A couple of nights ago we heard that tell-tale sound of small, bare feet on the stairs. Of course, Cameron appeared and reported another "poked myself in the eye" incident, which would require someone to COME TO HIS BED IMMEDIATELY AND CUDDLE HIM UNTIL HE WAS IN A DEAD SLEEP. He was doing that thing that kids do when they're trying to convey the enormous gravity of the (somewhat imagined) scenario...? Working with the corners of his mouth to conceal a smile, kind of looking at us through his outgrown bangs and slightly furrowing his little brow... just in case either of us failed to absorb the seriousness of the situation.
His father and I are all-too-familiar with night-time delay tactics, which we call "bedtime inflation." When it comes to excuses for middle-of-the-night attention, we have heard it all:
"My ear is hot."
"I miss my other jammies."
Cameron is better now (evening eye-injuries and "I'm-just-not-the-sort-of-guy-who-can-fall-asleep" declarations aside). It's our 18-month-old, Alister, that causes us the real 3 a.m. grief. Until very recently we were giving our overfed toddler a bottle when he woke in the middle of the night. Why? Just because it was the thing we did. And because it never seemed like a good night to listen to him wail for hours like one of his limbs had been severed.
While we still give him a bottle at bedtime, we've recently taken away the midnight-snack bottle (and the 2 or 3 a.m.-snack bottle) and it's going reasonably well. When he wakes up, he's relatively content with a little snuggle. But he's still night-waking. And he gets up between 5 and 6 most days.
Yesterday I interviewed The Sleep Doula, Tracey Ruiz, who - in the most non-judgmental way possible - very gently pointed out the error of our ways. We might want to think about breaking the sleep-food connection, she explained, because if we don't teach him to go to sleep without milk at the beginning of the night, he's not going to be as good at soothing himself when he wakes in the middle of the night.
Tracey was a regular birth and post-partum doula until she recognized the enormous need that parents have for support when they're sleep-deprived, at their wit's end, and about to throttle each other or their insomniac child. She talks parents down off the ledge with middle-of-the-night phone calls and texts, and can even come over to be heavy and get your child's sleep sorted out, which usually takes two or three nights.
To learn more, stay tuned for our article on what parents really want this Valentine's Day - a proper night of sleep!