Friday, October 8, 2010

Sleeping schedule

As a stay at home mom for almost two years you would think I would be the queen of routine, but I have come to realize that I am still learning...Routine is something that must be done every day/night without really needing to stress out about it. Stress is something that I have always have plenty I am hoping that by setting a routine I will allow myself to be a little bit less stressed out and little more at ease when it comes to being a mommy of two little girls.

Just as every child must learn to talk, eat, crawl, and walk - children must also learn how to sleep. Destin has never been that great of a 6 weeks old she slept through the night until about 5 months old old! I never knew how much I truly missed those restful nights until she turned 5 months old...I'm not really sure what happened - if she realized she could stay up or wake up whenever she wanted to, but she did it all the time every night. Patrick and I eventually gave in to her wanting to sleep with us, rather than having her sleep in her own crib/bed. Boy, was that a mistake! Destin slept in our bed pretty much all night every night - that is even how we got her to go to sleep...not rocking, no bedtime story, and most importantly no routine!

When Destin was 9 months old, we found out we were expecting baby number two...and I was so worried to have Destin go to sleep on her own, getting her on a schedule/routine, etc. So I tried it at naptime, and it worked for a little while...but then she started to cry. Nothing is worse than hearing your own child cry, and Pat and I eventually gave up. Giving up was not very smart! From then on, we had her sleep with us...and then after she fell asleep she would go into her own crib/bed. Then she started to wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes two or three times a night - so we started to keep her in bed with us all night long. This was not very good the time she fell asleep, Pat and I were already asleep! She would talk, play, kick, do flips - you can imagine!

Then we bought her a toddler bed, and thought she would love it! She did love it, but not enough to stay in there all night. Well...9 months later Arwen was born :) And I finally decided I no longer wanted Destin in bed with us, so we started to sit with Destin while she laid in her bed. She would talk, play, jump up and down, ask for a drink, etc...this is the way it has been for the last two months for naptime & bedtime until about three days ago. We would have to sit with her for up to an hour each day and night so that she would go to sleep.

Three days ago, we had a visit from our Parents as Teachers (PAT) lady and she gave me some advice on how to get Destin to go to sleep. She said to put up a babygate in her door. I tried it out for two days at nap time. The first day was horrible - she cried for over an hour, but eventually did fall alseep. She tore up her room, took off her diaper/clothes, and cried all the while...Here is a copy of the email I sent to my PAT lady:

“So...I officially am trying out your advice on sleeping... I have some questions for you:
- How long is too long to let her "cry it out"? She has been crying for over an hour and still not asleep.
- What do I do if she takes off all of her clothes/diaper? She has done three times..I have gone in, put them back on and she takes them off as soon I leave again.
- What if she is physically hurting herself with the door or gate? What do I do then? She was banging her feet/head against them both.
I just don't know what to do....”

With no response, I decided that night we did our usual routine of sitting with her. Then on the second day, I put the gate up again in her doorway, and she cried again, stripped off her clothes, but was asleep within thirty minutes..I thought maybe it could be working and it would take time (just as the PAT lady said), so…that night we tried putting the gate up in her room, and she figured out how to climb over the gate. You know how people give you advice, and sometimes you take and sometimes you leave it…I really wish I would have left it in the first place. Pat and I both hate hearing Destin cry. I felt as if I was punishing her for not wanting to sleep, and to make it worse I was “locking” her in her room with no way out – wouldn’t you cry too? Pat wanted to give up, but I told him we had to take the gate down and see if she would stay in her bed...

So to my surprise she did! Granted she did get out of bed about five times, but she stayed in there without either one of us in there with her and after about an hour she fell asleep on her own! I couldn't believe it! For naptime the next day, I tried this leaving her alone in her room with the door open. She got up twice, but after the second time stayed in her room and after about thirty minutes, she fell asleep on her own. Then last night (we did it again, minus the horrifying gate), I read her a story twice, gave her a kiss, told her good night, turned off the light and left the room with the door open. A half hour passed and she stayed in her bed the whole time, but then she got up. We put her back. She got up again. I put her back. And she stayed there – she sang, talked, played with her puppy, but after another twenty minutes passed she finally fell asleep on her own (again!).

I have to say that I am very proud of myself as a parent, and I am proud of my daughter. She is doing very well for having a major change in her day/night…she is learning how to go to sleep on her own. Yes, it will take time. Yes, “it will get worse, before it gets better”. I have read numerous articles, books and online resources on how a good bedtime routine must be in place, as well as how children wake up on their own in the middle of the night several times, and how children need to have 12 hours or more of sleep each night at her age. Research has shown all of these things…which leads to why we had to this. Having Destin learn this new concept is not only good for her, but also good for us as her parents. We like to have some alone time and it is hard to when she takes up over an hour, sometimes two when she needs to go to sleep. Now, she will have a schedule to follow, which will lead to us being able to put Arwen on a good schedule.

Something else I forgot to add, is that I have also limited her watching tv, started a quiet time twice a day (before nap & before bedtime) and have started a schedule/routine that I will try to stick by no matter what. We will do bath at 7:30, read books, puzzles and do quiet activities until bedtime at 8:30. Eventually I would like to move it up…since right now she is still falling asleep around 9:30ish.

I have asked for advice on this subject from several sources – friends, family, PAT, online message boards, Facebook…and all have left me with this result: As a parent, you have to do what is right for you and your children. Every child is different, which means they must have different routines, schedules, naptimes, bedtimes and ways of falling asleep. Every child learns differently - as a teacher, I know this first hand. I know that not every child will learn their math the same way, just as my children will not learn how to fall asleep like everyone else. I do blame myself for not doing this earlier; for not trying something new to see if it would work…but I won’t dwell on that. I will look forward and hope that this struggle we have been having is and will get better over time. We just have to stick to it!

In case you were wondering, her PAT lady did email me and she even called me after a couple days. She said that she just never saw my email. But I was happy to report to her that letting Destin "cry it out" was something I did not like and we were starting our own method. My PAT lady gave me lots of praise and support and said that she will always be there for me no matter what :) I am just glad that I am trying out new things as a parent - don't be afraid to try new things!

Wish us luck - hopefully this will work and hopefully she won't leave her bed when she should be sleeping. I just have to stay positive and hope that it will get better.

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