For a long time now I’ve been wondering how to explain this whole thing and I still don’t really now but I decided to finally write this text based on my own experiences and observations, and I hope that while writing everything will come to my mind. On one hand I could say that the answer for this depends on this or that but on the other hand it’s very easy in my opinion. The thing is that there’s no such thing like “you’re just lucky”, at least it doesn’t happen too often and also if a child is already 2 years old and she always took naps together with a parent a sudden change won’t be possible. The fact that April goes down for naps by herself in most cases isn’t a matter of luck. It’s, for example, all the work we put in it and also how she feels with us, how we’ve been treating her and so on. Like a stupid child who knows nothing or a separate human with her own needs?
Currently I don’t have a possibility to sleep whenever I want to, unfortunately, because it’s just a life of a mother of two small children, home and other responsibilities to remember about too. On the other hand this two and a half year old human, my daughter, is in a totally different situation and she can sleep whenever she wants to.
When babies are born they totally don’t get the whole day and night concept. They don’t know that it’s time to sleep when it’s dark, we don’t sleep while it’s bright and we take a nap after lunch. They don’t know, don’t understand and this simply doesn’t work on them so expecting that it’ll be different will result in a total disappointment and stress that will affect not only you, parent, but also your child. In a mother’s belly there’s a lot of rocking when she walks, cleans, works out and so on. It’s warm there, cozy and tight. So if you put your newborn in a crib which is a very open space on his back wearing a sleeper and you expect him to be there sleeping with no fuss whatsoever, you might be very disappointed.
I often hear something like “our son won’t sleep anywhere but his stroller” or “my daughter has to be rocked because she won’t fall asleep otherwise”. It’s all the matter of getting them used to these ways. It’s about parents allowing this because it’s easier. You know, when a parent doesn’t have time to rest he’ll eventually reach the point when he’ll do everything to change it. So one of those things might be letting his kid sleep in the stroller because the little one will fall asleep faster this way being moved back and forth. However, later it’ll be hard for him to fall asleep in the crib because it doesn’t move, looks different. And this is totally understandable and as much as I totally hear ya if it comes to lack of sleep, I still think it’s worth remembering that each thing will bring some consequences which later might cause a bigger problem. S child is comfortable in his stroller, knows this place, is rocked in it, feels safe. It could be the same with his crib but this place is often seen by kids as something not so cool because they’re forced to sleep in it when they don’t want to, when they’re not sleepy enough, they’re left by themselves crying… And believe me, the fact that your 9-month-old daughter sleeps in her stroller only or your 3-year-old son sleeps with you in your bed and doesn’t want to sleep anywhere else doesn’t mean that it’ll be like this “forever”. The same with a 12-month-old child who’s in diapers – it does NOT mean she’ll wear them for the rest of her life.
I didn’t have any specific idea or especially any plan about how not to have any problems with putting April to sleep. She slept with us in our bed for around 3.5 to 4 months and after that we just put her in her crib and she stayed there with no problem. I have to add her though that there were nights when she slept on the floor or on her swing so it wasn’t that she was totally used to one place only. Within a reason and with moderations, because safety matters, she could take naps wherever she fell asleep and if she didn’t want to sleep in her crib some time I’d put her somewhere else. When April was tiny she could fall asleep on her play-mat and I never moved her. The only thing I’d do then would be to put a blanket over her or something. I totally don’t support forcing children to sleep whenever a parent wants them to and wherever the parent wants. I really want my child to be able to make her own decisions even when she “doesn’t understand anything” because she’s only a few months old. But again – within a reason because I wouldn’t leave a very small infant who can roll over on the couch by himself as he might fall from it and we don’t want that.
April had time when she really cried, tensed her whole body and woke up crying at night. At first I thought it was her teething, later that maybe something else hurt, later that maybe she was afraid of something. And one day one thought came to my mind – maybe she didn’t like sleeping in her crib! It’s kind of like a cage, you know, a child can’t go out in any way at all. No freedom at all and at that point she was already walking and she was pretty independent for her age. I told Nathan to take off one side of the crib and we left it like that. And she’s been sleeping like this up until now! Nathan puts her to sleep with no problem, he reads her books, sings a short song, gives her a kiss and leaves. There are some short periods of time when April leaves and looks for me or him, which, yes, is tiring for us, but they happen rarely.
If it comes to naps it’s a very similar thing – I never forced her to sleep on specific schedule. When she was tiny she slept the whole time but later she started looking around, learning and so on so her naps changed too. I let her work our her own rhythm on her own. At this moment she sleeps less than a few months ago which is pretty obvious. She sometimes falls asleep on the floor, sometimes in the car, sometimes with me in my bed, some other time she’ll just go to her room, she’ll lay down on her bed with a book and she’ll fall asleep after a few minutes.
I sometimes tell her that I want to rest and I grab a book. She then plays by herself for a while and then goes to the couch and sleeps. There are also times when I’m busy doing something like dishes or cleaning or whatever and she’ll go to sleep even with me being active around.
Children don’t sleep for a variety of reasons… They’re not sleepy, they’re not sleepy enough, they prefer to play, something distracts them, it’s too loud, too quiet, too bright, too dark, too warm, too cold, they’re hungry, thirsty, something itches or hurts, they see that others don’t sleep so they don’t want to sleep either, they want to talk with a parent who they didn’t see the whole day or hug a mom some more. I myself sometimes try hard not to fall asleep because I’m waiting for Nathan and my eye lids are closing or when I read a cool book that I don’t want to stop reading… So I’m kind of like those kids, huh? There are ones who need more warmth and have a need to cuddle for 15 minutes before they fall asleep and there are some who will just go to bed without it (April prefers to give me million kisses all over my body but she sometimes doesn’t do it so she’s pretty much both). Forcing children to stay in their beds, in their rooms, locking doors, yelling, calling names, spanking, blaming, scaring, leaving to cry it out… Nothing good will come up from any of this. And yes, a child will eventually stop calling you, will stop wanting to hug so much and will stop crying so you’ll be in peace but… Yes, there’s a huge “but” here. Because it won’t be an effect of this child feeling well, safe, cared for and loved, no. It’ll be him knowing that he won’t get any help, can’t trust anyone, there’s nobody to count on. Even parents who after all are the only ones for a long time, they’re the ones who help and are trustworthy. He thought. And if this totally dependent child suddenly realizes that he can’t count on the parents and feels abandoned it’ll stay with him forever.
Not that long ago April would wake up at night and come to our bedroom crying which caused me a problem because I woke up and later I was like a zombie the whole day. You know how it is while pregnant… if you know. If not, I’ll tell you that sleep is extremely important. Anyways, her feelings, needs and emotions were accepted by me in a 100% but I wasn’t able to accept her behavior because it affected me directly. And you know what I did? I talked to her. In this post I wrote our dialogue so take a look if you’re interested. It helped and since then she didn’t wake us up and later I repeated saying those things again a few times just in case but remembering also about telling her in the morning how well I slept and how much I appreciated her not waking me up. Since then she doesn’t wake us up unless it’s something specific and important like “I want water” and then she drinks it and goes back to sleep.
I’m a little afraid that some of you might be disappointed with this post because you might have expected some specific advice or something how to magically make everything easier or how to fix everything. Unfortunately, the problem is that in this case if something breaks it’s hard to fix… sometimes very hard. It’s possible but it requires work, patience and self-denial not only from parents but from children too (I’ll talk about it another time). In my opinion the key is to treat children like humans, not like dolls that you can do whatever you want with. What’s also very important is to respect your child’s boundaries, accept them and take them under consideration remembering about your own at the same time and defending them in a way that – again – shows respect, understanding and acceptance. Because without it there will be only stress and fear left and also trust will significantly drop. There are studies showing that children left to “cry it out” are in much higher risk of having anxiety, panic attacks, depression, suffering from a high level of stress and more. Because something like this leaves a baby in a distress which produces a lot of stress hormone and this hormone is responsible for a lot of problems with our health.
Children really don’t do it just to piss you off. They don’t think that they’ll cry before bed time and will get up a few times just to make you mad. They really have some reason and sometimes, or even often, their reason for us adults is totally trivial and if we had this kind of an issue we’d just turn to a different side and went back to sleep instead of getting up and calling for someone. But remember that we’re talking about small children here, sometimes babies, who keep learning everything, watch everything, they change each day and each day they hear and see something new and sometimes they have such a mess in their mind that they can’t sleep. It’s all worth paying attention to and so you’ll be able to give them more trust and understanding.
I’ll see you next time,
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