I have been a total hypocrite lately. And I have been sleeping with another guy.
I know, and often tell parents, how important self-care is and how WONDERFUL yoga is for the body AND mind (by moving out stagnant emotional energy and learning coping skills), but the honest truth is today is the first day I did yoga in over a MONTH.
You see, my youngest hit a sleep regression.
I’m not positive if it was the 18 or the 24 month, because he’s smack in the middle of both, but either way, the brief glimpses of him sleeping through the night completely disappeared.
I like to do my yoga early in the morning, before the kids are awake and when I have the energy to do it. Sometime in November I turned off my 5AM alarm and wondered if I’d ever be able to have my “miracle mornings” again.
But as I was gathering more research for my Developmental Guide, I learned even more than I already knew about resolving sleep associations and realized what I needed to do.
So what is a sleep association?
Basically, anything your kid has around when he falls asleep can be considered a sleep association.
So, if you sing to him, or rock him to sleep, or give him a bottle, then whenever he wakes up he’ll look for all of those same things to be present or he’ll lose his shit.
My lovely husband has always demanded that he “do” bedtime for my son. However, his version of doing bedtime was to sit in the chair and watch YouTube videos while he fell asleep, often rocking him or giving him a bottle at the same time.
I admit, I let this go on far longer than I should have, because I have another child who is very sensitive about bedtime and wanted me with her most of the process. Therefore it didn’t bother me (THAT much) to wake up still during the night and snuggle my boy, because I felt like both of us probably needed it.
But, now he’s older, and this is no longer serving either of us.
I always have been completely open to safe co-sleeping, but he wasn’t digging that either. Bringing him to bed just meant a very restless night, and he couldn’t get comfortable on me in the chair either, so neither of us was getting solid sleep after those night wakings.
He needs to have the best night of sleep possible, I need to give him more snuggles during the day, and all of us need me to have time for proper self-care (moving past the first level – adequate sleep).
5AM is early enough, but it’s super early if you’ve already been up half the night.
So, as I was deconstructing some remaining resistance to proper self-care last week, I realized that this was something I was allowing and needed to make a greater effort to correct.
To remove his sleep associations, I made him go a bit cold turkey, but knew he was ready for it.
- The first two nights I insisted that I did bedtime.
- We read stories and I offered milk.
- Then I turned off the lights and offered milk again, rocking and singing a bit.
- Next, I put him in his crib and told him goodnight, and sat in the chair (next to the crib) and sang lullabies to him.
- He protested. Now, protesting is not the same as crying, not at almost two years old. Once they hit 18 months, they will protest and fuss but that does not necessarily mean they are in the stress response. Usually the stress response cry is about impossible for a mother to ignore, it ignites us at every level to RESPOND and ASSIST. This was more like a tantrum.
- So, I would hold his hand, or rub his back, or his leg, and comfort him, and he never did cry. He would lay down, start to get comfortable, then get up, protest a little, then lay down, and repeat.
- I checked my energy the whole time, I stayed in something called coherence, and filled myself up with loving energy. This is important because then he is not getting any anxiety from me, and will actually entrain to (or match) my energy. If it’s okay with momma, it’s okay with me, basically.
- Finally, he laid down and fell asleep and I left.
That night he woke up once, at 4:30, which was much later than his normal wakings.
- The second night, it was pretty much the same deal, only I sat halfway to the door on the floor, but did all of the same comforting, and he laid down and got up about half as much as the first night. He slept through the night, and woke up at 6:30!
- The third night, my husband was annoyed and missing their time together, so he did bedtime, but actually ended up sitting closer to the door – which was going to be the next phase but that’s just where he ended up. My son slept until 6.
So, as you can see, the sleep associations I had to remove were:
1. Falling asleep on my husband
2. Being rocked to sleep
3. Listening to stupid videos while trying to fall asleep
Because we had to deal with his need for one of us to be with him, that meant we had to gradually increase the physical space between us, at a level that wasn’t enough to frighten him. There was no true crying and no fussing that went without comfort.
As we continue the process, we’ll move from being at the door to in the open door, to just outside of it, and finally out of sight.
This gradual process is the norm for any new activity with toddlers.
As adults we tend to forget what it’s like to have brand new experiences, but once you put yourself in their shoes and consider what they’re feeling and needing, you can determine a plan to slowly acclimate them to new situations.