Our journey to independent sleep

Each person, each family has their journey. Some adults need more sleep than others, some children need more sleep than others.

Remember that your child has 3 powers over you (the ones that can drive us a little nuts at times): Eating, Toileting and Sleeping. You can’t force any of it, you should not force any of it but we can help the children feel comfortable with it and put boundaries around it for everyone’s sake. Sleep is a tricky one because it affects all of us in many ways.

Some parents have babies who from the start will sleep beautifully, independently and through the night in no time. It does happen. However, it’s not the majority of children who sleep like this. We have to accept they are all different. Some people choose to sleep train their baby at a young age. I would not recommend it at a very young age because I think a baby needs some time to try to figure it out and adapt to the world she has been thrown into. However, I don’t judge, I get it, I get why people do it. They are exhausted and want a quick fix. Unfortunately, even sleep training does not guarantee that your baby won’t go through sleep regressions (which are pretty common and developmentally appropriate) and you might have to start all over again… or not. Your child is unique. I am more about sleep learning, like toilet learning not toilet training. Quick fixes seem to go the opposite way of following the child.

baby sleep

I am more a Montessorian who follows my child even in sleep (and yes we have been tired at times) and I would not do it any differently but I have learnt things along the way as well. We all find our groove. We are all on a learning journey.

FALLING ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY

Our daughter fell asleep alone with no fuss from 4 months until 9 months. It means I would do the routine and put her on her bed and say good night and leave and she would fall asleep. I could read cues and the routine was down. At 9 months, we had a serious sleep regression (often going with separation anxiety and more) so that is when I could have gone to a sleep professional and get help. And if you feel like you are going insane because it’s too hard, please do. Choose one who understands your family values and knows what they are doing (if they tell you to let your child cry it out – then you did not need them honestly and in Montessori we don’t use this method as it goes against our principles and values, just so you know where to stand in following Montessori principles). Once again, it is your choice.

Our choice was to support our child through this hard time she was having. We tried a few things, we made some mistakes and we learned from them but overall, we would do the routine and then we would lie down on the ground and wait until she was asleep to get out. Certain nights it was fast, she was in a good place and knew we were there. Other nights, it was long and nothing else would get done in the house. We accepted. We supported her the only way that seemed respectful to us in our situation. Sometimes, we were getting tired and would go out for a bit so we could breathe and go back in( we always told her why and would tell her we would be back). At 16 months, one night, I told her I had to get out to go pee and breathe a little by myself, when I came back 3 mins later (and could not hear her fuss in any way), she had fallen asleep by herself. The following day, I did the routine, I told her I was going to get out for a little bit but I would be back. She held her stuffy and said: Bybye Maman!  … I held my breath – that was it… she was ready and it came from her. I said good night and left the room. She fell asleep. We never had to look back. Around 2 years old, she had a phase where bed time was longer but we reassured, supported and made sure she felt good and ready to fall asleep by herself. My advice: respect bedtime and routines. Children need it.

Bottom line, it was not always easy but it came from her. I am happy with this result and so is she. I would not change any of it. I would do it again. She is confident in her ability to fall asleep by herself. I did not make her, she did it.

Edit: I have been asked about napping. We kept her with us for naps until we felt ready and she was ready to fall asleep independently. Same method and she fell asleep by herself around the same time she did for the night. She was ready. We followed her. I was a student mom during her first year so I loved having her with me when she was sleeping. I learned to let go of things not getting done. Eventually it falls into place.

baby naps with maman
I did not mind her falling asleep on my for naps because I missed her so much during the day. It never frustrated me much.

SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT

Same principles applied here. We followed her. She would wake up, we would come, be there, feed her – we did feeding on demand from birth.

Our mistake: We kept on feeding when she would wake up way over the baby phase and she did not need it, it was a habit. We know better now.

We phased out the feedings at night, it does not mean she slept through the night right away. Once again, she needed to be ready. We would get up if she asks – but not for every little noise she would make. We would support, we would reassure and leave. She slept through the night at 25 months. It came from her, she was ready. I am happy with that. 🙂

Sleep is never going to be easy and expecting our children to sleep easily and through the night all the time is forgetting about the nature of the human being and its uniqueness.

Adults sometimes have trouble falling asleep, some of you might even suffer from insomnia. It’s not always easy to sleep well, so why would we expect our children to do so? There is a part of acceptance in it. There is also a part of knowledge about the development of the child.

CONCLUSION

You are your child’s expert. That being said, you might still need your village to help.

I read a lot, I listened to moms who slept train their babies and cried over it. I could not find myself in any of it so, this is our journey.

Your journey will be different. You might have a child who slept through the night young but is having trouble falling asleep independently for many reasons (fears, FOMO, missing their parents who work hard all day long to make a living…). You might have a child who falls asleep easily but keeps waking up with nightmares or night terrors, sleep walking and such. You might be going through regressions because a sibling has arrived. It is not an easy journey. However, you can always talk to us about it, talk to you village. You don’t have to feel alone.

Trust your parents’ guts and follow your child. You’ve got this ! 

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