It sounds worse than it is…
But my baby sleeps on the dog’s bed.
Let me start from the beginning: as you might remember (from here, here and here), our little guy is the world’s worst sleeper. Has been since his very first night in the hospital, and continues to be to this day. I won’t go into a whole dissertation on sleep, but believe me when I say we’ve tried it all. A just wants his mommy. I work full time (which means I have enough mommy guilt to fill a room), and I usually give into him in the middle of the night. Why? Because I’m a softie. And because I need to sleep, too. And because my little boy wants his momma to lay next to him. My days are numbered with how long he will ask me to do that… so, I (happily) oblige.
On December 1st, while away at my in-laws house, A learned how to climb out of his pack n’play. I knew that day was coming, but when I actually saw him do it? I was shocked. He got his legs over the side so easily, he actually looked like he has been practicing that move for months. By the time I was upstairs, he was already in the hallway. The next day, he attempted an escape from his crib. I know he would only try this when he was awake, and left to fuss, so as a temporarily solution, I hid one of Otto’s old bed’s under his crib, and we pulled it out at naptime and bedtime… just in case he fell out, he would have a soft landing.
Around this time, I also realized that I was probably making things worse by allowing A to come in our room at night. I will never be that mom that says our children have no place in our bed, because frankly, what is ours is theirs and there is nothing in the world like sleeping next to your little baby. Nothing.
BUT, I needed to start helping A make better sleep habits.
A discovered the dog’s bed peeking out from his crib one day at naptime, and asked me to pull it out. So I did. And? He grabbed his pillow and lovies and fell asleep on it. In under 2 minutes. So I let him stay there. Instead of fighting his nap (like he always had), he just curled up and went to sleep. This went on for a few weeks…
By this point I had made it a real “bed”. It has a sheet, and a pillow, and a blanket. It has bolsters on 3.5 sides, and frankly, doesn’t look much different than the blow-up toddlers beds I have seen on Amazon.
Not that I feel I have to justify my decision, but Otto basically slept on this bed a total of 10 times since we bought it for him. In fact, this dog bed was more expensive than A’s crib mattress (which, maybe explains why he sleeps better on it!).
While I was home over the holidays, A and I did “One Nap Bootcamp” – my own, completely made-up, could-totally-fail, 10-day course in getting him down to 1 nap, and sleeping through the night. On the dog bed. If it worked, we would transition him to a toddler bed. If it didn’t, well, I resigned myself that I’m just going to be tired and that I’m not telling anyone, ever again, that my kid doesn’t sleep through the night. Because I’m SO over the crazy looks and the “have you tried/you have to/it’s because” explanations everyone has given me the last 20 months.
The first few nights, A was up at least once, maybe twice, but each time I’d go in his room and ask him to lay back down, and he did. Sometimes I would fall asleep too, but I tried really hard to only stay for 10-15 minutes, and then once he was asleep, I would leave. If he woke up at 6, I would bring him in bed with me, and we’d both sleep until 8 or 8:30. This was BLISS.
Last week, we decided to tweak a few things. I realize what I’m about to say makes me sound like some superstitious athlete (which I was), but we decided to try a few small things just to see what happened, and this is what we stuck with after his first night of sleeping 9-6:30, in his room... In the dog bed.
• Warm milk before bedtime
• Positive reinforcement before he closes his eyes*
• Raising the temperate 1 degree in his room
We’ve now had 8 wonderful nights of our little guy, happily asking to go to sleep, and staying in his room until anytime between 7 – 8:30 in the morning. Once in a while I will have to go in and tell him to lay back down, but he falls back asleep quickly and stays asleep. OHMYGOD!
We are giving A one more week of the dog’s bed, before we transition him to a (real) mattress on the floor. We’ve learned our lesson, and are letting him try a soft mattress that we already have in the house, before we buy one. If that works, in February he will move to his twin bed (still in his room), and sometime this summer we’ll move him into his “big boy room”.
Of course, now that I have “big boy room” on the brain, I’ve been on the hunt for some inspiration. I'll be sharing his new room inspiration soon!
If you are reading this and your baby or toddler doesn’t sleep through the night – you are not alone, and you are NOT crazy. Do whatever works for you, and if that means you need to buy a dog bed from L.L. Bean, you have my support.
*This idea came from the book, Moms on Call – Toddler Edition, which I will review next week