Night after night I would cuddle him in, make him lovely and sleepy and then put him down in his cot ‘sleepy but awake’ because I thought that if I didn’t he would never ‘learn’ how to get to sleep and I worried that he would eventually get too big for me to cuddle or rock to sleep. Of course every time I placed him in his cot, drowsy but awake, he startled and woke and the whole process would start again. I would then lay down on the floor and hold his hand through the bars of his cot until he fell asleep (usually a couple of hours later)! Every night I went through this process, struggling with the time and energy it took me to get him to sleep and getting more and more worried that maybe I had broken him because he was 12 months old and couldn’t yet fall asleep by himself!
I struggled with this notion for a further 6 months, wondering how on earth I was going to teach my son how to get himself to sleep without leaving him to cry!
Just before he turned two I attended BabyCalm training & we all shared our worries and stories and experiences. Sleep, of course, came up and I had the most outstanding realisation, a realisation that would change mine & my son's life!
I did not need to teach him how to sleep, just as I didn’t need to teach him how to walk, or sit up or roll over! He would do it, in his own time, with support and love! I didn’t need to teach him how to sleep, it wasn’t my job or responsibility, or my failing! And so much pressure fell off my shoulders in that instant!
All I needed to do was provide him with the right conditions, a safe place and he would be able to sleep and I was not creating bad habits by cuddling him or rocking him! How could I be? I was making sleep into a safe, comforting, peaceful thing to do - not something to be afraid of or fear or dread!
When I returned from training bedtimes became much less stressed and less focussed on time, much more informal, calm and laid back, I invited him back into my room at nighttime, I even moved his toddler bed into my room so he had his own sleeping space close to me! Each night I would lie in a comfortable bed whilst he drifted off to sleep, not on the floor with my arm through some cold, hard cot bars and the guilt, the feeling of failure and frustration was gone!
He chose to stay in my bedroom for a few years after that, sometimes retreating back into his room but the majority of nights were spent close to me! And that brings us to now, just following his 6th birthday, he declared that he was ready to sleep in his own room and for 3 months now that is where he sleeps, happy to go to bed, with positive associations with sleep and bedtime!
Did I create bad habits by not teaching him how to self soothe? Did I create bad habits and cause him a disservice by not teaching him how to fall asleep? Did I create bad habits by cuddling him & rocking him to sleep?
Well I’ll leave you with this image of my 6 year old, sleeping peacefully in his own bed, in his own room, having fallen asleep by himself & let you decide ❤️
P.S he also sleeps through the night!!