I have to start by saying that until recently I have loved having a family bed. I do not regret at all having the kids sleep with Alan and I - both he and I have enjoyed cuddling our babies all night long. We provided a safe environment and we were conscious of the risks. It was also the best way for us to all get a good night sleep, especially since I had gone back to work very quickly after having both kids.
However, recently there has been a growing realization that it simply was no longer working for our family to have all four of us in bed together. Maybe the first time around I had more time to nap during the day, but with two children and working, I am needing significantly more sleep than I have been getting for a long time.
New Year’s day was the day that I decided that I was going to make a solid attempt to have both Ewan and Isla sleep in their beds all night. I had been feeling that all four of us in bed was just too much for probably the last month. Isla was beginning to nurse constantly, Ewan was waking me up first thing and then waking Isla and I was getting up angry many mornings out of frustration. When a king size bed begins to feel too small there is a problem.
My inspiration arose from the RIE theory. I have been following a Resources for Infant Educarers blog for a little while and I am really liking the ideas, suggestions and reasoning in regards to interacting with both infants and children. The theory emphasizes listening and observing your baby/child and following their unique developmental pattern while speaking and acting with the same respect you would grant any other adult. Although many of the principles I had already worked into my parenting style and the programs at A Gym Tale, I am becoming more aware of the importance of these practices. For example, in the Gym and Music classes I emphasize following your child's lead - the goal of the program is to provide a safe environment for your baby / child to explore, test and build their gross motor and social skills along the way. I may provide suggestions and vary the set up of the gymnastics area, but it is up to the children how they will interact with the environment. I also emphasize getting down to the children's level and addressing them directly, asking permission to help them and maintaining a regular routine so that the children always know what to expect.
Three particular articles resonated with me in regards to the growing sleep issue - Reasons to Calm down about Babies Crying & The All Night Diner & No Cry Sleep is Exhausting. I found these articles really helped me to remain calm and to have the confidence that this is what we all truly needed. I also liked the fact that I was not leaving the kids upset and that is something that I personally am not able to do. But with this plan Alan and I worked with both kids.
With Isla, the entire time she was upset I was sitting beside her crib or standing and calmly telling her that I understand this is different and hard, but she can do hard things. I just kept reaffirming ‘sleepy time Isla’ which is the phrase I always used when it was bed time. The first night she cried – but no tears, just yelling – she was so, so angry. She woke up four times and the same thing kept happening – lots of yelling and frustration for about 30 minutes. I stayed calm and kept reassuring her – patting her back if she wanted it, most of the time she did not want me to touch her. The second night she woke up twice and did not yell for as long. The third night was really tough and Ewan and Isla both kept waking each other up. The fourth night she fell asleep while nursing but she slept the entire night through without a single sound. Ever since I put her in her crib after nursing her while she is very drowsy and she flops around a little, first talking and then whining a little but within 2 minutes she has been sound asleep. She tends to wake up once around 5am, but it takes only a moment of reassurance and she is back asleep again until 6:30 - 11 hours of sleep! I never thought having a child sleep through the night was an actual possibility - I didn't really believe any of you that it actually happened!
With Ewan, Alan had been bringing him back to his bed and reassuring him that he is safe and that this is important for us to all get a better sleep. It had been getting easier for a few days but then quickly he was becoming very upset with anything to do with bedtime. Then one night we heard him crying in his room wanting to come and see us, but he didn't want to upset us by leaving his bed. So we decided that we would wait for Ewan. Neither Alan nor I ever want him to be afraid to come and see us. Ewan still makes his way to our room between 1-3am, but silently crawls in to our bed and falls asleep. In the morning he is also going quietly to his room and playing with quiet activities until we wake up. This arrangement is working for us and we are all feeling so much more refreshed in the morning.
The changes in 4 nights are absolutely mind boggling to me. If you are feeling desperate for more sleep or that your current sleeping arrangement is not working for you like it was, I hope maybe this will give you the energy you need to make a go of it and maybe a different perspective may inspire you. I realize that sleep is such a personal and unique situation for each and every family, but I wanted to share my story in the hopes that it may provide motivation for another family to alter their arrangement if it is no longer working.