Knowing you’re not alone is always so reassuring, and normalising our little one’s sleep is one of my major missions. Does normalising it make you less tired? Well, not really, but does it make you less stressed about it? Yaaasss!
I wanted to share our recent sleep journey with our 2 year old in the hope that it’ll help some of you feel like you are not alone.
For the last many months our little boy has been waking once, twice sometimes up to 4 times in the night and it’s quite honestly been exhausting. My partner and I have been sharing the load as much as we can, sometimes leaning on the other for extra support: me with pregnancy and him with work. We tried tweaking his naps; sometimes that worked, and his night waking improved and sometimes it didn’t change at all. Sometimes he’d sleep right through, and we’d be amazed, trying to think back to every single detail from the day before to copy it minute for minute; but again, this didn’t solve our problems.
We resigned to the fact that our little boy was now a ‘waker-upper’ and that it would end naturally, when he was ready.
BUT, to be completely honest, we were really worried about the new baby arriving and the inevitability of having two awake babies on our hands!
How would we manage?
Although I objectively look at lots of babies and children’s sleep times, sleep hygiene, sleep latency, how long they’re awake for and loads of other factors to determine where and how to tweak timings or a routine in order to optimize their sleep in a gentle way; it’s really difficult to be objective to my own situation – and many of us sleep consultants find the same.
Bedtime had also become a battle and he wouldn’t fall asleep for a long time after being put into his cot; he’d cry if we left the room before he was asleep and so bedtime was often taking up to 2 hours!
Here's what I decided to try:
Push bedtime back a little to nearer the time that he was regularly eventually falling asleep.
Make the bedtime routine shorter & more concise
Really emphasised having 1-1 focussed connection time with him as much as possible during the day AND at bedtime: time without tasks, without phones just simple eye contact, physical touch, calm time together to fill up his little love tank.
Make sure we were calm and dedicated to the bedtime routine – not rushing, not stressed but emotionally, mentally, and physically available to our little boy for the last part of his day.
What Happened Next
Fairly quickly, his night waking reduced, he was falling asleep much quicker, sometimes with us holding his hand, and sometimes we could leave the room and he would fall asleep by himself. He woke up much happier in the morning and we started getting full night's sleep!!
We don’t know how long this phase will last; I’m sure we’ll need to tweak his nap at some stage soon as bedtime will start to get later and later, I’m sure he’ll have another developmental phase at some stage, I’m sure he’ll get poorly and need us more during the night, I’m sure that when his brother is born soon, that will throw a spanner in the sleep works too… but for the moment, we’re here and we’re lapping it up while it lasts.
Celebrate the wins, even the small ones – wherever and however they come!
Lessons To Be Learned
Sleep is not linear – it changes, things happen: illness, teething, developmental phases, separation anxiety. All these things affect sleep, and it won’t be the same night to night, just like it isn’t for adults.
We’re ok with holding his hand until he falls asleep – that’s not a problem for us, so no matter what people say, we don’t need to change that or ‘wean him off it’. Actually, we’re enjoying that little bit of connection while it lasts too: he won’t be 18 and wanting to hold our hands to sleep that’s for sure!
By accepting this as normal sleep behaviour, we as parents can let all this weighted pressure off our shoulders – It's not our fault, our children aren’t robots, they’re not dolls; they’re little humans, and how they sleep is not a reflection of our parenting skills, or how ‘good; they are – it’s just NORMAL!