Sleep Thoughts

Sleep thoughts are spreading throughout the whole land.
The time for night-brushing of teeth is at hand.

From Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book

We launched Project-June-Will-Sleep-in-Her-Own-Bed-All-Night the very night we got back from the beach. The night I spent migrating back and forth between the bed and the air mattress and trying to think of some other place I might get some rest put me over the edge. We’ve been meaning to do this for a while but there were always other Projects. For much of the winter, I was nudging June to wean (she finally did at the end of March) and then in May we made the ill-fated move of starting to potty train her. I don’t even want to report on the status of that Project, except to say we are on another break, a longer one this time, and we’ve started discussing with Lesley how we will proceed with the at-school portion of her training in September, because it looks like there will be an at-school portion, barring a miracle between now and the second week of September. Lesley will meet us where we are and she says not to look at the first day of school as a deadline, so we won’t.

So with weaning complete and potty training on hiatus, that left getting June out of our bed at night. But what I was really waiting for all this time, even more than a convenient time between other transitions for her, was an opening, a hint of readiness. When Noah was two and three-quarters, and like June starting the night in his own bed and then joining us in the middle of the night, he suddenly went from waking every night to sleeping through the night about half the time. We had no idea why it happened, but we pounced on the opportunity and decided to stop co-sleeping with him. It seemed like a convenient time because I’d only have to take him back to his bed and convince him to stay there every other night or so instead of every night. And I hoped that once he was in the habit of sleeping in his bed all night, he’d stop waking up during the night all together. Well, it didn’t happen that way. He continued waking at about the same rate for the next two years. It was toward the end of my pregnancy with June that he started sleeping through the night most of the time (80% to 90% on average—and, yes, I kept records—stop laughing at me). The improvement in his night sleep started several months after he officially stopped napping and right after he finally stopped falling asleep in his tracks in the late afternoon once or twice a week. (He used to nod off while I was reading to him or during Quiet Time, the forty-five minute period of solitary, quiet play that replaced his nap during his last year of preschool.)

The first night back from the beach, two Saturdays ago, I told June that she was old enough and big enough to sleep all night in her own bed and not come to Mommy and Beth’s bed. She looked alarmed and said she wasn’t big enough, she was too little, she’d do it tomorrow. No, tonight, I said, and waited for the tantrum. It didn’t come, but she looked so sad I wanted to tell her to forget all about Mommy’s silly idea, of course she could sleep with us. Instead, I steeled myself and put her to bed. I wondered if it would be harder than usual for her to fall asleep, worrying about the new sleep regime, but she’d had only a short nap in the car coming home from the beach and she dropped off pretty easily.

She woke around eleven-thirty and came to our bed. I picked her up and carried her back to her own bed. I got in with her and stayed for twenty minutes, until she was almost asleep again. Then only ten minutes after I’d come back to bed, she was standing at my bedside table again. I was about to open my mouth and tell her she needed to go back to bed when I saw she was looking for a pacifier. She found one on the table and went back to bed herself, without a word. She slept there the rest of the night.

Beth and I were pleasantly surprised but she said we “shouldn’t be lulled” into a false sense of complacency.

“I’m not lulled,” I said. She said if it lasted a week, she’d be convinced June was really on board.

It’s been nine nights so far and most nights June wakes once, sometimes twice, and I go lay down with her. These wake-ups can come at any time during the night. The hardest parts were the two times she woke around 5 a.m. because when that happened, neither of us got back to sleep and I knew if I just brought her to our bed as soon as she woke up, we would have slept some more. On the bright side, she slept through the night (i.e. until 6 a.m.) twice and she hadn’t done that in almost two months.

So, I think it’s going pretty well, better than I expected. I am not up as often during the night as I was when I was constantly being awoken by June kicking or rolling into me, but the wake-ups do last longer because I have been taking her to bed and cuddling with her a little before I go back to bed. Also, she’s waking up a little earlier in the morning than she did before. In terms of overall quality and quantity of sleep, I think it’s a wash right now for me. Beth says she’s sleeping a little better. I’m hoping it’s a step, though, to better, more uninterrupted sleep for everyone. We have some challenges to overcome in the near future. We’ll be spending a week in West Virginia with some friends of Beth’s in several days and June will have to sleep all night in an unfamiliar bed. Also, she’s become insistent on Beth staying in the room after I’ve left her. This actually started shortly before we started her new sleep routine, but I think knowing she will be sleeping alone in the bed all night has heightened her reluctance to sleep alone in the room. It’s always two steps forward and one step back.

While I certainly hope I don’t have to wait until June’s almost five for her to make a habit of sleeping through the night, I know if I have to, I can. As I recently told a friend who’s pregnant with her second child, most things are easier the second time around.

Last night I asked Beth if she missed June in bed and she said, “No! Do you?”

“Sometimes, a little,” I admitted.

“You’re crazy,” she said, and maybe I am. If June wakes early from a nap, I still let her come to the big bed and cuddle her back to sleep. When I’m not trying to sleep myself I love laying on the bed with her, our limbs entangled, smelling the warm, sweet scent of June, a mix of soap and sweat and whatever she ate for lunch. I don’t think I’m old enough or big enough to give that up quite yet.