Bedtime Stories

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that Jack has now been officially moved to a “big boy bed.”

Although we thought we’d officially moved him several months ago, we had really poor timing. Only a few days later, we left for our two week-long vacation to New York, where Jack slept in a pack-n-play the entire time. When we (finally) got back home, we considered the time change and knew it would be crazy to put him to sleep in a regular bed. There was no way we wanted him thinking he could just get out of bed at 4am California time. In a pack-n-play, he’d simply awaken, realize it was still pretty dark and he couldn’t get out of bed anyway, and then he’d go back to sleep. We liked it like that.

Eventually, he adjusted back to our regular routine, but we had quite a few trips scheduled, along with visitors and other things to tie up our agendas. Neither Ryan or I felt like we had the energy to work with Jack on sleeping in his own “real” bed.

For a few weeks now, I’ve felt that it would soon be necessary to get him into a bed, and I’m so glad we’ve finally gone for it! I feel much more settled because actually, we needed the pack-n-play for its bassinet feature (although Forrest will sleep with us most of the time – it’s nice to know we have the bassinet on hand).

It’s only been two days, but I definitely have things to report. And questions to ask (!).

His naps are shorter. We always rock him or hold him while he falls asleep for naps, so nothing has really changed there (except that now we can lay next to him while he falls asleep). Whereas he usually sleeps from about 1pm-4pm, he’s been waking up around 2:30 or 3pm. It’s not awful – but I guess I’ve really gotten used to his three-hour naps. I can’t say I’m necessarily welcoming this part of the deal.

It’s taking a very, very long time to put him down at night. In the last several months, Jack has been perfectly happy to be put to sleep as follows: Ryan bathes him, one of us gets him dressed, we give hugs and kisses all around, Ryan takes him into his room, prays with him, sings a song or two, lays him in his pack-n-play, covers him with a blanket, says goodnight, and leaves. Jack doesn’t cry – he usually just talks and sings until he falls asleep. It’s actually quite pleasant. Now, he cannot be left alone on the mattress because, well, he’ll get up. I don’t really feel like I can expect him to simply stay where he’s told when we walk out and close the door – wouldn’t that be hard for him to understand? Does anyone have any experience with this? We are assuming that we just need to lay with him as he falls asleep, like we do during naptime, until he fully transitions. The only problem is that it takes much, much longer for him to fall asleep at night. He no longer gets that alone time where he can talk and sing to his heart’s content until he’s ready to fall asleep. Instead, he’s got Ryan laying there next to him, and that’s distracting in and of itself. I’m stumped. I want to teach clear boundaries but I don’t want to be unreasonable. Help!

Finally…he’s getting up much earlier. Now, I really did expect this, along with the above points. It’s not that I’m surprised…just curious. Normally, he begins to stir sometime around 7:30am. Ryan doesn’t usually have a strict work schedule so we often just get up when Jack wakes up. For the last two days, he’s woken up at 6:30, walked into our room (pushing the door open so hard that it slams against our wall), and begins saying “Mama?” or “Daddy?” until one of us picks him up. He’ll stay in bed with us for a little while, but he talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. So basically, we’re all up at 6:30. I don’t think there’s anything I can really do about this, either…is there? I don’t feel comfortable just locking him in his room, and I don’t imagine that there’s anything else that would keep him…unless he understands us telling him that he has to stay in bed. Is that even possible?

I figure that there will come a time when we can explain to Jack that he needs to play in his room until, say, the sun comes up (or something??). I just don’t think he could actually understand that kind of specific instruction right now, and I’m not into forcing him to do something that he is incapable of understanding. The same goes for putting him down (and naps, for that matter). But…again, I do want to enforce healthy boundaries. I just need to find a middle ground.

That’s where you come in! If any of you have ideas or advice, I’d love to know what you think/what your experience was/is!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Bedtime Stories

  1. I have lots of ideas for you, but am not sure how to get them all out in an intelligent manner….

    At naps: Can you set a time that you think is good for naps? Say 1-3. If he wakes up earlier, tell him nap time isn’t over yet, and help him lay back down. If he feels comfortable laying in bed awake during the day, he might do better at bedtime too.
    Kate sleeps sometimes during her naps, and sometimes doesn’t. But she has to stay in bed. She is three, so she understands that. Jack might not understand, but you can certainly tell him naptime isn’t over yet and help him back to bed. If you think he needs that sleep from 1-4, then make that naptime. I bet he used to wake up and just went back to sleep because he couldn’t go anywhere. I would work on helping him fall asleep at the beginning of naptime by himself without you next to him, and maybe he would do the same in the middle of the nap. Sitting outside the door might be helpful, since you aren’t distracting him, but can pop him back in bed if he gets out. If you are continually putting him back in bed, he should eventually get the idea that he needs to stay there.

    Bedtime: Hopefully if he figures out how to fall asleep for naps without you rocking, or laying next to him, the same would become true for bedtime. If he knows he needs to stay there, he should be able to fall asleep just like he used to. Possibly sitting by the door again might help here. I used to sit near Kate’s bed, and then sat farther and farther away until she was comfortable falling asleep without me next to her. We also use a cd at bedtime that I made. I got a bunch of quietish stories on cd at the library, and put them all on one disc for Kate. Then it has some quiet music at the end. She loves listening to it, and we have made a few different ones as she (or maybe us more!) gets tired of listening to it.

    In the morning: Kate used to wake up super early and come and get in bed with us. She still does, but it isn’t quite as early. We say that 7 is morning, so she has to lay quietly with us until 7. This wasn’t always easy to enforce. Sometimes it would end up waking us up more while we tried to get her to be quiet. But we really felt like when James came along we didn’t want her waking him up. I wonder though, if he learned to fall asleep by himself in the bed if he would sleep longer in the morning…. Also, you could try putting a special book or toy on his bed where he would find it in the morning. Or we used to bring a banana up because I think Kate woke up because she was hungry. She would quietly eat the banana and then usually cuddle with us. Back scratching usually helps her to lay quietly too. Figure out how important this morning sleep is to you. If you guys really need it, then teach him to lay quietly. If it doesn’t matter, than just get up with him, or don’t bother trying to make him quiet.

    I am currently working with James on his naptimes. I really want him to nurse less at night, but realize he doesn’t fall asleep at naps or bedtime without nursing to sleep, so how could he do that in the middle of the night? If I can teach him to fall asleep without nursing for naps, and then bed, then in the middle of the night should be much easier! I guess what I am saying is that if you want Jack to lay quietly in bed at bedtime, then practice at naptime.

    Also, think about what you want naps/bedtime to look like when the baby comes… and start working towards that. : )

    I guess this is getting pretty long, so I’ll stop. Hopefully you will figure out something that works. Another helpful thing is remembering that it won’t last forever! Pretty soon he’ll be five and won’t even need naps!

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