How We Got Our Child To Sleep

Originally published October 2011 at the Yummy Mummy Club:

Jeez, that’s harsh.

These words were uttered with shock and disdain by a girlfriend of mine. She had just heard me describe my then 2-year-old daughter’s bed time routine. Teeth brushing, two books, hugs and kisses and into bed with a book in hand but no way to read it as the room was pitch black. No night light.

Harsh it may sound, but effective it was.

I don’t profess to know anything about sleep training beyond what I did with my own daughter, but I will say this: A Quaker phrase that a colleague of mine used to repeat incessantly has stuck with me through the years. Start as you mean to finish. So from the age of 6 months, unless our dear one was in real distress, we didn’t flinch or jump at every single cry. We went with the theory that you can’t spoil a baby, so up to 6 months of age, we were at her beck and call. But as soon as she hit 6 months, we started to put on the brakes of our nightly R2D2 imitations and stopped running in at every noise.

We set up a routine that we followed whether at home or at grandma’s or wherever else we were. Other than when she was sick, she would go down and either sleep, if tired out by a busy day, or talk and sing to herself for a while before eventually dropping off. It always made me think of puppy training and what one trainer we know said: that dog training is more about the parents than the dogs. While I will stave off any knee jerk commentary by confirming that we in no way viewed our dearest daughter as a puppy, there were some obvious similarities in terms of how we were best to deal with some issues and sleep training was one of them. Consistency was one and not giving in to every whine was another. Friends of ours with several kids admit they were weak with the first one but by kid two or three, they had learned their lesson!

It didn’t always work and we had one memorable night when our dear one was up at 3 a.m., ready and raring to go! I have to admit that we turned on Toopy and Binoo and dropped back off to sleep while she sat between us, watching her show. I was worried that this would set up a daily pattern but the next night, things were all back to normal. Who knows what was going on in her little two year old brain that night…

In the early stages, she only had to cry it out a couple of times but ultimately knew that her bed was a safe place where she would find her Taggie blankie, a toy that was never allowed out of her crib and was therefore an enticement to happily go off to bed. (I bought two, just to be safe. If you are going to rely on something like that to get your child to sleep, it had better be there, as I discovered once while visiting Grandma sans Taggie. Luckily for us, a baby store just down the road had it in stock!)

When we moved to our new house, we lost several important screws for the crib and decided right there and then that she would be going into a toddler bed. We went shopping, she picked one out, and that night, jumped in, happy as can be with her selection. Now, as we near three years old, she will at times ASK to go to bed. It is a happy, comfy place for her, and for her father and I too!


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