Peeps, when Jon and I first came home with our little Peanut and realized that she would sleep all night if we didn’t wake her to eat, we were ecstatic. When, by the time she was 2 months old, she was only waking up once a night to eat, we were beyond thankful for a good little sleeper. Aside from our month of sleepless nights around 4 months (wakeful 4, I hear, is a thing) and the sleep training that followed very shortly after, we’ve always had an incredible sleeper on our hands.
I know you can see where this is going.
Queue all the transitions. The nunu evacuation. The toddler bed transition. Closely followed by a vacation where the tot was expected to sleep in a pack n play in our bedroom.
If you guessed that we had some sleep trouble heading our way, you are right.
Somewhere between all the changes and Peanut learning how to talk, and therefore bargain for what she wants, we lost our good little sleeper and gained a crying toddler. Not. good. And with two full-time working, tired parents and one very pregnant mommy, this was not going to fly.
The week before we left for Florida we thought it would be a good idea to “sleep train” our tot and we did. Except we didn’t re-read any of the Ferber book materials. We just winged it. And it didn’t really work.
In fact, while we were on vacation, we attempted to let her cry in the pack n play next to our bed but since she could see us and we were exhausted, it didn’t work. So we let the toddler sleep in our bed. That’s right. The whole vacation. For naps. For night times. Between us (thankfully it was a King size bed, not our Queen). And do you know what happened? She didn’t really sleep. She played, she pulled our hair, she tossed, we tossed. Needless to say, no one was a happy camper in the King vacation household.
So upon returning home, we immediately swore we’d take care of this sleepless nights problem. We braced ourselves for a handful of harder evenings and nights, knowing (from experience) that everyone would be much happier as a result. And we did it.
Here’s what we stuck to:
- setting time frames that got longer and longer. We stuck to our 3-6-9 minutes the first night, 6-9-12 the second, and 9-12-15 the third. We haven’t had to go past 3 nights yet but I guess we could go longer or just stick to the last one.
- do not engage with the toddler. This is where it was so different from the baby sleep training. When P was a baby, we walked in, we touched her, we made sure she was ok, we walked out. With a toddler, as soon as you walk in the bargaining begins. More milk. Wipe nose. Read book. Hand over dolly. Hand over 15 more babies. Monkey please. Nemo. Water. Mommy, sit. Rub back. Open door. Close door. Turn on lights. Turn off lights. You get it. The first time we did this we would do a handful of these things and then everyone would be frustrated and nothing seemed to work. The second time we did not engage. We walked in, we said, “it’s bedtime,” covered her if she was laying down, wiped her nose if she was crying, said that we loved her, and walked out. Even if she was still crying. Definitely while she was still awake. This led to more wailing the first night but significantly less the following evening and nights.
- stick to your guns and repeat if she woke up in the middle of the night for some reason. Every time it started over, we started the time spans over (3 minutes first time she cried the first night, 6 minutes after that if she was still crying, 9 minutes after that if she was still crying, then continue with 9 minutes until she stopped).
- keep her in the room. Our toddler doesn’t get out of bed (I have no idea why) even without a guard blocking her in but we did have a gate ready just in case. The one evening she did get out of bed and followed me out of the room (the first night), I put her gate up on the door. She cried at the gate for about 2 minutes before heading back to her bed. Ferber says that it’s not a bad thing if the tot falls asleep on the floor the first couple of nights, as long as they’re in the room and safe.
We started the whole thing Sunday night, our first night home. And I’m happy to report that things are going relatively smoothly. Unlike the baby sleep training, which took just over 2 nights, we still have some crying for about 2-3 minutes in the evening but it’s gotten a LOT better and she’s calming down on her own. The best part is that she’s no waking up in the middle of the night – or at least she’s not crying when she does.
The one compromise we’ve made is that she now requires us to keep her door open at night and the hallway light on. We can’t figure out a good placement for a night light in the baby room but we’ll be sure to set her up with one in her big girl room when she moves over (omg another transition). For now, we’ve all been sleeping with the hallway light on and our doors open. If you ask me, that’s a small price to pay.