If you've been reading for a while, you know that we have been struggling with getting Ryan to sleep. About a year ago, he randomly stopped sleeping through the night. For six months we struggled, and rocked, and woke up with him four times each night. We walked around in a sleep deprived daze until one day we decided to let him sleep with us. This seemed to do the trick for a little while, but then things went downhill again. Most recently, Ryan would require us to rock him to sleep. We would put him in his crib once he was asleep, but inevitably he would wake within 1-3 hours and demand to be put in our bed. We obliged, since we had neither the strength nor the stamina to sleep train Ryan. We also didn't have the heart.
I am the first person to make excuses about why I didn't want to sleep train Ryan: he would get so upset that he would make himself vomit, he has CP and has a hard time getting comfortable, he has Hydrocephalus and maybe it's a neurological issue, and so on and so forth.
We spoke to our pediatrician, neurosurgeon and physiatrist about Ryan's sleep troubles and all their answers pointed one thing. Behavior. Ryan was capable of sleeping, but we never trained him to do so. I'd be lying if I told you that I took this information in with an open heart. No, nope, nuh-uh. I'm his mom. We're his parents. There's something more going on.
We tried swaddling, and melatonin, and throwing my pillowcase on his pillow so he could smell me. It got weird, folks. When none of that worked, and letting him sleep with us worked, we took it. We accepted it with open arms. And most importantly we all got rest.
As time went on, Ryan stopped sleeping consistently even with us. He would wake 3, 4 sometimes 5 times a night demanding we give him water. Or whining because he needed to be turned over. Now let me explain, Ryan doesn't walk. But he is certainly capable of rolling over and making himself comfortable. But for some reason, he didn't realize that in his sleep. When it started taking us an hour to rock him to sleep at night is when we finally broke. It was time to sleep train.
Let me preface by saying that I am no expert. I am not telling you to sleep train your child. Heck, I don't care what you do. That's the beauty of parenting. Your kid, your rules. I'm simply telling you what worked for us, because for the last four nights Ryan has slept in his crib for 12+ hours. And more importantly he soothed himself to sleep. I cannot put into words how proud of this guy I am right now. I apologize for the horrible photo, but you can just make out how peaceful he looks holding his little baby. Love. Disclaimer: The time and date are obviously not set correctly on our monitor. I can't bring myself to care enough to change it though.
So night 1 went something like this. A hug and kiss. A quick pep talk about how he's going to sleep in his crib and that we'll see him in the morning. Reassurance that I am not leaving the room. I sat on the couch in his room for the next 50 minutes while he cried. He was hysterical actually. At one point he even recited the alphabet through anger and tears, at the top of his lungs. I thought he would tire after 20 or so minutes, so I made a deal with myself that I will try to last at least that long. I did not want to sit there and listen to my child cry and beg for my comfort. But, we had to do something. And this was our last option.
After 10 minutes, he was still hysterical so I got up and patted his back. Told him I'm still there and that he needs to go to sleep. After a couple minutes, he was still crying, but I sat back down. This time I waited 15 minutes before I went to him. And then 20. After the last 20 minutes, his crying died down. And then after a few more minutes he fell asleep. I did not pick him up at all. I think that was they key thing here.
That night he woke probably 4-5 times. Each time he cried and sobbed, but fell back asleep within 10 or so minutes. I couldn't sleep that night. I felt so horrible that he was alone in his room, crying. And even though it broke my heart, I didn't go to him. Ok I lie. One time I thought he was cold, so I waited until he was asleep to fix his blanket. But that was a mistake because it was like he smelled me. He immediately woke and was hysterical. I told him it's ok and that I love him, and I left the room. He fell asleep shortly after.
The next day, I dreaded nap time because I always heard that it's harder to sleep train for naps than night time. Well, the opposite seems to be true for Ryan. He fell asleep for his nap within 10 minutes.
Night 2 went much better than the first. Same routine, only this time I left the room and did not stay with him. He was hysterical at first, but then he quieted down. He whined a little, cried some, laid quietly too. And within 20 minutes he was asleep. All on his own. Night 3 was similar, only it took less time. And then last night was a dream, at a record of 7 minutes or so.
Looking back, I cannot believe how it easy it was to teach Ryan to self soothe. In all honestly, it was one hard night. And the rest took care of itself. He has gotten so much sleep the past few nights and he is a different child. He is less whiny, less clingy. He is more rested so he is able to work harder at his physical therapy goals. I firmly believe that this was the best thing for him at this point. And the icing on the cake? He did not make himself sick from crying. Oh and also, he's sleeping in later than usual. Here are some quick photos I took of him this morning. Sorry for the dim lighting.
Before I go, I have to give a shout out to a fellow twin mom who inspired us to do this. She recently told me about how she successfully sleep trained her two year old and sent me the article outlining the method she used. Her positivity really made me feel like this could work for us. So thank you, from the bottom of all our hearts. Our family really needed this.