I recently received a DM asking if I could share what parenting at night looks like for me and if it’s possible to maintain a gentle parenting approach at night and actually get some shut eye? It was an interesting question – for all parents – because whilst we might be a go-with-the-flow and “gentle” parent by day, did we navigate nights – an entirely separate, far less discussed and documented time of day – differently? My answer is, actually yes – at least now that he’s 20 months old anyway.
I’ve documented before the up-eight-times-a-night phase we went through. Except it wasn’t really a phase because isn’t that just what all babies do? Nope, he’s not “a good sleeper” because he’s like 10/20/30/40 weeks fresh into this big wide world and he wants to be close to me or drinking milk from me – breast and bottle – most hours around the clock.
And I’m OK with that.
Still, I’d have to stop myself letting the shame creep in and remind myself I wasn’t doing anything wrong when other peoples’ babies seemed to be “sleeping through” or remain quiet when the mum I met at the park had done “cry it out” and now her baby slept from 7 – 7. There aren’t many comments that trigger me about motherhood – except maybe this gender-based one, that I actually misunderstood – but it’s fair to say that the one asking if they’re a “good sleeper” always made me lean in a bit further.
I’d have to stop myself letting the shame creep in when other peoples’ babies seemed to be “sleeping through” or remain quiet when the mum I met at the park had done “cry it out” and now her baby slept from 7 – 7
Still, was I exhausted beyond anything? Hell yeh!
But then there comes a time. And in my mind, after 12 months is that time. After 12 months is the length of time that I reevaluate dedicating 24 hours of my day to my children. After 12 months is the time where with our first two I returned to the office. After 12 months is the time where I lose patience with sleep regressions because honestly, Google or better still, Ecosia [INSERT NUMBER, ANY NUMBER] + sleep regression, and you’ll find it. After 12 months is the time where the sleep deprivation kicks my butt and I say to myself, hang on, let’s think about things a bit differently.
Honestly, Google or better still, Ecosia [INSERT NUMBER, ANY NUMBER] + sleep regression, and you’ll find it
And this is the point where I have started to gravitate towards a bit of gentle sleep training that I felt aligned with my approach. Here’s what I do, and what I do if he ever wakes in the night now, and what gradually took us from wakefulness – you know the kind where you settle them, and they’re back up 20 minutes later, often standing at the bars of the cot – to proper, deep, uninterrupted sleep.
It’s really simple:
When Abe stirs, I wait a few moments, and I go in to his room. He’s usually standing at the bars, seemingly wide awake and crying.
I pick him up, but I don’t bring him to my body.
I gently lie him back down in his cot and I cover him with his blanket (If he isn’t standing up, I still ‘tuck him back in’). I might place a hand on his stomach to try to send some calming energy his way.
The important part? I don’t say a word. At the most, I might make a “sshh” noise.
I walk out the room.
He’s probably still crying at this point and I hear his little tired body clamber back to standing.
I sit outside on the stairs. I wait max 120 seconds – which feels like a lifetime – and I go in again.
I repeat the process above, maybe 5 – 10 times.
I never ignore his cries, I always acknowledge his wakeful state by going into the room. I am with him, but not with him.
I am trying to help him understand gently but firmly that it’s bedtime. That it’s not the time for interaction from mama. Eventually, he realises that he’s not coming out the cot and he’ll eventually fall silent. The truth is he’s also exhausted himself from all the standing up.
This isn’t a process that happens overnight, or even over a week. The bigger goal here is to start gently communicating with your little one and help them understand the difference between night and day and that mama cannot always be there, at every moment. That she too, needs some time.
Where are you on the sleep spectrum? Are you sleep training or refraining? Are you up every 2 hours and starting to question your choices? Let me know in the comments below where you’re at with it – sending all the love and sleepy vibes!