“WHY WON’T SHE SLEEP?!” We’ve asked this question more times than we could ever count. And then finally, we found something that worked.
Today’s post was inspired by “Sleep Through The Night Presents,” a sleep training tactic that literally saved our sanity. I’ve told several people about it recently. Since they were very interested, I thought I would pass along this strategy to anyone who might need it.
Before I tell you what a Sleep Through The Night Present is, if you can’t guess, I’ll first tell you about my daughter’s dreadful sleep history.
As a baby, Lyla hated sleeping on her back and consequently HATED sleeping.
See? Six days old and smiling in her sleep because she was being HELD.
It was all I could do to get her to nap for thirty minutes during the day. I usually had to rock her in my arms and sing to her for thirty minutes before she fell asleep for her oh-so-short nap. This put a strain on my back as she gained weight and was obviously time consuming.
I read Baby Wise before Lyla was born and tried to adhere to their advice and sleep patterns. After struggling to get her to nap, I wondered what I was doing wrong, so I read it again, to no avail.
Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move mountains.
Too bad I didn’t have a cute little sign like that in her nursery! Lyla rephrased it to:
I don’t want to sleep, for there are many mountains to move! -Lyla
She didn’t want to miss out on anything.
She had and still has a Zest for Life. Her middle name is Joy, which fits her perfectly.
Sometimes our dog Ginger would bark during nap time and wake her up, ruining my short break. This caused me to think evil things towards my dog and lock her up during nap time. She seemed to know she had lost favor with me because she stopped coming to me for a long time and went into a depression. (We have now reestablished a loving relationship.)
When Lyla learned how to roll over, she chose to sleep on her belly, which made her much happier in the crib. We were thrilled by this development and did not try to force back sleeping any longer. Whatever helped her sleep! For a few months, she slept pretty well and so did we. Hooray!
Around nine months old, her teeth started moving. Oh, the teething woes… She woke up four or five times a night wanting to nurse to soothe her teeth and was super fussy during the day. This was back when we were terrified to give her any medicine. Now when we know Luke is really hurting from teething, we dope him up with some baby ibuprofen. I think this may be one reason he is a better sleeper than Lyla was.
By the time Lyla was eighteen months old, she was screaming for hours at a time at night. Several times we took her to the doctor in our desperation. He said letting her cry it out wouldn’t hurt her, and she should fall asleep after an hour. Wrong! The longest span she ever cried through the night was seven hours…
We were at a complete loss of what to do. After another visit to the doc, he suggested the Ferber Method. We read up on it, then set it into motion. It involved going into her room after letting her cry twenty minutes, tell her it was okay without picking her up, and then go a longer span before going back in. Basically all this did was enrage her every time we left the room. It also meant we stayed up all night so we could periodically go into her room.
My sweet girl turned into a little monster at night. I was terrified of her. I was having thoughts that she was possessed or that there were evil spirits in her room, so I took to praying over her and her room constantly. Ever seen the movie War Room when she tells Satan to get out of her house? That’s pretty much what I was doing. It was an intense time.
It got so bad that when we turned into our neighborhood, she would start screaming in the car because we were approaching the house. She wouldn’t go near her room when we were inside.
Thomas and I were discouraged, exhausted, and worried as the birth of our son approached. He was spending hours in her room every night. I even caught him on the monitor one night climbing into the crib with her. These were things we knew we shouldn’t do, but we were at our wits end!
Since she hated her crib so much, we decided to turn it into a toddler bed. Perhaps it would feel less like a cage. I bought her a fun Frozen bedding set and encouraged her to play on it during the day. But now she could get OUT of her bed when she didn’t want to sleep. We kept her door closed, so she began banging and screaming at the door all night. We would watch her on the monitor, standing there in her exhaustion, swaying back and forth, but never giving up.
Her endurance was incredible.
Ours was not.
I took this picture while I was laboring with Luke in my own bedroom. I’d already called the midwife and everything, just waiting for my husband to come out of the toddler’s room to tell him it was time to go to the hospital!
Once he woke up, we called some of our best friends, who lived in our neighborhood, to come babysit until my mom got into town to watch Lyla. We told them there was a good chance she would cry a lot and that they could ignore her.
We actually had a spy camera instead of a monitor, so we could watch her remotely on our phones. As I walked around the hospital room laboring, we spied on Lyla, who was screaming at the door of her room.
“What are we going to do with her? WHY WON’T SHE SLEEP?!” Thomas spied on her again and saw Morgan rocking her. “Morgan caved,” said Thomas. Lyla had gotten to her by begging for water. But it didn’t work. After giving her water and rocking her a little, Morgan laid her back in the bed, and she proceeded to scream at her door. My mom tried to help her, too, when she arrived, and eventually stayed in the room with her for several hours. We decided we needed to stop worrying about our toddler and focus on the next child we were about to bring into the world. So we turned off the monitor, tried to put that worry out of our minds, and focused on Luke.
God answered our prayers and gave us a boy who liked to sleep. Praise Jesus! Mind you, he wasn’t necessarily an easy baby either since he was collicky and screamed every time he was in a car seat for the first three months, BUT once he got past that he slept like a champ. He says night night when he’s tired, like “Put me to bed, people!” He has never wanted me to sing him songs, he sleeps through the night, and loves to nap.
I started to do counseling sessions online this past spring when Lyla was turning three. My counselor felt that I would deal much better with my kids during the day if I got proper sleep. Lyla was coming into our room many times a night and keeping us up. She wondered whether Lyla would understand rewards and reasoning. I thought she would because she was a great communicator, and honestly, a manipulator.
That’s when we created “Sleep Through The Night Presents.” I went to Dollar Tree and stocked up on little toys, dinosaurs, books, and bubbles. After a night when she came into our room six times, I explained to her that if she stayed in her bed all night the next night, she would get a present in the morning. She could call out to us if she got scared or needed to use the restroom, but she couldn’t get out of bed without us there.
She slept through the night without a peep for the first time in ages. When she woke up in the morning, she immediately asked for her present, which I gladly gave her. From then on, she slept through the night AND held her pee all night. It was like all of a sudden she decided to use self control. The little present really motivated her! I can’t tell you what a relief this was! After three years of sleep deprivation, we began to regularly get full nights of sleep.
We rarely give her sleep through the night presents now. She understands that she needs sleep and usually doesn’t fight it. Occasionally she even tells us she wants to go to bed early if she’s really tired. She loves her bed and her room, and although she dropped naps before she was two and a half (no surprise there!), she is getting enough sleep now to function happily during the day.
When people ask what method we used to get our kids to sleep, since that’s one of the main concerns of new parents, we say, “Gosh, you’re asking the wrong people.” I am willing to tell them what I did with my kids, but I don’t offer it as advice. Each child is so different that’s it’s not one size fits all.
My own two children are incredibly opposite in everything, including sleep. After following different sleep methods for Lyla and still failing miserably, I decided to let Luke establish his own sleep patterns. Within a few weeks of being born, he was taking two long naps during the day and sleeping through the night after maybe seven weeks. I can’t tell you how thankful I was and am for his good sleep!
Perhaps you think we did it all wrong, but Lyla made us shrug our shoulders and believe that not all methods work on all children. She seemed to break the mold. Either way, we are thankful both of our kids sleep through the night now, and I feel like we’ve pushed through the hardest part of the baby years.
If you have a toddler who is old enough to understand reasoning and you want to keep them in their bed at night, give Sleep Through The Night Presents a try. It might just work!