I revisited the 5 sanity-saving tips I wrote for new parents back when Cam started sleeping through the night. Now, in the thick of toddler sleep challenges, I'm struggling to accept my own advice.
Here's the situation: For the past 2 weeks, Cameron refuses to sleep by himself. If we let him cry it out in his crib, he falls asleep standing up, but only for a few minutes before he wakes up again and resumes screaming. The only way he will sleep is next to Mom and Dad. He could care less whether that's on the couch, in our bed, or on his toddler mattress, but the crib is most definitely not acceptable. Consequently, Mom and Dad are getting very little sleep amidst Cameron's thrashing about contentedly in our bed.
The LAST thing I want to do is accept the situation. Cam is not a newborn, and this isn't "supposed" to be happening. Surely there is something I can do to make it go away. Over the past 2 weeks I have:
- Enforced a regular nap time and bedtime
- Bought a toddler mattress with a car-studded comforter that Cam selected himself
- Built a consistent night-time routine of brushing teeth, story time, and falling asleep together on the toddler mattress
- Asked friends for advice based on their experiences
- Started reading a book on sleep that appears to be consistent with my parenting philosophy
It's really hard to ride this one out. I favor a compassionate approach to night-time parenting--one that takes into account Cam's needs and my own. When he was about 6 months old, that meant not rushing to his crib every time he cried and instead seeing if he would fall back asleep within 5 minutes. Usually it worked beautifully, and occasionally I'd bring him into our bed for some extra comforting. Today, that approach doesn't work, and I don't know what the new compassionate approach will look like.
There's no neat way to wrap this up. I'm working on accepting the situation before I take further steps to try to change it, and I'm trying to focus on being grateful for things like morning (and afternoon!) coffee, days at home with Cam, and tiny luxuries like burning a stick of incense. Although I'm not yet ready to accept this next part, I do have a sneaking suspicion that my previous conclusions on infant sleep are also true of toddler sleep:
All the warm baths, bedtime routines, and ideal sleep environments in the world cannot make our babies sleep through the night. Mostly, we do stuff to make ourselves feel like we’re doing something that may someday resolve the sleepless hell we live in as new parents. In reality, our babies sleep through the night when they’re ready. It happens when it happens.Here's hoping that either I'm wrong or that "it" happens soon!