Monday, February 27, 2012

Shouldn't he fall asleep alone by now?

I've never been in a particular hurry to get Peter to master the next milestone. In fact, I've noticed that many of the same people who are concerned that he's not doing what they expect at 19 months (sleeping through the night, weaning, eating with a spoon) are the same people who bemoan how quickly childhood passes. Perhaps it wouldn't be so fleeting if children weren't rushed through it!

He's already growing so quickly!

That being said, I decided recently to find out if Peter was ready to fall asleep on his own. I tried a couple months ago and he definitely was not. (I tried to lay next to his mattress instead of on it with him; he wriggled over to press against me, grabbed my hand, and wrapped my arm around himself!) Now, he falls asleep on his own about 95% of the time.

Stage 1: Next to him without physical contact. After singing and nursing as long as he wanted, I laid him down, pulled up his covers, and sat next to him. He said, "Mimi?" once or twice and subsided with a little smile when I touched his face to let him know I was still there. We did this for two nights, on the second night he didn't need any reassurance.

Stage 2: In the room, but not within reach. This stage took the longest, I think three nights. When he called me, I would first respond by whispering, "Sleep time," so he knew I was there. If that wasn't enough, I would walk back over and stroke his cheek to help him feel secure again, then back away.

Stage 3: Out of sight, within earshot. I stood just outside his door, so I could immediately reassure him if he called me. I think this was only one night.

Stage 4: Downstairs! This is how tonight went: Lullabies, nursing, getting tucked in, a kiss and a whispered, "sleep time." I left the room with him quietly awake and happy. He fell asleep. No crying it out, just happy parents and happy little boy.

My general strategy was not to do anything that made him unhappy. I want him to know that I will respond whenever he needs me. Since he was ready, I wanted him to learn that he could safely, happily fall asleep without me next to him. If he hadn't been ready (not easily reassured by voice or touch), I would have waited another month or so and tried again.

6 comments:

  1. This sounds like a great way to help him to that next step. And, although I know it in an abstract kind of way, I am glad to see evidence that someone else was still parenting their child down to sleep well into the second year! Previous to this, did you nurse him down to sleep, or did you always stop nursing and just lie down next to him till he fell asleep? Gus still nurses to sleep, and while I am most of the time okay with that, I do think I want to start easing him away from that in the next few months. Well, I say that, but I will probably be to lazy to do anything about it until he makes the change on his own!

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    1. I've always let him nurse as long as he wants. Sometimes he nurses to sleep (used to be almost every time!), but often he finishes and is still awake. I didn't try to stop him from nursing to sleep, it just sort of happened. And don't call it lazy, call it "child-led sleep" or some other attachment parenting term. ;-)

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  2. The is so wonderful. I love it! My three year still nurses to sleep but doesn't necessarily need to (he can fall asleep if I am not there or will nurse and then fall asleep reading a book). Going through chemotherapy and hospital stays were difficult for him and he will repeatedly say at bed time, "mommy protects me, mommy is here, I belong to mommy". With recent miscarriages he may be my last baby so I cherish his need for me to be there when he falls asleep knowing all to soon that he won't need me quite as much.

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    1. Poor little guy. :-( So wonderful that he knows you are always there for him when he needs you!

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  3. I was considering doing a plan like this until recently. I really think it would work with my son, and it's so gentle. In the end I decided I treasure bedtimes with him and I don't mind staying until he's asleep. But we're all different and I'm glad this way is working for you!

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    1. Yep! Isn't it great how God matches kids and parents so we know what's best for us and our little guys?

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