Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finally Getting My Toddler Out of the Family Bed

Hallelujah! Cue the band, it's time to celebrate! Lizzie is finally in her own room, in her own crib, sleeping through the night. Hey, it only took sixteen months.

You may not remember, but that happened to be New Year's resolution #1 on my list way back in January. Better late than never right? 

I admit when I posted in January that I expected this magic to happen in, you know, January. Part of the problem was that we were unwilling to do the cry-it-out method. I have nothing against CIO but it just wasn't the right fit for our family. The second part of the problem (other than my laziness) was that back in January, Lizzie was still breast feeding once or twice in the middle of the night. 

Well that's over now. It took much longer than I had anticipated but I can finally enjoy sleep without the random toddler kick to the nose or butt smother, and she is finally using that expensive convert-to-bed crib for more than naps.

Here's the things that finally helped me get stinker butt out of our bed without using cry it out. Note: This process took a few months, but in the end it is completely worth it without being too traumatic for either of us.

  • "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. Seriously, though I ended up not using all her methods this book really helps explain how babies/toddlers sleep and gives suggestions on how to ease into a new sleep routine even for co-sleepers. 
  • Quitting nighttime nursing. I'm NOT suggesting that you wean your baby before either of you are ready, but Lizzie had become dependent on nursing to fall back asleep. She wasn't hungry, but for several months, nursing became a quick fix for both of us to get more shut eye. Once I switched to only daytime nursing, she started sleeping longer and longer stretches. We were still co-sleeping but she was no longer waking up every hour and a half.
    • While getting rid of the night time dependency, I did have to substitute rocking, walking, and cuddling to get her back to sleep. By mixing up several different ways, she did not simply swap her dependency on night time nursing for something else and learned to self-soothe a little bit.
    • "The No Cry Sleep Solution" has lots of good ideas on how to break this type of sleep dependency.
  • We started fresh from a long vacation. This helped all of us re-boot and establish a solid new routine.
  • Bed time ritual. This is huge. We've figured out that even if it's not exactly the same time every night, the ritual itself is great for getting Lizzie in the "we are going to bed soon" mindset. Ours consists of bedroom pickup, bath, a few books, hugs, and then lights out. It lasts 40 minutes or so, and after several weeks, she knows when it's time to crawl in bed.
  • Switching to a toddler bed. There's nothing in Lizzie's room that she can hurt herself with. Yes, fifteen months was a little young to make the switch but she HATED being trapped behind the bars of the crib. 
  • Getting a new friend. While she all ready somehow has way too many stuffed animals without us ever buying her a single one, we got her a brand new wolf doll specifically for her new big girl bed.
  • Slowly easing away. In fact, for the first few nights I even lay with her in the toddler bed until she fell asleep. Then for a few nights I sat in her bed with her until she fell asleep. Then I sat just outside the bed, etc. until I was on the other side of the room. The first week she would wake frequently, and I ended up sleeping in her room with her and shushing her back to sleep without taking her from her bed. Then, when she woke less frequently I slept in my bed and walked back if she woke in the middle of the night until it finally, finally phased out.
    • Note: I still sit with her in the room until she falls asleep, which is anywhere from five to twenty minutes usually. This is mainly because I don't want her popping up from her bed. 

This is what worked for my family. I know there are a lot of sleep-deprived parents or parents looking for a way to quit the family bed so I hope at least a few of these ideas can help.

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