Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sleep issues and transition to a toddler bed

This is a Part II of a sleep struggle saga I described in my personal blog. To spare your time, I didn't transfer the history of my son's sleeping issues over to this article. If you are interested, please visit

So yes. I won. I struggled for 3 months. Sometimes I thought that I just should let him be and let him sleep when he can without my schedule. But then I kept going, motivating myself, that I'm the master, not my toddler. I tell HIM what to do, and if I give in now, he'll have no structure and will spin out of control. So I decided I didn't want to be managed by a toddler and insisted on standing my grounds and go by the rules.

I tried all kinds of ways. I tried relaxing music, white noise, singing, cuddling, exhausting him with physical activities, shifting the sleep time earlier or later, feeding/no feeding before bedtime, massage, and even TV with relaxing programs, like OASIS HD... I often fell asleep on the floor in Santino's room, waking up in the middle of the night and tried finishing up the cleaning and catching up on emails and Facebook at 2 or 3 am.

My life was a mess, I looked and felt like a zombie, nevertheless I kept going, and sticking to the schedule that fit our family the best. And then... one night Santino crawled in his bed, pulled up the cover and said "bye, mama", turned around and fell asleep. It took me all of 15 minutes to put him to bed, including bedtime story, milk and brushing teeth. I left his room, it was not even 9 pm. I finished up cleaning the kitchen, poured myself a cup of coffee, got out of the house and set outside for an hour, just enjoying the silence. I was in awe of how easy it was, how not tired I was and oh, the things I could do for several free hours!

If you are wondering, what's the trick, there was no trick, really. Here's what I did, and what I recommend other parents try when their toddlers can't fall asleep and think they can rule the household by running around in PJs and not sleeping when its time.

Here we go.

1. Stick to the sched.... No. Scratch that. Number 1 rule of everything you do with your child is lots and lots of love and lots and lots of patience. Lots. TONS. You can't get mad and yell and spank, when he/she ran out of the room for the 100th time. Just stay positive, stay put, hug and cuddle, give lots of kisses and lots of attention.

2. Stick to the schedule. If bedtime is at 8, then bedtime is at 8. The whole day should be planned out so that it leads for your child's bedtime be at 8 (or 7, or 9, whatever works best for you). If in the morning he is sleeping in, because he fell asleep late last night, than its just too bad, wake him up at a certain time, so that he would have enough time to play, and then get tired for the nap.

3. No napping past 4 pm. If she is sleeping in, then wake her up before 4, so that she has time to play, have dinner, relax and calm down before bedtime.

4. Stick to the routine: quiet play after dinner, no TV, books, warm bath, warm milk, brush teeth, get in the bed, cuddle with mommy/daddy/nonna (whoever is putting the child to bed), read a story, lights out. Good night kiss.

Well, that's my routine, yours can be different, but pretty much the same every night.

5. No exhausting physical activities before bed, no running around, too much excitement or singing/dancing. Maybe a little dancing, if you need to take a toddler's mind off an approaching tantrum.

6. And did I mention, lots of love and attention? Yes, you need that. Lots of physical contact, cuddling, talking and kissing.

7. Make the bedtime something cool, something to look forward to. Let him have his favorite books with him in the bed, or a favorite toy (granted, it can't be dangerous if he falls asleep next to this toy).

If you keep doing this, her schedule will soon get adjusted and she'll be more manageable and up for the bedtime.

In the beginning, when Santino was not staying in his bed, I had to stay with him until he would calm down. I started with sitting next to him, gently patting him on the back with a slowing down rhythm, singing calming lullabies. Then, just patting slower and slower. Then I progressed into just sitting next to him, but no touch. I found that I could knock on the wall with the similar slowing down pattern, which would be helping Santino calm down as if I was patting his back. Then I would sit several steps away from his bed, but still in his room, knocking on the floor, or on the wall. Then I started sitting in the doorway, so that he wouldn't see me, but hear me. Then I would leave the room immediately after he got in the bed, shut the door, but still stand outside for a few minutes, again quietly knocking on the wall.

And then I didn't need to do any of this anymore.

It took me several weeks to clear up my mind and align myself back together. And here I am, writing this blog article with my baby fast asleep in his bed. Love him.

Good luck to all the parents, who are going through the sleep training and changing sleep patterns. I will be happy to reply to your comments and questions.


Original article posted here



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