Blessed with a self settler bedtimes were great. Bath, bottle, Iggle piggle and bed. 7pm I would pop my youngest in his cot bidding farewell with a kiss and cuddle. 7.05pm I'd be ready to start my evening, feeling like Mary Poppins. The thought of this blissful bedtime routine being shattered by him a/moving into a bed and b/realising life goes on after 'In the Night Garden' had crossed my mind but I was sure that I had at least till January 2017 to keep enjoying the good life. Waking during the night was rectified quickly and efficiently. Simply depositing his dummy back in place ensured everyone was straight back to sleep.
On Monday 25th of July all hell broke loose when we returned from holiday and my bedtime buddie became my bedtime bandit. Climbing out of his cot we had no choice but to remove the bars leaving a lovely open bed for him to come and go as he pleased. I felt he was too young (22 months) to understand the going to bed concept so I decided that to help him settle I would sit with him. Middle of the night wakings were dealt with much the same. However, one fateful night I was knackered and the prospect of sitting on a hard laminate floor anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes (several times) wasn't that attractive so I let the bandit into our bed. I took the easy route but soon realised that sleeping half in the bed, half on the bedside table wasn't ideal. Fast forward two months and the novelty of wasting away my evening trying to sneak out of his bedroom had funnily enough also lost it's appeal.
One particular night when several escape attempts had failed it was nearing 9pm. I was hungry, tired and truly fed up. I contemplated the longevity of this. The positive me pondered that with age he would fall asleep alone and wouldn't be waking so much through the night. The realistic me concluded that having his mummy at his side till he drifted off and being snuggled up in mummy and daddy's bed would be his preference for a good few years. Something had to be done. I could not do this for a good few years.
So we are now entering the 7th night of mission 'Bedtime Bandit'. There were essentially two parts to this 1/to get our 2 year old sleeping in his own bed, all night 2/for him to settle to sleep without me staying in his room. As this subject affects such a lot of parents and can be a god awful time I decided to post a daily update of each night to show our journey and hopefully help/support anyone going through the same. If you'd like to take a look click on the link detail of each night or alternatively below is a summary.
The first night he was up and down like a yo yo. Trying his luck each time at getting into our bed. Amazingly and a little unnervingly on night number 2 there was no fussing to come into our room. Third night Daddy was in charge and the fighting was more about going to bed than staying in it. Night number four I made the mistake of deviating from the plan. The 5th night was adding in the main game changer, me not staying the room whilst he slept. I was dreading it. It wasn't half as bad as I'd feared. Progression was even made. He was now getting back in his bed on his own and shouting me rather than coming out of his room. The sixth night started out fab but at 3.30am deteriorated. By 5am he'd spent 1 & 1/2 hours getting out of bed and calling for me before getting up for good with my hubbie. I may just be desperately hoping but my thoughts are his teeth were bothering him. Either way, we didn't relent.
Couple of things I've learnt so far;
~Don't be put off by what you think it's going to be like or how you think your little one is going to react. My youngest hasn't cried much at all. He's whinged a lot, got cross, shouted and resisted but it's actually been a lot less painful then I imagined.
~You have to be realistic. Recognise your weaknesses as they will be your failure. I'm a softie so I knew that diving in cold turkey for both issues would be a lot to deal with (mainly for me!) so I decided to soften the blow by introducing the changes staggered.
~You need to plan it when nothing else is going so you can commit to it and keep the consistency no matter what. After easing ourselves in I had an opportunity of 4 days in a row that I wasn't working. Ideal for the hardcore part as I knew that this was going to meet the most resistance and result in potentially not much sleep for me.
~Make life easier. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy so don't sweat the small stuff. You'll be knackered so who cares if the house is a mess or you have takeout every night. When this is done you'll have all the time in the world for tidying and home cooked food.
~Don't be scared to mix and match. What's right for one parent or child may not be for another. Expert advice, routines, schedules can be followed but most importantly can be also adapted, changed and mixed up to suit you and your little one. Taking as much or as little from them as you want.
~Toddlers are clever but have fish like memories. They know what pushes your buttons and how their cries affect you. Stay with it. They really are fine. Ask them when they're fifteen about this and I guarantee they'll have no idea what on earth you're talking about. (Especially if they're still sleeping in your bed, hee hee)
Even though I'm knackered and slightly nervous about what the coming nights hold. I'm also determined and excited. We're completely dedicated and committed to achieving what we set out to. What about our youngest? He's unimpressed at the moment but give him a month and he'll be my bedtime buddie again.
I'd love to hear about your experiences, feel free to comment with them x