Bedtime: My Arch Nemesis

Bedtime and I have a love/hate relationship. It’s a glorious thing, being able to climb into my big warm bed after a long day. However, my son doesn’t agree. 

Getting the toddler to go to bed has proven to be a complicated way to end the day. Even before he was a toddler I would dread the thought of getting him to sleep. Our bedtime routine has always been different than how I thought putting kids to bed was before I actually had kids. I imagined scenes from a movie where parents calmly lay their sleeping infant down in the crib, no fighting and no fuss. Or tucking a toddler into bed with a magical, sleep inducing bedtime story.

Ha. Ha I say! That is the farthest thing from my reality. 

From the very beginning we have been a bed sharing family. Here in the US that is a practice that is often discouraged or frowned upon by “professionals” and “experts”. Well I frown upon those people who choose to use fear tactics and horror stories to try and discourage co-sleeping and bed sharing instead of teaching parents how to co-sleep safely. But I digress. Aaron spent his nights in my king sized bed with my husband and I until he was almost two. Let me say that my bed started out as a king but I swear it’s shrunk over the past year. There’s just no way that a toddler can take up that much space in such a large bed! Now, at 27 months old, he is finally sleeping in his own bed all night long. But it’s been a long road getting to this point!

For the first year of his life, Aaron would always wake up 45 minutes after I got him to bed. Like clockwork. He absolutely refused to ever sleep in his crib. Because he was breastfed (and refused to take bottles) I was the only person who could get him to bed. I would nurse him to sleep (sometimes it would take hours) and he would wake up half a dozen times during the night wanting to nurse. I have always been very much against the idea of letting Aaron cry him self to sleep, self soothe, whatever you want to call it, which means I would spend as much time as necessary getting Aaron to fall asleep without any tears.

Understand my frustrations? 

Once he was around a year old I decided that things needed to change. I went ahead and converted his crib to a toddler bed. And he still refused to sleep in it. So my next attempt was to just lay a crib mattress on the floor in his room so that I could still lay with him and nurse him to sleep. It worked. Kinda. I was able to get him to go to sleep in his room, sneak away, then a couple of hours later when he’d wake up looking to nurse again I would bring him into my bed for the night. After a while I took the crib/toddler bed down completely and brought up a full sized mattress that lay on the floor and became his bed. 

Around 18 months I decided it was time to wean him off the breast during the night. At first I cut out all middle of the night feedings, which was difficult at first but Aaron accepted this new routine after a couple rough nights. As a result he would only wake up once or twice a night and would go back to sleep with just a little soothing and comfort. Hallelujah! 

A few weeks ago, with me being pregnant, uncomfortable and growing larger by the day, it became obvious to me that Aaron needed another gentle push in the direction of independent sleep. We were down to only one nursing session a day, which was bedtime. Because of the pregnancy, breastfeeding had become excruciatingly painful so it was time to cut out that last session. It was hard on us both; Aaron wasn’t happy and it was hard for me because that meant the end of our breastfeeding relationship. But we did it. It has been weeks since he last nursed. From that point on, I just had to lay with him, cuddle him, tell him bedtime stories to help him fall asleep. 

This past weekend he leaped over another huge bedtime hurdle: Aaron got his very own big boy bed! 

I was so worried that he would be against such a big change. It turns out, he loves his new bed! Of course the fact that it’s covered with Thomas the Train helps. So far he has slept in it twice and both nights he slept completely through the night! I still have to sit with him until he falls asleep – I sit on the floor and offer comfort when needed. One of these days I’ll be able to tuck him in, give him a kiss and let him fall asleep on his own. It is important to me to make bedtime a nice and gentle process, with the very least amount of tears possible. And though it has taken a very long time to get to this point, I am so proud of my son for his big move into a big bed! Maybe someday bedtime and I will get along again.