Creating a Respectful Sleep Solution: The Update

sleeping babyFollowing my previous post about trying to find a respectful, kind way to end our sleep troubles, I thought it was about time I updated you all on how things are coming along.

My husband and I talked that night about what we were going to do regarding the boys’ sleep, and agreed that we would give it a month to turn it over in our heads, and then start gently encouraging both children to go to sleep by themselves. How? We weren’t sure, but we were hoping the boys would show us the way.

And they did. Well, at least Squishy did. Within a couple of nights we had found a solution that worked, completely by accident.

That night, he awoke for the 63646387th time and I was just done. Instead of getting up straight away, I lay there and took a few deep breaths while he fussed a little – I’m sure you know just how stressful it can get when you’re being woken every hour or more at night, and I felt I needed a breather before dealing with him. By the time I went to get up, he had rolled onto his tummy and lay his little head back down. Stunned, I reached into the crib and patted his little bottom and was even more amazed to hear him make his I’m-about-to-fall-asleep noise. And then he fell asleep, and I didn’t hear a peep out of him for the next four hours.

Needless to say, I was gobsmacked.

Since then, we have gradually built a rather lovely little bedtime/night-time routine, and my God, he sleeps! The child who hadn’t given me longer than 90 minutes at a time for months actually sleeps! Sometimes, for five hours at a time! And it’s been so easy, with hardly any tears. The tears we do get are tears of tiredness and occasionally frustration (although not so much now), not of loneliness, confusion or sadness – and he has never been left to work through those tears by himself.

He certainly doesn’t sleep all night long, but the difference is that his nightwakings are totally manageable now. Coincidentally, my SPD has improved to the point that I am able to sleep in bed (albeit somewhat uncomfortably), so we are finally co-sleeping (with Squishy in the sidecarred cotbed) like we always planned.

Here’s how our night-time generally looks now:

We take the boys upstairs to get ready for bed together at 7pm. By 7.30pm, we are cuddling and nursing in our bedroom. If he falls asleep at the breast, he inevitably wakes a little when I burp him. Then, I lay him in the sidecarred cotbed on his tummy. He rolls around a little, fusses some, and fidgets until he has found a comfortable position. Sometimes he will fall asleep with no help from me other than my presence, but most nights I firmly pat his bottom until he falls asleep – it takes all of about 10 minutes, usually. He will then sleep until sometime between 11 and 12, when he feeds briefly and then – get this – fidgets and moans until I put him down. The baby who previously wouldn’t sleep anywhere other than in my arms prefers to sleep in his bed. He still wakes in the night, at the moment it’s pretty frequent thanks to a snotty nose and cough (hayfever perhaps?) but the difference is that the night feeds are brief and easy, and not required at most wakings – just a pat on the bottom is enough to send him back off. Before the cough started, he was waking twice only – at 11pm and 5am. How’s that for an improvement?

Obviously not all nights are the same; we roll with the punches. Just now, as I’ve been writing this post, he woke up and wouldn’t settle for a pat on the bum, so I rocked him until he was calm before finishing helping him go to sleep in his bed, and I think the thing that’s made the most difference is the fact that he falls asleep in his bed. Now, when he partially awakens at the end of a sleep cycle, he is not surprised to find himself there and is able to slip back to dreamland without ever really waking up. Every night I give him the opportunity to fall asleep without my help, but most nights he gets his bum pat. When he’s ready, he will be able to let go of that, and I trust him to let me know in his own way when this should be.

I am thrilled that we have managed to get our night-time sleep to a level that we can all function at – and especially thrilled that it happened without hardly any intervention from me. He showed me what he needed because I allowed him to, finally.

Monkey is going to be a different kettle of fish, though, I’m sure. Watch this space.

Please note that it is not recommended to put your baby down to sleep on their tummy. Statistics show that the risk of SIDS is increased when baby is put down on their tummy to sleep at night, although experts are unsure of why this is. I made the choice to put Squishy down on his tummy to sleep after he showed me he prefers to sleep this way, and when I was satisfied that he was strong enough to roll freely back and forth and change position.

Image courtesy of yngrich @ flickr


  1. says

    This is great news! (I just read your earlier post about the difficulties and terrible sleep). I love hearing how you were able to let your little one “show you the way” for his best sleep. And it is encouraging how you found that things you never ever thought would work actually do! I have been realizing with my daughter that when she wakes up at night, the reason she is upset is almost always because she is tired and just wants to be asleep! Now I just have to figure out how to help her get what she needs. It’s always a process, huh?

    • says

      Wow, that’s great that you have been able to pinpoint the reason for her crying! Isn’t it a blessed relief when you realise that not all tears are bad, and that it’s okay to allow them to work through them? Since I started really listening to Squish’s cries (as opposed to just stopping them as quickly as possible) I have begun to learn what each one means. His “oh-I’m-so-tired-I-need-to-sleep-HEY MAMA WHY ARENT YOU NURSING ME TO SLEEP this-isn’t-how-we-do it” cry is distinctly different to his “I NEED YOU NOW!” cry. It’s liberating to realise that allowing him to struggle (and supporting him through it) is completely different to CIO.

      Good luck figuring everything out, I’m sure you’ll figure something out before long. Make sure you come back and update me! I’d love to hear how things are going for you :)

  2. says

    Lol. Our first would only ever go to sleep on his tummy. We never worried about it, just made sure we checked him regularly but of course he was fine. Even now, at 20+ months, he often sleeps curled up, bum in air. As a baby I think it was a colic thing so naturally he was more comfortable that way. We used to stroke his back and pat his bum (he loved that!) to help him settle.

    I get the crying thing too. Our 2nd is currently going through a “I’m really REALLY tired” screaming phase, which nothing will pacify except herself. It’s awful for a few minutes (and we’ve learned in fact not to try and soothe her with gentle singing or rocking or picking her back up again because that just keeps her awake!). But then she slowly calms down, grunts a little, and starts snoring.

    Kids huh?!

    • says

      Yes, I know so many people who choose to sleep their babies on their bellies. To be honest, I think the Back to Sleep thing is WAY hyped up… most mothers I know, myself included in all honesty, have an ingrained fear that if they put their babies on their tummies they absolutely WILL die.

      It’s funny you should say that you learnt not to soothe your daughter physically when she is overtired. My son is very much the same; when he’s going off to sleep he gets so angry if i try to soothe him in any way other than his bum pat (and even that enrages him sometimes…).

      Thanks so much for commenting :)

  3. Jessica says

    I know this is well over a year old but I was glad to find the original post and this update. I am currently struggling with a 6 month old and sleep. Naps are 30 minutes to an hour and sleep is 45 to 60 minutes at a time. Sometimes I get one 2 hour stretch …but that is SOMETIMES. She used to have a great night time routine of bath…bed….45 minute sleep…eat….4 hours….eat…2 hours…eat…2 hours….eat…1 hour…awake but that is all lost somewhere and I do not know where to find it so here I am…searching the web for the answers that I am not finding in books.

    So again, thank you for the original post and the update… each time I see something like this I am given hope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.