Oh, sleep. It’s something I personally worship. As someone who is a self-admitted night owl, however, morning lie-ins are bliss for me. But as a child, I was completely the opposite. No, I still was a night owl, often staying up long past my bedtime to read under the covers with a flashlight (and yes, that’s why my eyes are currently akin to those of a mole’s), but I refused to sleep in when morning came, causing my tired parents to get up with me constantly. My mother tells a story about me as a baby, staying up most of the night and then sleeping until noon the next day. Not much has changed, except that now the only person who benefits/loses from my night owl situation is me.
But sleep really is something that gets to parents – and to nannies. Glo-Worm is currently trying to drop her second nap. She’s 14.5 months old and still takes two naps – almost unheard of for me – but those days are numbered. Glo-Worm loves to sleep from about 10-12 every day, but then needs to go down again at around 3ish. The problem is, she doesn’t want to go down around 3ish, despite being exhausted, and the naptime shenanigans begin.
Ideally, it’d be great if Glo-Worm would push her morning nap two hours til about 12 pm, and then sleep until 2. That would give us time to do fun things like the Early Years Centres or the library classes without having to rush home for naptime. Most of the baby stuff in our area happens in the morning, and then we could come home, get lunch, and I could put her down and have my lunch.
But schedules like that rarely work naturally with babies. And so, sleep training was invented to give nannies and parents a break from kids who refuse to close their little eyes and go off to dreamland. (Insert Samuel L. Jackson reading “Go The Fuck To Sleep”. I love that book.)
I’ll start by saying I really don’t like sleep training. I don’t like crying – I pretty much do everything in my power so that children don’t cry. I mean, I don’t spoil them, but I am attentive to their needs and I don’t like to plop them in their cribs and listen to them scream it out. It’s not very much fun, it makes me feel mean, and although I know that in the case of Glo-Worm, who is an older baby and actually needs the time to scream before she goes off to sleep, it makes me feel like I’m going against all my instincts.
However. (Pause. More reading of “Go The Fuck To Sleep”.)
I like sleep training because the way the families I know do it, it’s not a 45-minute-scream-fest with a child kicking away in a dark room. Sometimes, kids really do need the time alone. Sometimes, they need to cry. I’m told by many an attachment parent that this is untrue and that no one needs to cry, but I don’t think they’ve met Diva. Diva is a child who needs to cry sometimes. She has always been that way, since birth. Are all kids like that? No, but I think in the case of both Glo-Worm and Diva, it gives them a chance to relieve whatever stress babies have in their lives and relax. Plus, setting limits on a child, even when it comes to sleeping, helps me as a nanny, and also helps them realize that it’s not a 24-hour party downstairs that they can crash. I don’t judge what other parents do with their kids, but personally, I feel like giving in to every cry is going to set you up to run back and forth to the little prince or princess upstairs long after you should. They won’t ever realize that they need to start self-soothing. They don’t realize that they don’t actually need you to go to sleep – that they can learn to do it on their own.
Now, all of this comes with a disclaimer. I don’t advocate sleep training for newborns or young babies. Babies under the age of about 8 months don’t understand that you’re downstairs, reading a Samuel L. Jackson book about going to sleep, complete with profanity. They think that you’re actually never coming back. This sets up attachment issues that can be hard to break later in life.
Older children who have learned object permanence know that you’re coming back. They also know that when you close the door to their room and say goodnight, you mean go to sleep. And sleep training in that way makes my life a lot easier, because when I do the same thing, they understand that I mean go to sleep, too. And most of the time, they do it.
So, I do love and hate sleep training. I enjoy being able to put a child down and walk away, knowing that he or she can soothe themselves to sleep, and even if they don’t want to sleep, they can at least entertain themselves in bed, as Diva does, by singing, or as Glo-Worm does by keeping a running commentary up until she falls asleep. I like that bedtime isn’t a fight.
But do I feel mean? Yeah, sometimes. I have to admit that I do. It’s not my favourite way to put a child to bed. But one of my least favourite ways to put a child to bed is to rock or hold them for hours, or in one case, drive them to sleep. Not for me at all.
What do you think about sleep training?