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Milemarker: Sleeping – All Night?!

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I started this post on February 23.  At least I can tell you it’s STILL happening!

During the past two nights, we’ve experienced something strange.  For the first time in almost two years (23 months to be exact), no child has disturbed our slumber.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

It feels pretty good.

So, how did we do it?  How did we finally get Benjamin to fall asleep on his own?  Well, I can tell you what we did, but I can’t tell you that it’s because of anything we did.  It could be that he just finally (finally!) reached the maturity level necessary to be able to fall asleep without someone snuggling next to him.

The process started with night-weaning last June.  But even after he was fully night-weaned, he was still waking during the night and needing Mommy.  He’s my cuddler.  He also wasn’t going to sleep by himself; I was still nursing him to sleep.  He was unable and unwilling to fall asleep without either a Mommy or Daddy holding him tight.

And we tried.

Somewhere before the holidays, he stopped falling asleep while nursing.  So our bedtime routine was in need of some change.  I tried nursing him, then putting him in his crib.  Which resulted in a lot of crying.  He literally would not stop crying.  The longest we let him go was two hours.  Even typing that now makes me cringe.  Did we really let him cry that long?!  We did.  Once.  And after that, we realized just how determined he was, just how scared he was, and just how needy he was.  And we didn’t try again.

So he sat up with us at watched Hulu shows until we finally just brought him to bed with us.  Sometimes he would fall asleep during a show, but mostly he was awake as long as we were.  Which really isn’t the healthiest thing for a marriage – to be apart all day, and then have no waking alone time.

Every now and then we would try putting him down with Olivia.  They went through the same routine at the same time: brush teeth, read books, cuddles with Mommy and/or Daddy, off to their own beds.

Except that one would then proceed to fall asleep while the other stood in his crib and cried until someone rescued him.

Over the holidays, while we were away from home, normalcy, and routine for a good month, we didn’t try once to get him to sleep on his own.  We did, however, successfully wean him.  With, I should say, much less screaming, crying, and general protesting than the whole sleep-on-your-own-thing.

So when we returned home again, I rededicated my efforts during the day to get him to go down for naps on his own.  (Because, and I think I forgot to mention this, he didn’t fall asleep during naptimes on his own either.)  And this is how I did naptimes:

We had just reorganized our toy room, so that there was a big shelve system stacked with toy-filled Rubbermaid containers.  There were car containers, Barbie containers, train containers, Potato Head containers, Happy Meal toy containers, dollhouse toys containers, etc.  When I announce Quiet Time (Olivia balked at the word “nap,” but was okay with “Quiet Time” and the explanation that she doesn’t have to nap, just be quiet and stay on her bed.) the kids are allowed to pick out one Rubbermaid container to bring to their beds.  They also get a sippy with water and a book.  What more could a kid ask for?!

But Benjamin didn’t like it.  He wouldn’t even touch the toys.  But I tried everyday, leaving him in there for at least half an hour before rescuing him.  (And the plus side – after half an hour of crying, he went down for naps pretty quickly after I rescued him!)

And then, one day, he stopped crying.  I nearly had a heart attack, standing outside the door, making myself paranoid by picturing everything in there that he could have potentially found and choked on.  But when I finally opened the door, I found him face-up, chest rising, breathing those deep, even, heavy breaths that only the sleeping know.

It wasn’t the end of the fits, right then and there.  He must have just been more exhuasted than normal.  But I made sure to praise him when he woke up.  And keep trying, day after day.  He finally came to realize that there were TOYS in his crib.  And he had a SISTER he could talk to and trade toys/books through  his crib slats.

And, at last, we came to the point where we are now – I have to go in and remind them it’s QUIET time, please, let’s keep the laughing and squealing to a minimum.

And then we started working on bedtime routines.

We brushed both sets of teeth (while watching a clip from a favorite movie – a spoonful of Disney helps the mouth open wide!), sent them both in to pick out one book each, and then, as a family, we went to the big bed to read books, and then cuddle.  We set the timer and explained to them that after ten minutes, they were going to go to their own beds.

And he cried at first.  We’d let him cry for half an hour, just like how the naptime routine started.  We watched a Hulu show to keep our minds off the sound of our upset little boy.  Then we’d go get him and cuddle him to sleep.  Then, one night, halfway through Heroes, I looked up suddenly at Josh.  I muted the computer.  Silence.  He smiled at me.

And now he rarely fusses when we lay him down.  He does, however, call out for a different book every now and then.  :-)  Reading by the light of his night-light.  We comply.  It’s better than screaming!

We have our nights back!  For three more months!  :-D

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