Back when Sister E was a tiny infant and I felt the familiar first parent's fear of never sleeping again, I decided to check out all the excellent sleep training books my friends and family had recommended. Their reviews often stated, "your child will sleep through the night forever!" And I was like, yeah. I'm totally down.
The first rule? Focus everything in your schedule around your baby's sleep schedule. Having one made that oh-so-easy. Like a champ, Emily was sleeping through the night by 7 months. Bed at 7/8, wake up at 6/7, it was fantastic. When Brother A was born, it barely ruffled her sleep feathers. Since I had had such success, I immediately started him on the sleep routine. By 6-7 months, he was mostly sleeping through the night. I was, clearly, a fantastic and superior mom.
But as any wiser parent knows, don't ever believe reviews that promise "forever" in their marketing campaign. As the wise Kip stated, "like anyone could even know that."
With my miscarriages, moving about 1500 miles away from our old friends and all our family, and everything else that happened in that 2 year period, the kids inevitably stopped sleeping through the night. In fact, they just stopped sleeping. Too often, Mr. B and I would stare at each other on the couch as the kids ran circles around us, at 10 pm. They would typically wake up 1-3 times a night and wake up at 5 am, ready to go. To top it off, they refused to sleep anywhere but our bed. With a queen bed, our sleeping quarters were cramped.
So one day I called my mom sobbing, "Why don't my kids sleep? Ever?" (One can tell I'm desperate when I use the word, "why.") She, the mother of 10, could give me advice that no book ever could - "you are doing awesome, Amber, just remember your parenting principles of lore and stick to them."
Ding, ding, ding, ding!
That past year my parenting style definitely took a major hit. Mr. B and I were parenting out of desperation in the middle of chaos. It doesn't exactly yield great results. I dusted off my old college textbooks on child development and guzzled down the pertinent information about each of my kids' stages. I threw out the guilt I had for, well, everything, and decided to provide incentives for my kids going to sleep.
This past week, things have changed drastically. The kids not only go to bed, they stay in their bed all night long, and wake up less frequently (only if they are thirsty and/or hurting in some way or another).
I'm sure the tempting offer of a treat has helped ensure their cooperation, but it stems from more than that. I threw out those books that made everything about the child's sleep and focused more on my children. That's made all the difference.