When will he just SLEEP?!? - Guest Post by Anne Cullen, IBCLC

Do you have a toddler that STILL isn’t sleeping through the night?

Do you fear you’ve created a bad habit by responding to him when he calls out to you?  Have you considered, or even tried, leaving her to cry?

Are you completely exhausted from going back and forth all night between bedrooms and you are just DESPERATE for sleep?

I HEAR YOU!  In fact, I WAS you!

When my first son was born 13 years ago, I happily (well, sort of) had him sleeping in a cot next to my bed for the first 9 months of his life, responding with a breastfeed or whatever he needed every time he woke.  But after 9 months, I was pretty tired and decided it was time to move him to his own room.

For the next six months, I went from my bedroom to his whenever he woke, breastfed him in a chair in his room, did whatever I needed to do to get him back to sleep and then put him back in his cot.  Well, unless he would wake back up when I tried… then I’d have to feed him and cuddle him again.  And maybe AGAIN.  Sometimes this would happen SEVERAL times a night.  And sometimes I just gave up and brought him into the queen-sized bed I shared with my husband.

I WAS EXHAUSTED!!!  I NEEDED TO SLEEP!

So, that was that. After about 6 months of hating the night, I decided it was time for Max to learn I just wasn’t going to come to him overnight.

I heard it would take 3 nights, and each night he would cry less.  I just needed to stick with it and not go in to him.  Night one, he woke and cried for 45 minutes.  Mostly screaming.  And I laid in my bed feeling heartbroken.  My husband slept soundly.

Night number two I dreaded him waking up.  I didn’t know if I had the strength to listen to him cry!  He did wake, but luckily he only cried for about half the time and then slept the rest of the night.  It was working!!

By night three, just like ‘they’ said, he hardly cried at all and just went back to sleep.  It had worked. Just like that!

BUT THEN, for whatever reason, after sleeping through the night for a handful of times (or at least not calling out to me if he DID wake), it happened again.  He woke up crying for me.

So I went to him!  There was NO WAY I was doing this anymore.  I needed to respond to my child!

Our solution??  Bring the cot back into our bedroom, take the side off, and push it right up next to our bed!  This meant I could feed Max, or cuddle him, without ever having my feet touch the floor!  When he fell back asleep he could just roll over onto his cot without even waking up and I had space to sleep.  Most nights I slept so well I had NO idea how many times he would wake, even if he had a breastfeed I could barely remember it!
— Anne Cullen, IBCLC

It was such a gentle way of doing things that I literally don’t have a clue when he night-weaned.  It just happened. I met his needs for as long as he had them, and then like magic… those needs disappeared.

And by the time he reached his third birthday, he happily slept in his own room on the single bed we bought when he was two.  So, it took a year… but it happened.  Every child is different but for him he needed those three years of night time comfort.

His brother…. well that is a DIFFERENT story!! I’ll save that for another blog post!