If you asked me 4 months ago to put Theo down to sleep, chances are I’ll be stuck in bed with him. He was 19 months old then BUT BUT BUT (and I say “but” because every damn thing online suggests children that age should already be able to self-soothe blah blah blah) he’ll demand to be nursed to sleep. I’ll admit it – I’m his dummy/ pacifier, whatever you want to call it. A lot of my fellow co-sleeping friends (with their babies) know what this feels like.
Every parenting article makes you guilty like crap because it’s SOOOOO our fault for creating these “unhealthy sleep associations”. Co-sleeping, nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, carrying your baby while they sleep are just some examples of bad sleep habits. Doctors will tell you they don’t need to nurse at night, sleep experts will tell you to “sleep train” your child and a little crying is ok and the child will be sorted after a while.
These sleep associations involve parents playing a role – to show affection, love and support so that the child sleeps peacefully and remains calm. But they are apparently BAD habits that we’re getting our kiddos into.
Funnily enough, a dummy is acceptable. A silicon/ latex nipple-like object is perfectly acceptable to stuff into a child’s mouth to soothe him/ her. I’m totally fine with the dummy/pacifier by the way. How convenient! If a child can be soothed by anything else apart from his/her parents (eg. soft toy or pacifier), that’s alright (till you lose it at the mall!).
Trust me, we tried our best in our family to let Papa take over, offer water, pick up put down, not pick up, cry it out for a bit. They are all crappy solutions FOR US. None worked without resulting in a “screamed himself purple till no voice” baby. So we decided between ourselves that we won’t force him to fall asleep by himself, or be put down (semi) awake. Since we let him take the lead in terms of breastfeeding and taking solids, why not let him take lead when it comes to sleeping too, right? That’s my rationale anyway.
But there is hope. Sleeping through the night and falling asleep by themselves are developmental milestones. Great if they achieved them young and tough if they don’t till they’re toddlers. They will get there.
Dan puts Theo to bed every evening now without the little one fussing. He’s just happy to “catch up” with his Papa. When I put him to bed, he fussed for milk to begin with but now he chats with me too or we look into each other’s eyes in silence till he falls asleep. It’s the best time in the evening for me.
Does he still wake up at night? Yes, and he looks for me. He doesn’t cry hysterically like before though. He has also woken up to look for his Papa instead without crying. Does his night wakings bother us? Not really. And when he doesn’t wake up by a certain time at night, I do miss him. Crazy, right?
So if you’re a mum struggling with a night owl or a dad who feels unwanted and unloved by your child, fret not. You will really get there. As with everything we do with Theo, one tiny step at a time.
If you’re facing judgments from family and friends about breastfeeding your toddler (“Still?!?!?!” they exclaim), just do whatever works for your family. People can share all they want about how they brought up their kids (battle between breastfed vs formula fed babies, whether to give breastfed babies water, bedtime routine etc), but as your lovely child’s parents, just do what is right for your child and your family.