Wednesday, December 26, 2007

jen asks for advice

Alright internets, I need your counsel. And rather than consulting the many cross conflicting parenting books I am instead turning to the village.

Here's the deal: M has been a champion sleeper for the past 2 1/2 years. About two months ago she started waking in the night and refusing to go back to sleep in her own bed. Often I'd just wake up in the morning and find her next to me, J relegated to the couch. We've talked to her about it a lot and she claims to simply not like sleeping in her bed anymore. Nothing has happened, no nightmares, nothing scary, that we can ascertain (other than turning three). So night after night we are suffering with broken sleep and toddler feet in our faces and to be honest, we've let her manipulate us because she seems so entirely sincere in her pleading that she really needs to do this right now. And she's really adorable about it but then it's not so cute at 1am. We always make her go to bed in her room at bedtime (which is also a consistent ritual thank you very much) no matter how she pleads but she'll wake up and eventually find her way out. Have we shot the whole self-soothing mechanism to pieces?

I am left in a conundrum. Tow the parenting line and listen to her weep in her bed? Allow her this time to sort out whatever she is going through (and hope to freaking god she's not still in bed with us when she's twelve)? I've always strived to find the balance in listening to her needs and trying to meet them while maintaining a sense of order and consistency but this one has thrown us - mostly because I simply want to do the right thing and my heart says she needs this and my head says I am being worked over like an old car in one of those crushing machines at a junkyard, screeching metal and all.

So I am turning to you. Has this happened to you and if so, how did you resolve it? Does it resolve naturally? Do the little people sometimes simply need this closeness or are they cunning little wizards who dive into the weak spots? Where's the line? And where's the love? Give it to me straight.


liv said...

okay, jen, breathe. mean liv is in the house. d did this a lot after his dad and i separated, and i admit that i didn't mind for a while bec. i didn't like to sleep alone, but as time went on, i really needed alone grown-up person space. so, i ended up having to put him back in his bed repeatedly. it sucked a little for about 3 nights, but then resolved. it was hard to ignore those big, blue eyes pleading, but i did (that's the mean part) and have been pretty happy that i did.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I agree with Liv. If you REALLY want her out of your bed, I think you will just have to tough it out for a few nights while she cries and begs and pleads, but if you're consistent, she'll soon realize that if she comes into your room, that you will be marching her right back to her own bed.
It will suck--but it will work.

Amy Barry said...

My suggestion (which we did/do) is to take her back to her bed and offer to lay down with her for a few minutes. Be clear that she needs to sleep in her bed, and that Mommy and Daddy's bed is their bed. Comfort her and be clear that you will lay down for a little while with her but then you need to go back to your bed and she needs to stay in hers and that she will be just fine. Get her to say "ok" if you can (it is easier if you can get them to verbally accept the idea before you go out.) Then lay down for 5 minutes or so and then say, "ok, time for Mommy to go back to bed. Night night sweetie". Then go out and close the door, despite protests. (we use a child proof handle on the inside of the door at night) If crying continues for more than a couple of minutes, go in, reassure, and say night night again and go out. Only repeat a couple of times though and then let her cry it out. This lets her know that you can hear her, and you are still there, but that you aren't going to give in about her sleeping in her room. Might take a few nights but it should work.

Good Luck!

hele said...

Have you asked her what would help, a new bed, a different room, a bed in your room?

Maybe she can suggest a way forward that involves a solution other than her in your bed or weeping in her room.

Having said this I'm a sucker for a weeping child. Maybe because I have none of my own.

Amy Y said...

We haven't gone through this at all, mostly because I'm a mean mommy and kick them out of bed after about 5 minutes of snuggling if they come in before 6am. I like the idea of a bed on the floor of your room as an alternative to your bed if she can't (or won't) sleep in yours. It might not sound as appealing as yours and maybe eventually she'll just stay in her own bed.
I love my kids, but can't handle them between 12 and 6am :) I don't envy you, Mama, and I hope this works itself out soon!!

Candy said...

Oh my, I lived this life for 15 years. I can only share the way we handled it, which resulted in way less tears and lots more sleep for me and my husband.

My son, now 15, had the worst problem sleeping. He'd go to bed ok, but he would invariably wake up in the night, and be unable to get himself back to sleep. He was like that from about 3 years old, until recently.

We made a rule - you can come in our room, but bring you blanket and pillow. There will always be a spot on the floor at the foot of our bed. That way you're close, but not IN my bed. Because this is MY bed, your bed is across the hall.

Some nights, I'd wake up in the morning and he'd be fast asleep at the foot of my bed, and I wouldn't even know he had gotten up. He didn't disturb me, I didn't get angry, but he knew he had a safe place to go on those scary nights.

Good luck, whichever route you take. It's a challenge.

thailandchani said...

Okay. I'm going to be very blunt here. :)

Get a bigger bed and deal with it.

She's telling you the truth. She's telling you something about herself. Maybe it's a phase. Maybe not. If she's saying she really needs to be with you, believe her.

Either way, your choice basically comes down to honoring her as the person she is.. or dishonoring her because of cultural expectations. Shoving kids into bedrooms alone and letting them lay there scared and crying when they're not ready for it is just plain mean. Allowing that togetherness now is not going to result in her living in your basement when she's 40.

My two baht... disregard or regard as seems appropriate. This is all only my opinion, as I'm sure you know.

Anonymous said...

Fiona did a lot of "crying it out." It was not my first choice, but a last resort. When we tried to soothe her, she still was not satisfied and everyone ended up frustrated and over tired..

Lorenzo calls almost nightly (he's still happy in a crib at 2 1/2). On the rare occasions that he doesn't settle back down just by seeing someone and getting his blanket re-arranged, one of us will sleep in the bed in his room. He really just wants company or is frightened by noises (i.e., the huge snow plow last week). This is a different tact than we took with Fiona, but it's "working" because he's willing or able to settle down, where she would not.

I too have been going back and forth in my mind whether it's really working - if I should even be getting up and going in to him. Just because he's "easier" than Fiona was, he is still waking up. I am going along with it because I'm confident he'll grow out of it, as she did at some point around age three.

So, long winded as this is, I think what others have suggested - either her own spot on your floor or a place for you to lie down in her room - is worth a try. There's no "right" answer - whatever solution works for your family.

Aliki2006 said...

I don't know that I have any advice to offer, Jen. L. always started out in his bed and ended up in ours until he was 3 1/2. T. does the same thing--starts out in hers, and ends up in ours. We have a king-size and just let her come to bed with us.

But here's what we did to help L. We bought an air mattress and sleeping bag and made a "camp bed" next to ours. We told him that if he woke up he could creep in and lie down next to out bed in his camp bed. At that time T. was a newborn, so we really needed him to be quiet.

It worked great! He did that for a few weeks, and then we moved the air mattress and sleeping bag onto his bed frame in his room. For some reason the feel of that familiar mattress kept him there all night. He still wakes up in the middle of the night for reassurances, but will go back to his bed.

IMO if something doesn't work for you then it has to change. Having T. in bed doesn't bother us, but I know that the co-sleeping thing isn't for everyone. You might want to try putting some other comforting measures into place and seeing if that helps her?

kristen said...

I swore I wouldn't comment or read and this was supposed to be my last stop, but I have to comment on this one.

My girl slept great and on her own until she was about M's age. And every night for a long while (2 years at least), she woke up at night and came into our bed. We made her start her night in her own bed, but if she woke up, she could come to our room. It was the only way we could sleep and sleep we all did. It wasn't every night, but it was a lot.

She stopped on her own when she was about 5 y.o. and while she'll occasionally ask for a sleep-over (which she'll do with me in the guest room), most nights, she's in her bed on her own.

Good luck honey. I think it's a hard one with no right answer, except the one that works for your family.

Catch you in a week. xo

flutter said...

Oh honey...I got nothin'. bottle full of brandy? *wink*

Kyla said...

It all depends on where you personally draw the line, every family is different. Obviously the current situation is not working, or you wouldn't be in the market for advice. ;)

BubTar was the same way and we finally put our foot down and agreed that he could sleep in our room, on a palette if he HAD to be close to us. And so we put down sleeping bags and a comforter and made a nice soft place for him and that is where he came to sleep if he needed to come to our room in the night. We even used one of those inflatable mattresses for a while for him. He outgrew it and sleeps in his room now. But we were able to give him what he needed and still get sleep, which we needed.

I know, it sounds mean, right? Making the kid sleep on the floor? But it was soft and he preferred it. So that's what we did.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh sweetie...

This is the monster age IME. She realizes there are bigger and scarier things out there, which her little toddler mind turns into concrete things, such as a monster.

We have always been cosleepers. It is okay to us to be available to the kids when they need us at night. If we don't want them in the bed, we set up a pallet on the floor.

I just can't turn away a child who feels scared and needs love and cuddles at night.

That's just me.

So perhaps you can set a pallet on the floor for her to crawl in.

The good thing about a pallet is that it's easy to move slowly but surely out of your room.

Our kids will lay on the pallet and not even disturb us. They just need to have that closeness sometimes, usually for a limited duration until their development settles down.

Also, I suggest helping her identify her concerns and giving her words.

Patience used to have bad dreams so we talked about her choosing good dreams.

Both girls go scared of nosies so we took listening walks to identify sounds they'd hear in the dark.

You're a creative and loving mom.

You'll think of somethign good that will work for you and your'll see more than two solutions (in your bed or not in your bed) here, and you'll hear what she's trying to tell you and figure out how to respond.

At this point, Patience age 6 sleeps like a happy rock in her own room, and has for quite a while. Persistence age 3 mostly does, other than some little phases here and there.

Good luck...and don't worry what other voices say or rules claim or anything about habits or training.

Just listen to your heart and her heart and the answer will be there.

painted maypole said...

ack. i just read all the comments, beasue I'm interested in this, too. MQ comes in and sleeps with us maybe 40-50% of the time (always starts out great in her own bed) If it gets really rough I will carry her back to her bed, but usually I don't think about it in the middle of the night. sometimes I have no idea she's there until morning, because it's usually my husband she snuggles with, and we have a king.

I've decided for me it's not that big of a deal, but then again she's not usually crying about being scared or anything, and we have a big bed. i'm just sort of hoping it will work itself out.

Her Grace said...

I've got no advice, only empathy. My 2.5-year old started getting up several times a night about a month ago, and I haven't had a good night's sleep since.

Hang in there, sister.

Anonymous said...

I have a seventeen year old that doesn't sleep in her own bed half the time, she sleeps on the couch. I got nothing.

Mad Hatter said...

I used to sweat this issue when Miss M was 18 months and it looked as if I would never sleep alone again. I talked to my sister who said, "Sometimes, I needed to sleep with Mom when I was 10. She always let me." Then I got to thinkin'. I shared a bed with a sibling until I was 8 or so. I've no clue what it means to be a toddler alone in the dark. I stopped freaking out and gave in. Miss M always starts in her own bed and now, most mornings, that's where I'll find her. Other nights, like when she's scared or sick or just a tad extra-needy, she ends up in bed with me and MadDad sleeps in her bed. We figure that's cool. Life is long; sleeping arrangements are temporary.

bubandpie said...

Bub started waking up once or twice a night when he was about 2.5. He didn't seem frightened and was almost always willing to go straight back to his own bed. Still - every night, once or twice, he'd be up and need to be tucked back into his own bed. Then I put a gate on his door and we've been sleeping through the night ever since.

Kellan said...

Hi Jen - I hope you had a good Christmas.

We only every had this trouble with our son. If we would go on a trip when he was little, he would sleep in the bed with us and then when we would come home from the trip he would gravitate to our bed - it seemed like we would never break him from this habit. For a while, my husband would lay with him in his bed to keep him there. Then we'd offer music or lights on - to keep him there. Evenutally he broke the habit and stayed in his own bed. Looking back on it now I believe that it was a phase and he would have, given enough prompting, broken the habit - given enough time. I think it can be a phase, but can be broken maybe by offering things: You need to stay in your bed, but I will leave the light on and you can read a book - just don't get out of your bed... (not a bright light) or something like that. If she is waking in the middle of the night (as our son did sometimes too) - I would send him back and try to find something (even toys in his bed) to keep him in his bed. To this day, he has to have the hall light on to sleep - so it could be a darkness issue with little kids or they are cold or they hear things. We put dark blinds on all of his windows and pull them every night. Eliminate all logical reasons (cold, frightened, lonely) and then try to fill those needs (more blankets, blinds, music, stuffed toys) - some of these things helped with Billy. Good luck. See you soon. Kellan

Anonymous said...

just feeling your pain, that's all.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Well. I am not going to be a whole lotta help. Mine had acid reflux the first several months, self-soothing went out the window in favor of three hours of crying in pain, and hour of sleep, eat and repeat. My husband decided nights were not his thing, and I went it alone, and went back to work full time, too. Prilosec helped the reflux, but the ritual was blown with having to sleep in a car seat, then a car seat in a crib, then a crib with a raised mattress. I couldn't do the cry it out. But I was seriously cracking from exhaustion. When it got down to once a night I was good. After a bout with high fever when I had to keep her in bed with me (105 ON MOTRIN!) so I could bathe her in cool cloths all night, she and I were beat up. The fever broke, and so did I. She has slept with me ever since, and we both get a night's rest. Co-sleeping (after a safe point not with an infant) is great for high-need times. I had to realize that maybe being a little one alone in the dark is not okay for mine. We don't leave them alone during the day, you know? Pretty sure she won't still be there in a couple years. But, then, my husband kicked me out of our bed because I "breathe too loud." So, it's not any kind of marital bed that's being disturbed. No comments back at my site, my spouse reads it! Good luck. You'll miss the snuggles when she's older.

Jennifer said...

I'll answer the "Where's the line?" question first, because I think it's the key to the rest of the answer:

I think everyone has their own line and own limits.

The end.


Personally, I'm of the "I like to snuggle in a warm cozy bed with someone I love at night, why should I deny them the same thing?" school of parenting. For as long as they will actually sleep, our kids are welcome into our bed. My own personal line is that I need to be able to sleep, though, so when it's a wiggly and wriggly night, they need to pop down to the floor next to our bed. We keep a pillow and blankets set up there all the time, so there is no needing to set it up in the middle of the night.

If your line is drawn sooner than mine, that might not work for you, but that's my take.

As for the rest of it -- when will she ever sleep through the night in her own bed? I don't know when, but they all do. Eventually. ;)

Jocelyn said...

You kind of lost me with your opening comment of "For the past 2 1/2 years, M has slept through the night in her own bed" (or however you phrased it!). Our kids both were 3 1/2 before they ever slept throught the night, in anyone's bed, anywhere.

BUT...if you want your own room and bed as your own, you will have to fight the battle of leading her back to bed, letting her cry, etc. If you feel more strongly that she's expressing something genuine and real, then you should let her come on in. I'm not at all against co-sleeping. Maybe her bed could be moved into your room. Maybe you could arrange several mattresses on the floor for all of y'all (we've done all of this). Maybe you could ask her if there is anything you could do to make her room and bed a place that feel more comforting to her. My son has a number of mechanisms, from Christmas lights strung around his bed to a heap of stuffed buddies to music playing to...whatever it takes. With him, even making a chart to check off "nights in my own bed" with a "reward" after a week or something would have worked, most likely.

No one can tell you what to do. Only you know what is right for that adorable girl.

Z said...

I think that, since it's a recent habit, it probably isn't because of a great fear but is just becoming a habit. I'd try and tough it out and letting her cry, I think, because getting up every night breaks her sleep and isn't good for her. It really will only take a couple of nights.

However, one of my children slept with us for a couple of years because he needed to, and I had a single bed in another's room so that I could lie with him for a while when he needed me (we couldn't settle all together in bed with that one) - it depends on the child and your own temperament.

You won't harm her by being firm. Even if she's frightened in the night, she will go back to sleep and she will wake up in the morning and find out that there had been nothing to be scared about.

What wouldn't be acceptable to me is that J is getting out and sleeping on the couch. A child should not supplant its parent.

blooming desertpea said...

A lot has already been said and I agree with Jennifer that you have to decide on the "line" first.

Myself I cannot get any sleep with a child in my bed, so that was out of the question. When these things started with our kids - and I guess it does with everyone - as Julie said, they get more aware of things - it was that they started to "see" things like white creatures creeping around the bed. So, one of us would sit close to their bed and talk about it and then caress them back to sleep ...

The only time I have kids in my bed is when they are sick but then one of us moves into their's in order to one of us at least get some sleep.

Good luck with whatever you choose. One thing is reassuring though, M will grow out of it like all other children. :)

KC said...

Oh boy. I'm dreading this very feature. Jolie has not put it together yet that she can just climb out of bed and travel - she'll just lay there and cry Mommy.

My plan though would be to put her back to her bed, repeatedly if needed. We've learned that no one gets good sleep if we share even the same room and it's not a habit we want to break painfully later on.

Denguy said...

Why our society continues to fight nature, I'll never know.
Humans are pack animals. You child is doing what's natural to her, but every family makes their own decisions based on their needs.

Denguy said...

Just thought I'd add:
thailandchani's comment rocked it, baby.
Finally, I tell you, finally some one I agree with on this.

Susanne said...

Well, I wouldn't have minded co-sleeping if I had been able to sleep. We moved our son's bed out of our bedroom when he was almost two years old because he woke us up so often. Once we moved him out he slept through the night. But then he still has phases when he wakes up and wants to have human company. And we can't sleep well with him in our bed (also he has a toddler bed unfit for grown-ups to sleep in).

So we put a mat and a sleeping bag on the floor next to our bed. He was allowed to come over quietly and lay down there to sleep. That re-assurance did it. After a few weeks he spent the whole night in his bed again.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Co-sleeping is not for everyone. But, I tell you, now that it's been two years of it, I love it. It gives me a bit more time with my little one. Do what you think is best, Jen.

dharmamama said...

What thailandchani said.

The knowledge that you're there for her, no matter what, is what's being imparted when you listen to what she's telling you. Kids only need to be manipulative if they aren't taken seriously.

I have a friend whose bedroom is just that - a room of beds - not on frames, just her and her kids' beds on the floor. They each have a separate space, but they're together. She turned one of the kid's room into the space that holds dressers, etc. I haven't needed to do that - cosleeper all the way, in a big bed - but I always thought it was a great idea.

Karen said...

well, here's the thing. Everyone wakes up at night, even adults. We just know exactly how to get ourselves back to sleep without waking up so much to be aware of it - so there may not be some underlying reason for the wake-ups. They may just be part of life as a human. In which case, it's up to you guys to decide if now is the right time for her to learn how to put herself back to sleep, or if you think it's best for you to have that job for a little longer. In either case, it is fine and she will learn that skill at some point. We actually taught my oldest how to fluff his pillow, find his bear, pull up the blankie, take a sip of water and say a little night-night prayer. My husband practiced it with him at every wake up in the toddler years until he could do it own on his own - just the same ritual (minus stories) we used at 7pm. It worked quite quickly and there was no crying whatsoever. He simply stopped waking up enough to notice - most likely going through our little ritual in a semi-conscious state. This was right around when he moved from crib to bed so it was a normal time for him to need us and a good time for us to teach him how to nurture himself a little bit too.

Also, can you change her bed at all - just to make it a little more enticing or perhaps cocooning - like a little princess drape to hang over it from the ceiling? Sometimes things are just a habit and changing one little thing (like rearranging the furniture) stimulates the brain just enough to drop it altogether.

Like others, I like the idea of the bed on the floor in your room if you feel there is an underlying emotional need there. It seems like a decent solution that lets J stay in the bed, which I'm assuming he'd like!

cce said...

Don't know if anyone else has said this here b/c I haven't parsed all the comments but...we had a wanderer and bed sharer and were told by a family counselor to put a sleeping bag and pillow at the base of our bed for our daughter to find her way to if need be. She advised that the sleeping bag not be too comfortable, the pillow just a little bit sub-par, so that, eventually, our G would conclude, on her own, that her bed was a lot more comfortable than our floor. So far so good. Six years old and sleeping in her own room save for the occasional nightmare when we walk her back to her room and tuck her in again but never allow her to stay in our bed.
Good luck with this one.

Two Shews said...

Um... Yeah. This bad mommy puts a gate on her kids' door so that even if they wander out of bed, they're not going anywhere. I just never liked the idea of anybody under 10 parambulating around the house without supervision in the wee hours, so even if they're up-- they're in their rooms. They learn fast that there's absolutely no fun in that.

Two Shews said...

which is not to say that on occasion a scared kids doesn't get into bed for a snuggle. But when it becomes manipulation and habit? It's important IMO for kids to know that they can call on me, and I will come, but that they are strong and can fight their own demons-- even if that takes some help from us.

Joker The Lurcher said...

when my son was little there was a whole school of what was called 'controlled crying' for babies. leaving aside the fact it was a contradiction in terms i simply could not bear it and as i had to work to keep a roof over our heads i quickly decided it wasn't for me regardless of whether it was the right thing or not. quite a while later i spoke to my stepmum about it (she is a child psychiatrist) and she agreed with my approach, saying that it can't be right to be little and scared and no-one coming to make it better.

this gave me a bit more confidence in my own instincts about stuff like this and that approach has paid off - my son sleeps really soundly now and i don't have all the angst i would have had. its so hard to follow what we feel to be right with all the advice that floats around, changing with fashions in child-rearing. so i suppose i'm saying what other people are saying - whatever works for your family is the right thing, however mad it may look to anyone else.

Annie said...

We have exactly the same issue at our house - and I appreciated reading these responses, even though they're telling me what I already know, but didn't want to do!

crazymumma said...

Being a parent who ten years in wakes in the night (EVERY NIGHT) to find both her children crawling in beside her I can offer no solutions.

I figure by the time they are both teens they will not want anything to do with me so I will accept their hot love breath and draped arms as a gift.

But it still makes me crazy sometimes.

'sides. You and J can do the nasty elsewhere dude.