quick answer to the sleep issue.  But I also think that those quick answers can come with  a pretty big trade-off.

I imagine it is not easy to hear my words of "hang in there, it will get better" when the person is looking for ways to improve sleep Right! Now!, but I'd like to think that some mamas might find support in advice to trust our instincts and the belief that our children will not want us anywhere near their bedrooms when they hit puberty.  Those years are but a blink of an eye away, and they will be here before we know it.

I would like to use this forum, since it is my blog and all, to try and dispel some myths surrounding sleep and babies/children.  And to also document the way my boys sleep at various times in their lives.  I have gone back to my blog numerous times to see how certain things were for BBZ as I raise LBZ.  It's amazing how many things I forget.

The biggest myth I see on online discussions is this: If you provide _____ at night now, plan to do it forever, because your child will never learn to sleep without it.

On one hand, this could be true.  For example, I have nursed, rocked, snuggled or laid down with BBZ each night that I have been with him until he fell asleep since the day he was born.  I continue to do so until this very day.  Some folks might consider that a bad habit, but I certainly do not.

In fact, it is during this time that BBZ continues to be his most open and honest self.  I was out of town one night last week, so when I returned he was extra cuddly.  He told me that he got in trouble earlier that day in school.  He didn't want to tell me why.  I didn't press it and we talked about other things.

The lights were out, besides his spiderman night light shining in the corner.  He giggled, and chatted, and told me all of the things daddy did for him while I was gone.  He talked about his brother and how he does such silly things.  He told me he missed me and that while daddy tried snuggling with him the night before, it wasn't quite like our snuggles.

Then I told him that I love him no matter what.  He decided that it would be ok to tell me what he got in trouble for.  I was able to reassure him that it was ok, that his teacher wants him to be safe, and ask how he would handle the situation if it should happen again.

I believe that he would never have felt comfortable telling me this otherwise.  Not only was he able to tell me, but he was also quiet and focused enough at this time to talk about why he was worried about telling me.  It was a precious moment, that I hope I don't forget.

Now on to Mr. LBZ.  I can write about his sleep pattern now because it seems we are making our way into a more positive place.  He has been waking up at night fairly regularly since before he turned 1.

That's 4 months people.

If anything was going to shake my theory about sleep and babies, this run my littlest gave me would have done it. 

It has been hard.  Really, really hard.  But despite what advice I would have been given had I asked for it (and I know not to), I rode it out.

I provided for him at night.  If he cried, I would watch and listen to him on the monitor.  I would watch and be able to decide if he would settle back down or if I had to get up with him.  I watched and waited and more often than not, I went into his room, picked him up, and rocked him back to sleep.

Sometimes he was up once, sometimes 3-4 times.  Sometimes N would be able to settle him down, sometimes I had to.  Sometimes N would end up sleeping with him on the couch, and sometimes he'd end up in bed with us.

Not one time did I let him cry so that he would learn to self sooth.

Not that I am judging parents who do.

Let me say that again...

Not that I am judging parents who do!

I'm really not.  But for me, I truly believe that if my children are awake and upset and seem to need me at night, I need to respond to that need.  Even if I don't understand why it is happening.

Granted, I did let him cry.  Not hysterically, not more that what made me comfortable, and not to try to teach him anything.  I can always tell if he is going to settle back to sleep on his own and when he wouldn't.  If I thought he would, I would let him.  If I thought he wouldn't, N or I would go in and pick him up.

So now, even after 4 months of providing for him and responding to his needs.  He has slept through the night for one whole week straight!

Hip, hip hooray!!!

So I guess the message I want to send to myself and to others who might be feeling like wakeful nights are never going to end unless they begin this approach or that approach or if they will "always have to _______ or he/she will never learn to sleep on their own", hang in there.  Continuing to meet the need does not always mean that you will have to continue it forever.

And even if you do have to  lay down with your four-year-old until he falls asleep , maybe the benefits of that far out weight the ease of kissing him on the head and walking out of the room.

That certainly has been the case for us :)

I believe these "early YEARS" with my babies will pass quickly.
They will be long gone one day, and I will yearn for the closeness my young boys once needed from me.