Rocking our toddler to sleep never seemed to be a bother until recently. Before that, we had no problem spending time rocking our toddler to sleep for many reasons.
My husband and I both work outside the home and it was our way to spend time with our daughter a little bit more. Our daughter has always been a bit high maintenance when it comes to falling asleep. From the instant she was born, she needed a pacifier and she needed to be rocked to sleep in some form or fashion.
When she was five months old, we felt like parenting gurus as we finally got her to fall asleep on her own without rocking after a 4 day session of modified cry-it-out. It was tough, but the end product was great. I felt like my husband and I got our nights back. We were able to spend some alone time together again and it felt wonderful… until she got sick or she started teething.
There were several setbacks along the way and she regressed. We all fell back into our bad sleeping habits.
My husband and I would take turns rocking her to sleep until she became very clingy to me. Now, I was spending 30 minutes to an hour rocking her to sleep every night. Some nights it would take 3 or more attempts to putting her down because she was waking up and demanding that I ‘rock more’. It was sweet, but it got old. I would leave her room exhausted myself and not want to do the things that I needed or wanted to do before I went to sleep. I would see my husband on the couch enjoying alone time and I secretly started to resent him.
Then, one night I was ‘rocked out’. She was literally falling off my lap because she was growing like a weed. It had already spent 45 minutes rocking and pleading with her to fall asleep. The only thing going to sleep was my foot.
I stood up and she started crying and begging me to rock more. Then I remembered her teacher telling me that she has no problem falling asleep for nap time.
I know for a fact they do not rock all the kids to sleep, so why was it so hard for her to fall asleep here? The answer is simple – her parents were allowing her to do so.
She was playing me and I was allowing it to continue. Why? Perhaps, selfish reasons.
I don’t want my ‘baby’ to grow up. I felt guilty about working. I wanted to spend more time with her.
I stood up and put her in her crib (yes, she is still in a crib), told her it was time to go to bed, and walked out.
It was tough. Each step I took towards our living room was one step that I really wanted to turn back and rock her some more. But, I didn’t and my husband glanced at me with a surprising look in his eye.
“Tonight is the night,” I said. “It’s day one of cry-it-out and getting our toddler to sleep on her own.”
“Okay.” He replied. He didn’t believe me. To be honest, there was doubt in my mind that I could follow through, but we did and here’s how it went:
How we got our toddler to sleep without rocking her
Night One: She stood crying in her crib for twelve minutes before giving up, laying down and sleeping through the night. Those 12 minutes felt like a lifetime.
Day Two: She woke up asking Daddy why we didn’t rock her and that she cried. (That broke our hearts), but we decided to keep going with it.
Night Two: We switched up our bedtime routine: Diaper change, pajamas and brushing teeth in that order. We read her two books only. She normally talks us into reading 4+books which makes the bedtime routine longer. Instead of taking turns, my husband and I read the book with her together. We told her before we read that we were only reading two books before putting her down for sleep. Turned out lights, she immediately started crying as we put her down. She wanted us to rock her, but we continuously reminded her that it was bedtime. We said, “See you in the morning, we love you and sleep tight” and walked out.
She cried for five minutes and went to bed.
Night Three: Same routine as above. She cried for one minute before deciding to go to bed.
Night Four: Same routine again. As we were putting her down, she asked if we could pray in her bed. (So sweet!) We prayed, tucked her in and walked out. No crying and she went to bed immediately.
By Day Five, it was the weekend, so we decided to try it for nap time and it worked like a charm. I was amazed and happy to have my nights back.
I admit, I do miss snuggling with her, but I have to teach her these skills. Hopefully our new bedtime routine will make the transition from crib-to-bed go smoothly.
I wasn’t doing her any favors by assisting her in falling asleep. I knew she could do it, but we were enabling her.
We had a setback recently when she couldn’t stop coughing and I will admit I did rock her for a few minutes simply to get her to calm down from a coughing attack. I told her that it would only be for a little bit and then I would tuck her in. It worked, but I was scared that we would go back into bad habits, but she listened and went straight to bed. When kids are sick, all bets are off, but I am going to try to get us back on track as quickly as possible.
This method is what worked for our family and our child. It may not work for you and your family. That’s okay. You do what works for you and your family, but I wanted to share our experience. For ‘crying out’ loud, I am not a doctor so don’t think I am.
Currently our new-found bedtime routine works and it’s amazing. I have an extra hour now to get things done in the house, talk to my husband, or catch up on some ‘me’ time. We are less stressed and happier.
What sleep tips do you have for children? Did you fall victim to rocking your child to sleep for a long time? How do you get your toddler to sleep?