Emmeline was a perfect little sleeper. She was such a good sleeper it got her in trouble when she was a newborn. She had jaundice, which made her tired, and she would not wake up to feed. She was so stubborn about it that her jaundice levels got scary high, and she ended up in Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. To this day, if she wants to be asleep, nothing can wake her up. Not loud alarm clocks, not waving McDonald’s fries in her face, and not late night surprise donut trips (tried once. failed. not her thing.). Heaven help our eldest child when she’s a college student.
When it was time to move her out of mommy and daddy’s bed and into her own crib, we went with the Ferber method for training her to put herself to sleep. It was a horrible three days, but it was also horribly easy. She did everything by the textbook, and with a few rare exceptions she has basically slept through the night since she was three months old. We thought we were awesome parents. Then her younger brother was born.
With his signature charm, Gareth has fooled everyone into thinking he’s a good sleeper. And yeah, as far as quantity of sleep goes, he’s fine. But getting him to fall asleep and stay asleep has been a different story. Gareth is a lover, a snuggler, and a party animal. He’s also a light sleeper. Footsteps outside his door? He’s awake. Rumbly tummy? Awake. Sick or teething? Awake. Just feeling lonely and wanting to snuggle? Awake.
When Gareth was a newborn, we were warned that after he was circumcised he’d probably sleep for several hours until he felt better. Not Gareth. He wanted to nurse. And nurse. And nurse. It was as if he was saying, “WOMAN! What did you let them do to me?! Now feed me until I feel better and never set me down again!” (He’s a little drama queen.) But loving as he is, he hasn’t consistently slept through the night ever.
I think we’ve tried five or six different times to Ferber him. We thought, “It worked so well on Emmeline; we’ll try it again.” And five or six different times Ferber failed us. At first we thought we were doing it wrong, but then finally we threw in the towel and admitted that Gareth had just outsmarted us. I mentioned how much he loves to eat for comfort? He won’t go to sleep without a bottle. It’s his preciousss. Anytime we try to cut him off, switch him to sippy cups, or change his sleep routine so it doesn’t involve drinking a bottle in his crib, he goes on a fluids strike. I’m serious–he will refuse all liquids until he’s so dehydrated that he’ll have gone several hours without needing a diaper change. Eventually his dehydration forces our hands and we give him a bottle just so he’ll drink something. Then he falls asleep for hours. Unless he feels like playing–then he’ll wake up two or three times more for kicks.
This, unfortunately, is a story without a resolution, since he’s still outsmarting us in the bedtime department. He’s gotten a little bit better as he’s gotten older, but he mostly just does what he feels (and if he occasionally feels like going to bed without his bottle, then yay for us). We try to brush his teeth religiously to make up for his bad bottle habits, but other than that, here’s what Gareth’s little addiction has taught Josh and I:
It’s just a phase; it will pass, and there is no such thing as perfect parenting. Gareth will not be drinking bottles in college, and as much as I might miss our late night cuddles one day, he won’t always need me to rock him to sleep when he gets a little bit cold at 2 a.m. Meanwhile, the next time Emmeline pees in her booster seat on purpose just to prove to me she doesn’t have to use the potty if she doesn’t want to, I’m going to remind myself, “At least she’s a pretty good sleeper.”