How My Son Sleeps Through The Night

If you are expecting a useful list of tricks and tips to get your little one sleeping from evening until morning then I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. Equally, if you already know how old my son is and are perhaps expecting a tale of nearly three years of woe and broken sleep and now a glorious celebration of a toddler mastering the full twelve hours of nighttime shut-eye, then I’m sorry to disappoint this is not that post either…

Moon nightlight

In fact my son cottoned on to the whole ‘sleeping well’ thing very early on – I look back and marvel at how well rested we were in the first six months of his life and yet we didn’t have the faintest idea we were and we certainly didn’t feel it. After six months teeth happened, development happened, illness happened, travel happened. My son first slept through the night – for the full night – I think at the age of about 10 or 11 months. I can’t really remember because it didn’t last as a regular occurrence. Guess what? Teeth kept happening, development kept happening, the odd illness kept happening, travel kept happening.

But this isn’t about then…this post is all about how my darling son, at the age of nearly three, sleeps through the night now.

So let me, if you will, start my rambly tale at bedtime and my first black mark against me – I stay with my son while he falls asleep. Sometimes he will be happy for me to leave, but right now, he wants me to stay…actually I think he needs me to stay. And so I stay. He doesn’t take long to go to sleep and I try to use it as a useful opportunity to practise some mindful birthing meditation and connect with my unborn baby.

Mindful birthing book

This all sounds very worthy, the reality is that the unborn baby sleeps through her brother’s bedtime so I feel nothing physical; I’m surreptitiously staring at my son trying to convey a physic message that he should really fall asleep NOW; I do a few breaths then think about my to do list; I manage a few more and then half write a blog post; a couple more then…ooo goody he’s asleep, and I hot-foot it out the door.

I won’t bore you with nightlights so bright that we’ve created Dungeness B or the ‘alpha music’ (no I don’t know what that means either) that tinkles through the twilight hours OR the cardinal sin of dummy use…

No let’s skip to the good bit…he’s asleep…and then he wakes up. Sometimes it’s a bad dream, poor poppet. But sometimes, most times, he just likes a visit. You see my son CAN sleep through the night without waking but he doesn’t – clearly our company is far too addictive and engaging to be confined to daylight hours only.

Our parental magnetism draws him in and the result is that most nights my son – nearly three remember, proven to be able to sleep through the night – will spend the second half of the night on a mattress on the floor of our bedroom.

It’s really not textbook, or otherwise, perfect – it’s a habit we have created and a rod for own backs.

BUT it’s a totally wonderful habit: we all get a fabulous night’s sleep from that point onwards, we are privileged to hear his happy toddlery dreams that don’t wake him up, but that have him giggling in his sleep, and then we enjoy slow morning wakeups where we all lie in our beds chatting (bin lorries have been THE hot topic this week). The ‘rod’ makes me stand a bit taller, feel a bit closer to all my little family and means each morning starts with a smile (my toddler’s not mine – I’m still a big grump in the mornings).

Alarm clock showing 7am

I find it hard to always remember these facts though – in fact this post is an almost entirely selfish exercise for me to once again silence the creepy little spectres of super nannies, well-meaning relatives, the odd friend and traditional sleep experts that practise their strange dark art of imaginary whispered judgement between 7pm and 7am when they seem to believe your shift as a parent should have finished.

Lots of new parents invite them in and some people love the advice imparted, some people find solace in what they are saying. I am unfortunately not one of those people…I hate them. I hate that I spent the first year of my son’s life trying to listen to them and feeling like a complete failure – feeling that I was doing something fundamentally wrong – because I couldn’t listen to them properly or, more accurately, didn’t want to.

In the middle of every night recently the line up of sleep experts hold up their ‘nil points’ cards and shuffle out of the house disappointedly shaking their heads. And I have felt that old failure again, just a tad but enough. I even got to the point of having the following conversation:

Menight night darling, and you know it would be really lovely to see you in the morning… So perhaps in the night you could stay snuggled down in here in your lovely bed in your lovely room with Mr Cow.
My son OR Mummy (said with worrying enthusiasm) I could wake up and call for you and you’ll come and see me and I can sleep on the mattress!

Hmm.

But really that’s ok, thinking it through this week and writing it all down has once again reassured me that we’re doing what’s best for all of us. I strongly believe that my son at the tender age of ‘nearly three’ is going through a lot…a lot of positives but unsettling nonetheless: he has started to regularly use the potty, he has recently started preschool plus the sibling invasion has begun with sometimes preoccupied parents and a sick, tired Mother. He needs some control and he needs to connect with us, and if that means that he sleeps incredibly well for half the night a few metres away from where we’d like him to sleep then so be it.

This won’t be everyone’s preferred take on sleep, of course, but if this post is going to be in any way vaguely useful and not just a weird insight into our nighttime adventures I will pass on four bits of personal advice…feel free to consign it to the dustbin of my toddler’s dreams:

1. Free yourself from any parenting advice that makes you feel like you are doing things ‘wrong’. It is unlikely you are doing anything terribly wrong…the important thing is whether your nights are as right as you would like

2. Try to work out what it is you would like (or more realistically what you can live with) and why. Acceptance is a big part of this. I have to accept that my son sleeps much like my husband and I do – sometimes well, sometimes not, always affected by mood and life

3. Always be alert to relevance and critique every idea, but if you’re lucky enough to find a parenting ‘expert’ whose words resonate don’t be afraid to invite them in…one person’s creepy spectre is another’s saviour. One of my friendly judges when it comes to sleep is Sarah Ockwell Smith – she stays when the others leave. She doesn’t give me the full ten points; she wishes I were kinder to my son at night, more patient and less grumpy, but she doesn’t make me feel crap at 2am so I give her imaginary tea and cake and she sticking around for now

4. Try to shut out all the other noise and see if you can hear the little voice of your instinct. If you can hear it, see if you can really listen to what it’s saying. If you can do that then why not trust it too? After all when it comes to your child you’ll probably quite quickly find you are the only parenting expert worth consulting.

So how does my son sleep through the night?

With wakings, with company, with contact, with support.

Diary of an imperfect mum
Pink Pear Bear
Advertisements

44 thoughts on “How My Son Sleeps Through The Night

  1. This is great. I know this is where I will be one day with my son. The reality is that they will sleep through the night without you. For some people that’s at six months, for others that’s at six years – and for most it stops and starts somewhere in between.

    And then one day they’re adults and living their own lives and will never again sleep on a mattress on your floor. So I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s not forever, it’s just while they need it.

    (Sarah Ockwell Smith is my fave too, I’ve ditched all the others. Co sleeping is working for us and she doesn’t make me feel like a crazy mum trying to kill her child for doing it, which is a bonus)

    Like

    1. Haha yep definitely a bonus. I like her very non judgemental style…there are very few ‘shoulds’ in her books. Have you got babycalm? Or gentle sleep book? I loved babycalm and then toddlercalm not that long after! My son definitely just needs a bit more of us at the moment, understandably too. He was in with us again last night and slept through the very loud storms (with an open window)…neither of us did!
      Thank you for commenting xx

      Like

  2. I LOVE this post!! It is so refreshing and honest and normal 🙂 I am more accepting of the lack of sleep but I think my OH thought that J would sleep through by 6 months which has not happened! I too love Sarah Ockwell-Smith xx

    Like

    1. Thank you Laura. How lovely that you are accepting…I took ages (and still have wobbles) about being ok with the unusual sleep patterns. I don’t think it’s helpful that we get fed a lot of false expectation-raising information about when our little ones ‘should’ be doing all sorts of things. Yay for S O-S! X

      Like

  3. This is lovely and so true. I’ve spent much of the last year letting in those judgements and listening to sleep advice I’ve read…our little girl sleeps through occasionally but it’s just as you say, she needs us during the evening still, so that’s the way it will be for now. Sarah Ockwell Smith’s book basically changed my life and in an instant made me feel like I wasn’t a failure. I think all new mums need to read this before the cycle of letting in those judgemental comments begins! xx #stayclassymama

    Like

    1. Ah, I can really empathise with that…and, for me, letting in those judgements had such an impact on my happiness and stress levels. If you’re constantly feeling like you are failing something that is already hard work becomes even harder! But we’re not failing, we’re finding our own way and our family’s way and meeting our child’s needs. So hurray to that and hurray to Sarah Ockwell-Smith! X

      Like

  4. Parents compete and judge and both are completely unnecessary. I remember a friend who had her baby at the same time as me said “she’s sleeping all night” by 3 months and they’d stopped her night feeds etc. And couldn’t believe that I was still feeding my son and not sleeping through- this post will help break what is deemed the apparent norm- our kids are only young once so let’s savor that time! #stayclassymama

    Like

    1. Ah that’s a lovely way of looking at it…so true – I will miss my little sleeping son on the mattress when he is a big smelly teenager who doesn’t want anything to do with me! Sleep is such a contentious issue in an already fairly contentious landscape of parenting. Competing and judging are hopeless ways to go. Thank you for you commenting x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Who are these so called experts anyway. I don’t think experts know it all… As parents we are the experts on our children and you absolutely nailed it when you said that we should really listen to our own instinct… As a special needs parent I have been given lots and lots and lots of advice by many well meaning and some very interferring people the noise can be deafening and make it harder to hear our instincts but we should always follow them. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    Like

    1. Ah absolutely, if we can follow our instincts then so much the better. I totally believe that information and science is useful to inform us as parents, but theories expounded by ‘experts’ about children they’ve never met, for families they don’t know and for situations they aren’t living aren’t worth the paper they are written on and I also think a lot of experts should be very careful with the label of ‘expert’! Thank you for hosting #ablogginggoodtime

      Like

  6. Oh this is such a beautiful post and you, yet again, come across as such a wonderful mother – really. I adore the conversation that you have with your son and I love his response. I, as you know, have a 12 year old son who is nearly 13 and he still has sleep problems – he would love nothing more than to sleep on a mattress in our room and I listen to those things that are being unsaid – there is a fear and he needs a mummy that sympathises with that fear and doesn’t ignore it – it hasn’t been easy and whilst I say he won’t do it forever – he is nearly 13 and I often wake to find him on our sofa asleep or in my daughter’s bed – he just doesn’t want to be alone – and I don’t think that will ever change and part of me loves him more for that. I love your advice too Lucy about freeing yourself from parenting advice – I’ve tried it – and it doesn’t work for my son so I have to do what is right for him xx #ablogginggoodtime

    Like

  7. Aww, this is such a lovely post. You have to do whatever works best for you and I think it is lovely that he comes and sleeps in your room and you are all together. I have friends who still share their kid’s beds with them at 3 and they do it because it works for them. No one else can judge as it’s not their place to do that. You are right we should all free ourselves from parenting advice! Live in the now and do what works for us 🙂 #stayclassy

    Like

    1. Oh I do struggle with living in the now but yes…we must. And also things change so quickly with our little ones that there’s no point thinking something will be forever…more often than not it just won’t be. It is lovely all being together. He woke last night and didn’t want to come in, I was a bit put out (he sleeps so much later when he’s in with us and I don’t have to get out of bed in the morning!) x

      Like

  8. I love this! I think it’s so important to listen to your parental instinct when it comes to sleep and do what works best for you and your family. For the first year of the Popple’s life, my husband and I did whatever it took to get her to sleep – even if that meant I needed to sleep in her room and let her pull my hair. She’s started to sleep a bit better now, and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts – but if she needs me in the night again, I’ll be there. #ablogginggoodtime

    Like

    1. Ah yes the random things that comfort children. I think I may have put this in a comment to you already, but my son went through a patch of only settling if his face was pressed against my face. It was an interesting position – one I’m really happy to remember (although would be less happy with a repeat!). Sounds like you’ve got a great attitude xx

      Like

  9. lovely post! I love how you describe being there for your son in the night as something natural, and healthy. I think instincts should always come first and then ‘experts’ second. There’s a couple times I made parent choices, because an expert I respected recommended something, and later on I wished I’d done it differently. That’s when I realised that honestly there’s no such thing as an expert, and although there is great advice out there it should always be filtered through your own judgement. #ablogginggoodtime

    Like

    1. Oh yes, I like the phrase ‘filtered through your own judgement’. So true and yet not easy to immediately do – well it wasn’t for me anyway. I hope I can remember all this wisdom and be more confident with my second. Thank you for your lovely comment. X

      Like

  10. I love this. We’re so often encouraged to treat our babies like little machines that will function properly if we program them correctly – they’re not; they’re little humans who have the same trouble with getting to sleep and staying asleep and sometimes feeling lonely that grown ups do, and I do believe they deserve to have us recognise that (although I don’t always feel that way when my daughter’s bedtime takes an hour…).

    Like

    1. Haha! Well if I’d written ANY of my posts about sleep actually during a sleepless night they would probably be very different. Of course it’s so hard to remember in the thick of it – bedtime is my pressure point moment of parenting. I have displayed distinctly un-model parent behaviour. But I love your comment, they are people and people with a lot less to call on that adults – and as you say we struggle with things. Neither my husband nor I have ever been real guaranteed sleepers so why should I expect my son to be just because he has hit 6 months, 9 months, a year, 2 etc etc etc!! Thank you for your thoughtful comment X

      Like

  11. I love this so much, just recently I have been freaking out about TM’s naps as he basically never naps in his cot. But you’re right – if it works for us that is all that matters! I let SOS help me out too, she is a good egg!! I hate the idea that when it gets to 7pm you suddenly aren’t there for your children or willing to respond to them, it doesn’t sit right with me at all. We all do what we have to do to stay sane of course but I just don’t think I could leave my poor little guy crying in his cot! #StayClassyMama

    Like

    1. Oh no, don’t freak out! Oh my naps are awful if they don’t work out though, I can really sympathise. Yes it doesn’t work for us but, as you say, it’s about where your level is to stay sane. I do sometimes wonder where mine is but ultimately we haven’t needed to do that yet for sanity – just soul searching, overthinking you know the normal!! X

      Like

    1. Haha! My son doesn’t get out of bed at night so we haven’t yet had the phantom staring waking us up but I think I’d rather as we have to go and get him. At least if they wander in you can stay in bed!

      Like

      1. Besides, you wouldn’t want things to go smoothly. Smooth makes terrible stories…

        Right now my son is indicating he is getting ready to potty train…a whole damn year early. I have a newborn. What did I do wrong in a past life to merit this happening now? It’s bad enough having a prelude of soiled diapers on our white carpet walking into his room. I’m getting traumatized just thinking of what this process will be like.

        Like

  12. THANK GOD YOU’VE WRITTEN THIS!! My son slept through until he was about 3. Then we moved house – twice – and suddenly he stopped! He now wakes various times and, as you describe, we do what all the books say you shouldn’t, and let him in!! I constantly ask ‘where has it gone wrong?’ But reading this is strikes me, it hasn’t got wrong, it’s just gone different – which is ok! #ablogginggoodtime

    Like

    1. Oh what a lovely comment. Oh wow, I can imagine the feeling of ‘what happenedd’ if your son has been sleeping through up until all that. It’s amazing how much things can affect them. I mean my son gets disturbed at night by the smallest of things – I’m dreading a house move! I love your last line ‘it hasn’t gone wrong, it’s just gone different’. What a fabulously heathly attitude. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment x

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ah , interesting , thank you. My six year old has only just regularly started sleeping through the night and my two year old comes in every night. I’m too tired to do anything else. I like the idea of a mattress on the floor though, so at least she wouldn’t actually be on top of me ! #stayclassy

    Like

    1. Yes the mattress has been a life saver…it took a few nights of encouraging/moving etc but now I think he just likes the space. He asked for it in his room yesterday…I’m wondering if it’s about the mattress not us now! Oh tiredness is just the worst isn’t it…I’m worried about how this situation will work the newborn baby we’re expecting in Sept but perhaps things will shift a bit before then, who knows. Thank you for commenting x

      Like

  14. Me or my OH have to stay with Heidi until she falls asleep and most nights it’s an hour, I long for the days when she takes herself to bed and falls asleep. One of the good things is she does sleep through the night most nights but we do have the odd sleepless night #bigpinklink

    Like

    1. Ah that’s lovely – it’s so hard when they have these little foibles, what a lucky love that she’s got you both. An hour is a long time though, I get fidgety after ten minutes. I really struggle with patience at bedtime, sounds like you’ve got it in spades. And of course Heidi won’t need you to do that forever. Thank you for commenting X

      Like

  15. Yes yes yes thank you thank you thank you. This is us! Our almost three year old, 2 anders into us once a night and it’s fine, we honestly don’t kind my husband tends to bring her back into her room where there two of them snuggle and fall back asleep again in her double bed (he’s meant to come back in when she’s asleep but he tends to conk out right beside her and I find the two of them fast asleep in the morning). I lie beside her every single night and creep out when I hear the zzzzs, often I have a mini nap myself but like the idea of meditating. Takes her about 20 minutes to sleep on a bad day so why shouldby I stay with her. And yes we also still use a soother for sleep (I’m hoping santa may help with that this year) but she’s happy and sleeps pretty well all considering. Loved reading this #bigpinklink

    Like

    1. Ah thank you, what a lovely comment. I think we need to get a bigger bed for my son – I think we’d probably end up in it though too. I try to really cherish watching my son fall asleep….sometimes I struggle with my patience levels if it takes too long…but I know it won’t last forever and I should be grateful to have that peaceful intimate time with him. Thank you again for a lovely comment. If you do ever have success with dummy fairies, Santa etc let me know your tactic! Xx

      Like

  16. Yes! Super advice. I’ve stopped caring about what others think, and started caring about what works for us as a family. We bed share… it works. Though at the rate Caspian is growing I’m squashed between two big boys, so we might need a bigger bed soon. #bigpinklink

    Like

    1. Ooo I wish we’d bought a bigger bed before my son was born…you know one of those really, really big ones!! I love the attitude about not caring what others thing but caring what works. It took me such a long time to get there, and I still get really wobbled off course by what others think…I need to focus on just us. Thank you for your lovely comment X

      Like

  17. I think I must have tried every single suggestion about getting my kids to sleep and some worked and some didn’t. It is so important, like you say, to free yourself from guilt and from all these expectations. What works for your child and your family works. In my case, all of my children were so different that I had to use different methods as well. Sleep has indeed been a real challenge for us. Great REAL advice. Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

    Like

    1. Thank you. Yes so many different things to try and interesting (although obvious of course) that different children need different methods. It can be such a challenge with sleep being such a life-impactor that I find my rational brain can sometimes get a bit wobbled around. Thank you for hosting #bigpinklink

      Like

  18. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post and the fact that not only have you chosen to listen to your instincts and do what feel right for you, but you are also helping encourage others to do the same and telling them that it is ok for them to do the same. That if they are happy continuing with what works for them at nighttime, to keep doing it. So important to stop feeling guilty and accept that what you are doing is the right thing for your family but so hard to do sometimes. My eldest is nearly five – she had her own room for a while but kept coming in to sleep in our bed and eventually ended up starting off in our bed and spending the whole night in with us. She was happy, and we all slept well. We’ve now embraced the concept of a family bedroom – the girls’ beds are both in our room and they start off in them – sometimes they spend the whole night in their own beds, sometimes we have one or both of them join us but we’re happy with this arrangement and we all get sleep.

    Like

    1. Ah thank you Louise, I’m so glad you liked this post. You are so right – it is really hard and I get wobbled off course all the time by comments and my own negative thoughts but ultimately we get a good night’s sleep doing various things that work…maybe it’s not necessarily conventional but it works and we’re happy. I remember you saying about a family bedroom. I have a question about this actually – I’ll DM you. I bet your girls feel ever so secure having the choice of where they sleep. Thank you again for such a lovely comment and for sharing on Twitter too xx

      Like

  19. I’ve just written a similar post on my son’s separation anxiety – I stay with him until he falls asleep and when he wakes he gets into our bed. He has never slept through the night once. I have days when I really question myself and lose confidence but ultimately I know deep down I am making the right choice. #bigpinklink

    Like

    1. Oh I have lots of days like that! I’ve just read your post…what a wonderful approach you are taking. I can understand it’s not easy but we all have to just find a way of working with the child we’ve got. I also believe that independence breeds dependence (probably also from an S O-S book!)…secure attachments are vital and I believe they are getting that by attentive nighttime parenting when needed. Thank you for commenting X

      Like

  20. I just think you have to do what works for you. Personally, I don’t like staying with my son until he falls asleep. I used to read him to sleep when he was younger, this would take about 45 minutes. Now though, I don’t think he’d sleep if I was there. He chants “One more time” at me each time we finish a story so I don’t think he quite grasps what “One more time” actually means!
    Most days he will wake quite early (about 5.30). On weekdays this can be a total pain as it’s only 45 minutes before my alarm is set, but on weekends I will go and get him and bring him into bed with me for hours of blissful cuddles and I love it!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s