We have a little boy who is, in many ways, such an easy child. He has an amazing personality and is loads of fun. His one pitfall that has caused us issues from day one has been his refusal to sleep. Even when we were in the hospital he would scream and cry unless he was being held. It turns out that there were some medical issues involved and for the first several months of his life (somewhere between 6-9 depending on the specific issue we are referring to), he would only sleep at night if he was held upright (meaning we would split the night and someone would be up with him pretty much around the clock), and he would only nap while I sat with him for several hours holding and nursing him.
As I said, things have improved greatly, but with Samuel still waking up 2-5 times a night and taking up to 1.5 hours of walking to get a 30 minute nap, something has to change. (Not to mention he won’t sleep in the stroller, in the car, etc. He has only fallen asleep maybe five times since his birth without serious intervention from us.) We have tried a number of things, and thus far, nothing really works. We have a new plan. Just like everything else, we are going into it a bit skeptically, but we really want Samuel to be able to be able to fall asleep more easily. We don’t mind having to help him a little, but we cannot keep things going the way they are. I have decided to chronicle our progress, more for our benefit and to keep us motivated than anything else, but also to share ideas with others who may be struggling with sleep issues with their children.
Previous method: Watch for Samuel’s cues around 9:30 and 2:00. When he begins to show sleepy signs, dim the lights, clean up toys, play quietly for 5-10 minutes in the living room (wind down). Then, go to the unlighted bedroom with relaxing music playing and change diaper. Read a few books and walk Samuel until he falls asleep. Night time is the same except we have worship and read a few more books all together as a family. Oh, and Samuel gets a massage with his diaper change.
New Method to Try: Independent Sleep inspired by Montessori
Reasoning Behind the Method: Maria Montessori believed strongly in independence for children as they learn. She believed this to be true for sleep as well. She felt that when a young child was truly sleepy, he or she would want to go to sleep and would do so assuming access and tools to do so on his/her own were available. The goal was to provide a low bed that the child could easily and safely get to on his own and to place the bed in a room that was completely safe for the child to explore upon awakening. For various reasons, we are adapting this modle, but not following it to a tee. Samuel does not have his own room, so we placed a van pad (very low mattress) on our floor where his crib was. He cannot get to the room without assistance, so we will still need to follow a plan. Also, I don’t think Samuel would ever choose to sleep, but we might be surprised.
New routine: Watch for Samuel’s sleepy cues at the regular times (although he may be dropping a nap, so we are being aware of that possibility as well) and dim the lights and clean up toys. Take Samuel back to the bedroom and change his diaper. Dim the lights and play relaxing music. Let him explore quietly for a few minutes. Then read him books and lay down with him until he goes to sleep. I will not make him stay on the bed. I will stay with him in the room for 45 minutes. If he is not asleep yet, we will skip that nap for the time being.
I’m expecting to make changes and I’m not really sure how all this will work. For example, when exactly we will read books together, I don’t know. I guess we will take things one day at a time and make adjustments as needed.
The goal is to stick with this for the week and then reassess this weekend.