Have you tried everything to get your little one to ‘sleep through the night’? Have you exhausted (pun intended) the sleep training methods? Is your sweet child an early riser or a night owl or waking several times a night? Have you found glimpses of success but then you experience a wonder week or one of it seems like countless sleep regressions or they get a cold or teeth start coming (why are there so many teeth?!?!)? Have you had several weeks of a sleeping baby or toddler or child and then go on a vacation and have to start all over?
Tired parents: I have 3 steps that will bring you more control, more peace, and yes even more rest. Like any training you will need to be consistent. Stay focused and have patience with yourself. Enlisting other family members in this training will be beneficial. What makes this training different than all others? The intention is to train YOU, not your child!
Step One (this is everything):
My youngest daughter woke in the 4am hour to start the day for the first 2 years of her life. I tried numerous training methods and spoke with sleep coaches (all valuable conversations) but truth be told my entire family, including myself, are early risers. Every time in exhaustion I’d express frustration about Cosette’s early start to the day, not only would a relative chime in that they still wake before the sun but my husband would remind me that I woke that early to teach private yoga when we were dating in NYC. Fighting nature will only result in irritation, resistance, and often anger. That negative energy will likely be directed at your child and ultimately back to you. I cannot express the guilt I felt after getting so exasperated at Cosette for not being able to go back to sleep after waking at 4 something. It took me quite a while to discover the need for Acceptance but once I did it was key. Acceptance means no more fighting. Acceptance is making peace with what is. Acceptance is letting go of your idea of what ‘should be’ or desire to make things different than they are. Acceptance, for me, was freedom. It allowed me to reduce negativity and actually begin to enjoy the precious time I had with just my youngest while everyone else slept. You still may be thinking that 4 something am is an unacceptable waking hour but that was her waking hour and the rest of the day adjusted accordingly. Early to rise, early to bed. That is my second daughter. It’s honestly my first as well but just not as extreme. Some mornings were harder than others to reside in the place of acceptance and that was mainly because of how much or little sleep I got. SLEEP TRAINING TIP: Whether you want to or not, if you know you have an early riser or a frequent waker get yourself to sleep earlier. Just do it. You may have a to do list a mile long, want to unwind or anything at but all I guarantee if you use that time to sleep you will be a better person the next time you wake. That is something I still struggle to accept. Will you do this step perfectly? Not at all. Do I do this step perfectly? No way. But practicing Acceptance has changed my life and my relationship with my family. It is a practice.
This step is actually a tool. Awareness is presence. Can you be the present for the good, the bad, the ugly and the sleep protesting? Whether it is bedtime or struggling to get your little one back down after a waking, I practice acceptance and then I shift focus to the tool of awareness. One exercise I do to strengthen presence is to name what is going on in the present. Cosette does not want to go to sleep. She is upset. She is smart enough to attempt to delay bedtime with all sorts of antics. She is sort of funny but she is getting more tired. She is getting restless and now it’s hard for her to settle. I am getting frustrated and unsettled. My breathing is short and labored. Her breathing is heavy and erratic. She is in bed. She is beautiful. I feel sad she struggles with bedtime. I feel upset I cannot help. I feel anxious she is not sleeping yet. She seems to feel my upset and is getting upset herself. I pause. I slow down my breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. I am settling. More minutes later than I want to count, she is settling. I stay aware in those minutes. I see my daughter finding peace. She has a little smile and her eyes are closed. She is still awake but peaceful. This has transformed bedtime for our family. The time it takes for ‘bedtime’ is still the same but the energy is so different with the practice of Awareness.
This step is as unique as you are. Whether you have already moved through the other steps or you are in what feels like a trapped, tired and maddening place you can reach for this step. Grace can be gratitude. Grace can be prayer. Grace can be meditation. Whatever personal or spiritual practice you have take time to connect to it. Though sleep seems to be such a focus of newborn, infant, baby, toddler and childhood there’s so much to be thankful for. Start listing the things you are grateful for. Use this time for prayer or meditation or however you connect to self or spirit. This time when you are such an integral part of their physical survival like nourishing them, educating them, and helping them get good rest and sleep is so short. Living with Grace will open you to receive positive energy and allow you to give positive energy as well.
You can still try all of the sleep training methods, buy sound machines, black out curtains, salt lamps, oils and more… I’ve done it all and still try things that I hear help others but add these 3 steps and sleep time will improve. I invite you to apply these practices into other areas of your life as well.